The internet is filled with tips on how to improve your mental health. But how many of those tips legitimately come from licensed therapists? And how can you tell the “good”, effective mental health advice from the “bad” advice that doesn’t have any evidence supporting it?
Not to worry 一 here are 12 tips that licensed therapists actually give their clients. They’re all based on scientific research and have been proven to boost your mental health.
Go to therapy.
This first tip seems obvious, but is sometimes missed: go to therapy if you can! Although there are ways to take care of your mental health on your own (which we’ll cover in the rest of this article), therapy is a scientifically proven way to help combat mental health problems and protect your mental health before a crisis occurs.
If you can’t afford to go to therapy, check out these tips, What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy
Get some exercise.
This tip, often touted by mental health advocates online, isn’t a myth: physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Therapists specialize in working with the mind, but they also know that your mind and body are connected.
Exercising increases certain chemicals in the brain that are responsible for lifting mood and motivation. Positive psychology research has proven that it’s one of the best things you can do to become a happier person.
Although “Be grateful” can sound like a piece of advice taken from a pop psychology book, it’s actually research-based. Research has found that practicing gratitude, or “counting one’s blessings,” can go a long way in increasing happiness and improving mental health.
Every day, try to turn your focus onto the things that you’re grateful for in life. There’s no need to force yourself to feel grateful for things that you’re upset about. But no matter what’s going on in life, there are always things to be grateful for if we just look deeply enough. Gratitude is just a matter of shifting our focus to those things.
Be compassionate with yourself.
Therapists often have to watch clients be really, really hard on themselves. From the outside, it’s hard to watch someone who has so many strengths beat themselves up in this way. Often, therapists recommend their clients to treat themselves like they treat their best friend.
Especially if you live with depression or low self-esteem, it’s likely that you say things to yourself that you’d never say to other people. Therapists guide their clients to try to catch themselves when they’re engaging in negative self-talk, and practice self-compassion instead.
Get some sleep.
Again, our minds and our bodies are connected. Being sleep-deprived has been proven to make mental health significantly worse. Therapists understand that taking care of your mental health means taking care of the whole you.
If you’ve been sleep-deprived lately, focus on getting a good night’s rest. You may find that you start feeling better just by getting enough sleep every night.
Write your thoughts down.
Journaling your thoughts can be helpful for your mental health in many ways. A journal can serve as a type of “container” for your negative thoughts and experiences, so that you can leave them there and continue on with the rest of your life. It can also help you gain some insight into your problems.
If you’re going to therapy, a journal can also be a place to express your thoughts between sessions so that you can report back accurately to your therapist when you see them.
Have a self care plan.
A lot of us would like to practice self care, but we may not know where to start. Before you find yourself in a mental health crisis, map out a personal self care plan. What are the activities that replenish you? Who are the people in your life who you can turn to for support?
It’s so much easier to take care of yourself when you need to when you have a plan that’s mapped out beforehand.
Related Blog: 12 Inexpensive Self-Care Purchases
Learn how to self-soothe.
It’s important to know how to soothe yourself when you’re having an emotional crisis. Therapists often teach their clients the skill of “self regulation,” which is the ability to calm yourself down when you’re upset.
Learn what works for you in terms of regulating your emotions. One easy way to self-soothe that therapists often teach is to practice deep breathing techniques. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms down your body’s stress response.
Don’t be afraid to have personal boundaries.
Therapists can often pick up on the dynamics of the personal relationships in your life. It’s easy to see, from the outside, when someone in your life is pushing your personal boundaries.
Don’t be afraid to draw and maintain boundaries with people who drain you of energy. Whether they’re people at work or in your family, boundaries are an important part of both maintaining your mental well-being as well as keeping relationships from turning toxic.
Rely on other people, not just your therapist.
Therapists don’t want to be the only person in your life who you feel like you can count on. Having strong relationships is sign of a healthy life and good mental health. Therapists want that for you.
Even if you’re going to therapy, try not to make your therapist the only person you can talk to about your thoughts and feelings. Make a list of “safe people” who you can reach out to when you need to talk. Build strong relationships by supporting those people when they’re in need.
Consider cutting back on caffeine and alcohol.
Although this tip might make some of you want to scream, it’s important. Although they’re legal and widely used, caffeine and alcohol are still substances that can have a negative effect on your mental health.
Notice how caffeine and alcohol affect you, both while you’re using them and afterwards. If you think that these substances may be contributing to your anxiety or depression, then it might be a good idea to try to cut back.
Whether it’s a morning or a bedtime routine, rituals can be important to help you gain a sense of predictability and emotional safety in your life. Bedtime routines, in general, can help you get a good night’s sleep 一 which, as we’ve already discussed, can be incredibly important for good mental health.
What are some of the best tips that your therapist has given you? Let us know in the comments below!
What Should I Do Next?
Option I: Reach out to a therapist from the Directory
Option II: Listen to our podcast Q+As from Ask a Therapist Thursday
Option III: Check out our Healing Mug