It takes 21 days to build a habit (apparently). After that, whatever it is you’re doing becomes automatic – you don’t have to think about it, you just do it. Now, habits can be thought of as being strictly negative because they usually come after the word ‘bad’ in a sentence (think smoking, procrastination, biting your nails) but, if done the right way, habits can actually be good for your mental health, for two reasons.
- They help build routine. Anyone suffering with ill mental health knows routine is absolutely key to staying on track, and habits help you to build a structure into your day.
- The right habits can make sure you’re doing the absolute best thing for your mind – over and over again.
Here’s a few of mine that you might find useful:
It really is the most important meal of the day! Seriously, being hungry is never fun and if you go long enough without eating you’re going to get tired, grumpy and one hell of a headache. And yet, barely any of us bother with breakfast. “I’m not hungry when I wake up;” “I don’t have the time;” “I’ll just get a snack once I’m at Uni-” sound familiar? The thing is, breakfast totally sets you up for the day and makes sure that you’re alert, focused and happy. Okay, so you don’t necessarily have to be like me and try a different omelette combination every morning (to varying degrees of success) but just choke down a piece of toast or some fruit and see what difference it makes.
Another cliche for you: A healthy body really does equal a healthy mind. And, okay, I accept that we’re not all gym freaks but even light exercise like a walk will do. I run half an hour every evening (or swap it out for yoga when my muscles get sore) and it really makes the world of difference to my mental health. (It’s so good I wrote a whole article about it, which you can read here.) Exercise releases endorphins (that’s just science) and its a really great way of clearing your head. Plus, a little bit every day will help keep you in shape.
So obvious, and yet so easily forgotten. Who else gets to 4 pm some days and realises the only thing they’ve consumed is coffee? It happens to the best of us, but its dreadful four our health, and dreadful for our mood, too. Keep a refillable water bottle with you to help you stay hydrated throughout the day (one that measures how much you’re drinking is ideal) and always drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, and just before you go to sleep.
Get into the habit of checking in with your friends – for your sake, and theirs. It’s really easy to count tagging them in memes and reacting to their Instagram stories as ‘communication’ but its just not. Call your best friend once a week instead of texting them, make time to get coffee with an old friend, make the effort to ask how they’re doing. It’ll let them know that you’re there, and you’ll feel better for it, too.
Journal Journal Journal
If you’ve read my blog before you’re probably reaaallly tired of me telling you to journal – but seriously, its the best! Whether its just a colour journal to keep track of your mood, or a whole pour your heart out, Bridget Jones, ‘Dear Diary’ affair, its cathartic, and it can help you spot triggers and trends in your mental health.
Counting your blessings
When you’re in a slump, its really easy to forget all the good things in your life and just remember the bad. Making a conscious effort to count your blessings will not only help get you out of the slump, but probably keep you from falling into one in the first place. I list three things every day that I’m grateful for (“Coffee. Netflix. My Cat.”) and it helps me to look on the bright side.
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