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10 Real Things To Do To Improve Your Mental Health

by | Feb 12, 2024 | Mental Health

Forward, Together with western tidewater community services board

When you’re struggling emotionally, a future where you’re happier can seem so far away, and maybe even impossible. Though improving your mental health may feel daunting, there are a few simple things you can do today to get back on the path to living your life the way you want to. 

Improve Your Mental Health: 10 Things You Can Do Right Now 

Get Enough (High-Quality) Sleep

Sleeping is important because we’re not only resting when we sleep, our brains are also getting us ready for the next day. During sleep, the brain is forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Ever wonder why dreams can be so random? It probably doesn’t mean anything at all that you dreamt that your work meeting was at your grandmother’s house – your brain is just organizing your memories and preparing you to retain them and learn new things.

Of course you know that you feel better after a good night’s sleep, but did you know that sleep deprivation is linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behavior? If you never seem to feel fully rested after waking up, try going to bed an hour earlier and once you’ve gotten used to that, go to bed another hour earlier. Keep doing this until you’re sleeping 7-9 hours a night.

Attend Your Annual Physical

Many people find that symptoms that negatively impact their mental health and overall happiness, like low energy or lack of motivation, are actually due to a deficiency of some kind. Make sure to attend your annual physical and get all the related lab work done. Thyroid problems and vitamin D deficiencies are common culprits behind fatigue, depression and body pain.

See a Therapist

There’s still a common misconception that mental health counseling (a.k.a. therapy) is only for people who are extremely depressed or are suffering from a serious mental illness. The truth is that therapy is like anything else we do to maintain our health. Going to the doctor for regular check-ups keeps our bodies healthy and attending mental health counseling sessions regularly keeps our minds healthy. 

Andrea Huls, a documentary filmmaker, photographer and contributor to Medium, says that therapy changed her life and that everyone should go to therapy:

“Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you need a little help to deal with specific issues or to figure things out. Going to therapy means you want to take care of your mental health.”

The writer of the post “Therapy Completely Changed My Life – Here’s How” on The Everygirl blog agrees that therapy is for everyone:

“When you realize you have the power to change your thought patterns, unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms … you will discover the ability to live with more freedom and authenticity. Living with this confidence empowers us to take control of our healing and story. It was therapy that empowered me to live beyond my fear and anxiety, and the habits I learned [in therapy] … enable me to cope when they creep back up.”

Live in the Moment

Many people have found that living in the moment is essential to mental wellbeing, though it’s not always easy to do. Think about the last time you were spending time with a friend, family member or partner. What were you thinking about? Were you 100% focused on what the other person was saying the whole time, or did you spend some time worrying about your upcoming presentation, meeting or exam? Did you plan what you were going to do the next day or what you needed to pick up from the store? 

You probably have so many things going on in your life, it’s no wonder if you can’t focus solely on the moment all the time – but it is a skill that can be learned.

Practices that can help you to learn how to implement mindfulness in your life include:

  • Meditation
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Practicing gratitude

Drink More Water

It might seem simple, but drinking more water can help a lot with your overall feelings of wellness. Nearly half of American adults (47%) don’t drink enough water. In fact, they drink less than three 16-oz. glasses of water per day – far below the recommended daily amount.

When you don’t drink enough water, you risk dehydration, which can have negative impacts on both your mood and physical health.

If you struggle with drinking enough water, try:

  • Carrying a water bottle with you and refilling it throughout the day
  • Choosing water when dining out
  • Drinking water with your meals instead of tea, soda or other sugary drinks
  • If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding lime, lemon, berries or cucumber slices to your water, or opt for sparkling water

Go On Daily Walks

If you feel like you never have time to get a workout in, you’re in luck. Walking for 150 minutes per week – that’s just 30 minutes a day for five days a week – can improve sleep and cognitive function and reduce anxiety symptoms.

Walking is easy for most people and doesn’t require any special equipment. Committing to taking 5 short walks a week is something you can do right now to improve not only your mental health but your physical health, as well. Regular walking can not only improve your mental health, it can reduce your chance of developing serious illnesses like heart disease and cancer and can even help you to live longer.

Turn off Notifications on Your Phone

If you can’t seem to stop checking your phone throughout the day, you’re not alone. The average person checks their phone around 85 times a day, roughly once every 15 minutes. And that’s not all – there’s increasing evidence linking push notifications to decreased productivity, poorer concentration and increased distraction at work and school.

Turning off your (unimportant) phone notifications is a game-changer. Of course, you’ll probably want to leave on your phone call and text notifications, but if you’re getting tons of notifications from social media or other non-essential apps, turning them off can reduce stress and anxiety and give you a new sense of peace and freedom.

Not ready to give up all of your favorite apps just yet? You can set daily time limits for those apps you find most distracting. Try looking in your settings for that option, or download an app designed for setting daily limits.

Drop Toxic Relationships

A toxic relationship is one that’s “damaging to one’s mental health, self-esteem, and overall well-being.” Toxic relationships can be “emotionally, physically, and mentally draining” and can leave you “feeling helpless, insecure, and traumatized.” Despite the obvious negatives of a relationship like this, it can be extremely difficult to end a long-term friendship, romantic partnership or other relationship, even if you know it’s not good for you.

If you know you’re in an unhealthy relationship, but aren’t ready to give it up, you can choose to work on the relationship instead. This will require that the other person work with you to make things better. If you think a relationship is valuable, do what you can to save it, but if the person doesn’t want to change, it might be time to move on and focus on yourself.


When you were a child or teenager, you may have had a diary, where you kept your thoughts and feelings under lock and key. But as we move into adulthood, most of us stop keeping a journal. It turns out that this is a big mistake. 

Journaling has many benefits, including:

  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Improving memory
  • Increasing self-confidence
  • Helping you to achieve your goals
  • Improving writing and communication skills

Make Time for the Things You Love

The things we love, next to the people we love, is what makes life worth living. When’s the last time you dedicated a good chunk of your time to your hobbies? How many times have you felt that you were too tired or too busy to play a game, read a book or re-watch your favorite movie? Just like it’s important to make time in your schedule for exercising and getting enough sleep, it’s important to make time for the things you love, as well. Studies have shown that when you “take time to do activities that make you happy,” it improves your mental health.

Research has also found that people who “regularly take time off for their hobbies” are less likely to feel low or depressed and more likely to feel happier and more relaxed.

Let’s Move Forward, Together

You might find you need a little extra help on your journey to better mental health. Western Tidewater Community Services Board is your local single-point-of-entry for mental health services, developmental disabilities support, and substance abuse services in Franklin, Suffolk and the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton.

We’re committed to ensuring that our community members get the behavioral health care services they need – in a timely, accessible and affordable manner. If you’ve been putting off reaching out for help, don’t wait any longer. We can connect you to therapy, substance abuse treatment or whatever else you may need.

Let’s move forward, together.

Get started now.

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