Making small lifestyle changes can significantly impact your mental health in a positive way. Here’s how to go about it.

10 Ways to ensure mental well-being at no extra cost

We could all use a little pick-me-up every now and then. More so in a year like 2020, which has seen us locked indoors for extended periods. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness are at an all time high. While seeking professional help can be heavy on the pocket, there are alternative ways to get you started towards improving your mental health. And the good news is – it won’t cost you a single rupee!

1. Stop comparing

Endless scrolling on social media often leaves us feeling inadequate. But remember, what you see online is just a perfectly curated snapshot of people’s lives. If you do catch yourself comparing someone’s online persona to your reality, take a step back and remind yourself of your worth. Focus on working towards your goals and ambitions instead. 

2. Get enough sleep

The restorative power of a good night’s sleep cannot be emphasised enough. Lack of sleep can make you irritable. Aim to get a minimum of 6–8 hours of quality sleep every night. Your hormones (which are primarily responsible for your mood) reset while you sleep. While it might be tempting to stay up and binge-watch a TV show, the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt your sleep cycle. Switching off your gadgets to get that extra hour of shut-eye is beneficial for your mental health. 

Related: Why we need to focus on women’s mental health?

3. Spend time in nature

Nature is a powerful healer, and the best part is that it’s free and accessible to all. So make an effort to spend more time in nature. Go for a walk in the park or to the beach and feel the sand beneath your feet. Try to bring some nature indoors by keeping plants around the house. Something as simple as opening the windows to let in fresh air can rejuvenate your mind. Don’t forget your daily dose of sunshine. Rightly called the ‘happiness vitamin’, the vitamin D that your body makes while it soaks in the sun for at least 15 minutes has been proven to reduce depression.

4. Stay physically active

The endorphins released when you exercise instantly elevate your mood. Whether you prefer low-impact exercises like yoga or high-intensity workouts like weightlifting, cardio, or simply taking a walk, incorporating 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine will do wonders not only for your body, but also your mental health. You don’t need an expensive gym membership; there are plenty of free workout videos online.

Related: 6 Ways to prioritise your mental health as a woman and why it’s important

5. Keep a journal

Instead of obsessing over the negative aspects, list down the things you are grateful for (no matter how small) in a notebook. Realising you are blessed and have a lot of reasons to be content will leave you feeling revitalised with a renewed sense of purpose. 

6. Practise meditation

The goal of meditation is to be self-aware. Just a few minutes of this can put you in the right frame of mind to start your day – or unwind at the end of a busy one. Start by practising a simple breathing exercise where you focus all your attention on inhaling and exhaling. Recognising your thoughts and emotions might not be easy at first, but making it a daily habit can help you tackle anxiety and improve your mental health.

7. Declutter and organise

Organising and tidying up have a therapeutic effect on the mind, but we often neglect this. Clutter takes up physical and emotional space, making us feel emotionally drained. Arrange things in an organised manner and donate or discard things you don’t need. Something as basic as having clean sheets can uplift one’s mood. Keeping your living space clean and well-organised gives a sense of having your emotions in order. 

8. Eat healthy 

Food nourishes not only your body but also your mind. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet with adequate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Don’t forget to include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Often, your low mood could be a result of certain deficiencies such as iron and vitamin B12. If you’re not getting enough of them through food, take supplements. Although caffeine might give you energy, try limiting or cutting it out if you’re stressed as it can make you feel jittery and anxious. Restricting your sugar intake is also beneficial.

Related: Want to be healthy, happy, and financially free? Here’s how 

9. Do something you enjoy

We often take pride in being busy and overworked. However, for a well-rounded life, it is important that you take frequent timeouts to pursue your hobbies. Immerse yourself in something you enjoy. Doing something creative – painting, dancing, cooking, singing – is a very effective way to banish any negative thoughts that may be crowding your mind.

10. Connect with loved ones

If you are an introvert, make an effort to be more sociable. It is not only great for your self-esteem but also builds a strong support system in the form of friends and family. This is very important to help you tide over rough times. So don’t hesitate to reconnect with an old friend; sometimes a long chat with a loved one is all the therapy you need. 

If you continue to struggle with mental health despite putting in these efforts, it’s time to consult a professional. Here's an effective way to look after your mental health and well-being during COVID-19.