It’s estimated that over 50 million Americans struggle with mental health disorders. These conditions often make people feel isolated and overwhelmed, and mental illnesses can lead people to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Whether it’s a substance use disorder or another mental health condition, these issues impact the relationships, well-being and daily lives of millions of Americans each day.
Though public awareness of substance use and mental health disorders is slowly improving, many still deny that these conditions are diseases rather than choices. The public dialogue around the importance of maintaining mental health, including how to do it, is just beginning. Given the impact that our mental health can have on our lives, finding ways to achieve and maintain mental wellness is key to overall health and happiness.
How to Keep Your Mental Health in Check
Mental health is an important part of your overall well-being. Being aware of and protecting mental health also helps people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety. Being mentally well makes daily tasks, work, and relationships much easier to manage. It also makes you better able to adapt to change and cope with adversity.
- Exercise: Whether you choose to lift weights, take walks, ride a bike, play sports or swim, exercise will likely make you feel better. Exercise creates a rush of endorphins in the body, making you feel a natural high. It reduces stress, gives you a feeling of accomplishment, boosts mood and promotes healthier sleep. Exercising can also lead you to make healthier and more nutritious food choices.
- Talk to others: There are several helpful outlets you can use to share how you feel during recovery. You can regularly speak with a therapist, attend self-help groups and confide in your support network of friends. Having a support group is especially helpful, as those close to you can check in on you when you’re having a rough time. Any of these options will help you connect with another human being, which can help you get out of your own thoughts for a while.
- Eat well: Food plays a role in how you feel, both mentally and physically. When you eat nutritious food that provides sustainable energy and nourishes your body, you ensure that you’re able to function at a higher level. It’s a good idea to pair good eating habits with exercise for increased overall wellness.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being aware in the present moment, and being mindful can help increase calmness and clarity. To boost mindfulness, many people meditate and practice yoga on a regular basis. However, you don’t need a yoga mat to be mindful — simply take some time each day to think about how you’re feeling. The goal is to acknowledge your feelings as you experience them, become conscious of your physical sensations and grow aware of your surroundings. There are also many apps available to help you set aside time for and practice mindfulness.
- Foster gratitude: In recovery, it can sometimes be hard to keep a positive outlook. It’s easy to look back at things that happened and feel regret, anger or sadness. Recovery is about focusing on change and a great way to embrace change is to express gratitude. For example, many people keep a journal where they list a few things they’re grateful for each day. Recovery itself is something to feel grateful for, as it shows that you are on a path to heal and create a better future for yourself.
- Explore new things: People with active substance use disorders typically spend a lot of time seeking, using and recovering from their substance of choice. In recovery, all this time is yours. Boredom is a dangerous trigger that can lead to relapse, so it’s important to fill your time with other activities. Now is the perfect moment to try out fun hobbies you’ve always wanted to dive into. Or, you can return to hobbies you used to enjoy before substance use impacted your life.
- Set goals: Your overarching goal is lifelong sobriety, but each day brings you 24 hours of opportunity. If you’re feeling like you’ve simply been going through the motions, setting daily or weekly goals can help you push your energy into something constructive. You could train for a marathon, increase your productivity at work, learn a new song on an instrument or read a new book. When you set a goal, you’re holding yourself accountable for your success. This is often the motivator that turns a dream into a reality.
These tips can help you boost feelings of well-being, and they’ll likely enhance your recovery as well. When you feel happy and healthy, it’s much easier to devote yourself to the sometimes difficult process of recovery. Regardless of which strategy works best for you, you’ll find that trying something new can bolster your mental health and improve your daily life.