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If you are struggling with mental health challenges or mental illness, know that you are not alone. In fact, approximately 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness any given year. While these struggles are difficult, know that you are not powerless. You can fight back.

There are a number of treatment options for those that seek professional assistance for their mental illness, but what about those who either choose not to pursue that path or don’t have that option available? What if you are currently in therapy, but still find you are struggling? There is far more to the maintenance and treatment of mental health, many will find, than simply choosing one approach. It’s not just magically going to get better. Instead, the best chances are found though employing many different options in one unified effort, including some of the simple, daily changes you can make on your own today.

Here are 10 tips to help improve your mental health:

#1 – Follow Your Heart

Too often we find ourselves so focused on doing what we think we ‘should’ do or what society believes is ‘right’, that we fail to pay attention to what truly brings us joy in life. Why spend your life working a job that you don’t love? Instead, take a step back and reassess where your passions lie. There is no such thing as ‘too late’ to make a change. The power is in your hands.

#2 – Limit Social Media

This isn’t to say that you should run out and delete all of your social media accounts tomorrow, these platforms have become an important part of today’s society. However, mental health experts recommend limiting the time that you are spending online. Often, social media accounts encourage us to engage in comparison, the highlights and accomplishments of others constantly in front of us. We become obsessed, comparing their highs to our own lows, tearing us down. Instead, make a point of putting down the cell phone, shutting off the computer and just ‘living’ your life.

#3 – Ditch the Self-Criticism

There is no arguing the fact that there are some distinct similarities between self-reflection and self-criticism, the difference will determine whether you’re building yourself up or, ultimately, tearing yourself apart. When you are looking back at a situation and determining what could have been done better, do so in a way that focuses on improvement and growth. No one is perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be. Rather than becoming trapped in the ‘what ifs’ of the past, focus on what you can change to succeed moving forward.

#4 – Get a Good Night’s Sleep

While it may feel like laziness setting in, don’t discount the importance of a good night’s sleep. As a society, we are notorious for sacrificing our sleep in order to keep up with our busy, demanding schedules. While you may feel more productive, experts warn you could be sacrificing more than just some downtime. Rather than staying up to get more done hoping that will lower your stress levels, try arranging your schedule to make more time for sleep. You will wake up rested, refreshed and recharged.

#5 – Practice Gratitude

It’s a phrase that has almost become a ‘buzz word’ in our society today, with many of the world’s self-help gurus pushing the importance of acknowledging the reasons we have to be grateful in life. While some trends may be nothing more than smoke and mirrors, this one has been found to be highly beneficial. Start a gratitude journal, taking some time each day to list 5 new things that you have in your life to be grateful for. When you are struggling, read through this journal to remind yourself of all the amazing things in your life.

#6 – Communication is Key

You may feel tempted to keep your feelings of anger, frustration, hurt or sadness buried away, putting on a brave face for family and friends, one key to letting go of these feelings is to simply talk them out. Sit down with someone you trust and respect and share the situation – including what happened and how it made you feel. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are seeking advice, or that you have to accept any that they may choose to share. You would be there for your friends in times of struggle and in the same way, those who love you want to be there for you as well.

#7 – Pay Attention to What You Eat and Drink

What are you putting into your body? This is the fuel that keeps you going through the day, and has the ability to improve your overall health, mentally and physically. Focus on eating a healthy, well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. At the same time, limit unhealthy options including highly sugary snacks, foods loaded in preservatives or too much caffeine and alcohol. Finally, make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water every day.

#8 – Make ‘Me Time’ A Priority

If you find yourself running on empty, having given everything you had to everyone else, it’s time to refocus on yourself and your own well-being. Pencil some ‘me time’ into your schedule, and then stick to it. Treat this with the same priority as you would a doctor’s appointment. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Whether you want to head out to pamper yourself with a mani/pedi, or simply curl up under a blanket and watch your favorite show on Netflix – this is all about you.

#9 – Practice Kindness

Take the focus off yourself and invest it in someone else. Take the opportunity every day to practice at least one random act of kindness, doing something good for someone else. Not only will this bring happiness and joy their life, but it will also help you to find happiness in sharing your kindness and care with others. Happiness is not meant just to be kept, it’s meant to be shared.

#10 – Get Active

Simply getting up and moving can have an incredibly positive impact on your mental health. The secret doesn’t lie in what you choose to do – taking a walk through a local park, joining in on a local workout class or spending some time doing yoga in your own living room. When you get up and moving, the body releases ‘feel good’ hormones, boosting your mood and helping to decrease anxiety, stress, and depression, among other conditions. Furthermore, it can help promote a better night’s sleep, increased energy, and better overall physical health.

Feature Image Source: Vinicius Wiesehofer | Unsplash