Good Mental Health: 12 Therapist-Approved Tips
Written byJoseph Rauch
Good mental health is both a state of mind and a lifestyle. Part of it is developing a rational, positive mindset about oneself and the world. Having sources of pleasure and a manageable level of stress facilitates good mental health as well.
Additionally, it’s important to have a lifestyle that helps maintain this state of mind. This goes beyond fulfillment in work and relationships. It’s about regularly engaging in activities that provide a sense of peace or catharsis, including being in nature, meditating, or working with a therapist.
By practicing good mental health, people become more resilient and able to cope when their lives are riddled with stress and misfortune.
“Practicing good mental health habits before you feel distressed is like putting money in the bank for the bad times,” said Jude Miller Burke, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of The Adversity Advantage. “When a bad time then comes, you are more prepared.”
If you feel like you’re missing a positive mindset or healthy lifestyle, try out some of the tips we gathered by asking therapists how to practice good mental health.
1. Work With a Therapist
Big surprise: therapists suggested going to therapy as their top tip for improving mental health. It’s still a useful tip, though. Therapy can improve quality of life and reduce symptoms of mental illness — among many other benefits — according to hundreds of studies.
Working with a therapist is like having a coach who constantly helps and pushes you to maintain good mental health. Throughout a relationship with a therapist, clients can set specific and actionable mental health goals. These can range from developing new thought patterns to implementing healthy lifestyle changes. If trauma, toxic relationships, mental illness, or negative beliefs are holding you back from having a positive state of mind, working with a therapist might be especially helpful.
2. Try Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness practices can reduce negative rumination and stress, and improve relationship satisfaction, according to a meta analysis of studies on the mental health benefits of mindfulness. Here are some examples of practicing mindfulness and meditation:
Being in nature
You can practice mindfulness in many other ways. Therapist Lisa Bahar recommended incorporating mindfulness into routine activities we tend to take for granted. Think about the last time you ate something that tasted good, maybe an expensive dessert. Were you in the moment when you ate it? Were you present, only thinking about the taste of the food and the experience of eating it?
3. Exercise Regularly
Physical activity can boost mental health and reduce symptoms of mental illness, according to a wealth of research. It releases chemicals that bolster well-being on a neurological level.
When people exercise, it’s as if some of their anxiety, depression, and stress transforms into sweat. Rather than festering in their bodies, it slides off.
4. Have a Healthy Diet
Each piece of food and glass of liquid we drink affects our mental health. The effects are small, but they can add up as part of a healthy diet. For example, certain types of diets can help people manage depression, according to a study published in BMC Medicine.
Here are some supplements, beverages, and vitamins that can help you have good mental health:
Herbal supplements: GABA, kava, passion flower, L-theanine, lemon balm
Vitamin B, magnesium, vitamin D3, omega-3 [fish oil]
Consider conducting further research or consulting a nutritionist for help incorporating these into a diet.
5. Be Grateful
When people take what they have for granted, it’s like they are placing constraints on how happy they can be. Gratitude helps us enjoy our privileges, the people in our lives, and material possessions. It’s a way to be free of constraints on how much happiness we can derive from what we have.
Gratitude is something you can practice by regularly taking time to run through a list of what you have and why you appreciate it. This will make you more likely to foster fulfilling relationships, sleep well, and feel well physically, among other benefits.
6. Laugh A Lot
Laughter can be therapeutic. Every time we laugh, our brains release dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel happy. If you’re missing some laughter in your life, try going to a comedy club, binge watching a new comedy series, or checking out some standup specials on Netflix.