As time goes on, phrases like “mental health” and “self-care” are mentioned more frequently in day-to-day life. The increasing normalization of mental health is incredible — and important — but what does it really mean? How does one actually start to prioritize mental health and well-being?
It can be helpful to get a clear understanding of what some of these terms mean, starting with mental health and mental illness. These terms are certainly related, but not the same. According to the CDC, “A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social wellbeing.”
For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on actions that can benefit anyone’s wellbeing, no matter where they are in their mental health journey. It’s a topic that can feel overwhelming to approach, so it’s important to remember that even the smallest behaviors can make a massive difference. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, here are five ways to begin prioritizing your mental health daily.
1. Connect With Others
As humans, we’re built for social connection. In fact, it’s just as critical as nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Research has shown that those who feel more connected to others have lower levels of depression and anxiety, higher self-esteem and empathy, and even a strengthened immune system. How can you foster social connection, especially when navigating a digital world? It can be as quick as sending a text to someone to let them know you’re thinking of them, sharing your daily Wordle score, or sending a funny meme to your coworkers.
2. Give Back
At Salesforce.org, we’re passionate about giving back — and we know our community is too. Not only does giving back help those in need, it also has significant positive effects on mental health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, giving back can lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem, lower stress levels, and even lead to a longer life. Whether you’re able to volunteer with an organization whose mission you’re passionate about, lend an open ear to a friend, or help someone struggling with their grocery bags, giving back is a great way to boost your mental health.
3. Learn To Say No
For a lot of people, saying “no” to others can feel incredibly challenging. But that constant “yes” to the requests of those around you can lead to burnout, stress, and even resentment — all of which weigh on mental health. Since saying “no” can bring up feelings of guilt or shame for some, it’s important to begin to explore what your boundaries are in different parts of your life: work, school, familial relationships, etc. The best route for communicating a boundary or saying “no” is to be clear, be firm, and be courteous. Many of us have been taught that saying “no” has a negative connotation, but it’s actually a great act of self-care.
You may have heard the quote that “laughter is the best medicine” — and it’s got some major truth to it! According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing activates and relieves your stress response, soothes tension, improves mood, and increases personal satisfaction. In short, it’s fantastic for mental health. Reach out to a friend you can be silly with, watch a TikTok of a funny dog, or even go out to a local comedy show. Know that when you’re laughing, your body and mind are thanking you.
5. Make Time For Rest
It is (unfortunately) a privilege to have time to rest. While some can take months off to rest, others might be looking at hours, or even minutes. The most important thing: take whatever time you can get to rest. Rest looks different for everyone. For you, it might be doing a 5-minute breathing exercise. For someone else, perhaps a walk in nature. Whenever possible, try to unplug from your electronics when resting – it can reduce stress, improve decision-making, and even increase motivation.
If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.