Therapy and medication aren’t the only ways to improve your mental health. There are lots of things that you can do on your own! Taking steps to educate yourself, learn your mind and body, and make changes over time in your life can improve your overall well-being.
Learn all you can about mental health
You can find lots of great mental health information online, on this site and many others. Read all you can about mental health. Understand mental illness—what it is and how it works. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition, you can also look up information on that specific condition. (Otherwise, start by taking one of our mental health tests!)
It also helps to find stories about people who have lived with mental illness. You can read blog posts or memoirs, watch videos, or visit forums like Reddit or other online communities. Hearing about other people’s experiences and mental health journeys will help you feel less alone. It can also help you identify exactly what’s going on and get good ideas about what might work for you.
Learn all you can about yourself
Your mental health is intertwined with your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s a part of who you are, and it’s hard to work on your mental health without learning more about yourself.
You might feel like you already know yourself pretty well, but we all have things we’re unaware of—or are too uncomfortable to admit. Here are some ways to get to know yourself better:
- Track your moods. Every day, or even multiple times a day, just write down how you’re feeling. If you can identify what made you feel that way, write that down too. After a while, you’ll be able to identify patterns. Maybe depression hits you harder on cloudy days… or maybe you get super anxious when you interact with new people. The more you can predict your moods, the less they can take you by surprise—and the better you can cope with them. Be sure to track positive moods as well as negative ones!
- Pay attention to your thinking. Your thoughts influence your feelings, which influence your behaviors. Be on the lookout for negative self-talk and unhelpful beliefs.
- Identify your coping skills. We all have different ways of coping with our emotions. Do you stress-eat? Do you drink when you’re upset? Do you go for a run, play video games, listen to music, or call a friend? These are all coping skills, and they all have pros and cons. Try not to label your coping skills as “good” or “bad”. Instead, think about how well they work—short-term, and long-term.
- Get feedback from people you trust. When you’re at your lowest point, you’ll probably need support and encouragement more than anything. But once you’re in a place where you can handle it, you’ll also want to get some more constructive feedback. Try to find people who will deliver it in a sensitive way… but be prepared to hear some things that might be uncomfortable.
Make small changes over time
As you learn more about yourself, you’ll probably notice some thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors you’d like to change. Pick one or two to work on at a time, and start with really easy ones. Once you’ve made progress on these, you’ll start feeling more confident. Eventually, you’ll be able to tackle bigger things. If you try to make too many changes at once, you’ll get overwhelmed.
Keep an open mind
As you’re deciding what kinds of things to try, keep an open mind about what might work. Sometimes the things you’re most resistant to are things you could really benefit from! (And yes, sometimes that includes things like therapy and medication.)
Revisit what you’re trying every once in a while. Make a note of what’s working and what’s not. As you grow as a person and your circumstances change, you may need to try different things to stay mentally healthy.