Many times it seems like nothing will change unless everything changes, but it is possible to incorporate small changes to make a big difference in your stress level and mental outlook.
Making even a few of these changes can help you feel better overall.
To begin, take a look at the amount of time you spend in front of a screen. Do you wake up and immediately check your phone for social media alerts? Does your job require lots of computer time? Do you come home and immediately turn on the television? Do you fall asleep with the TV on? Maybe it’s time to change this. Too much of anything can be a bad thing, but too much of the computer physically changes the way the neurons in your bran respond, making good sleep difficult. Television is also filled with violent and negative images that can influence your outlook. Start by turning everything off for the weekend and then begin to limit the amount of time you spend away from the world in front of a screen.
When you do that, you will have more time to experience your in-person social network: friends and family. People with an active, close group of friends report being happier and more satisfied with their lives. You needn’t have hundreds of friends. Choose quality over quantity and make time to see them (or at least talk on the phone) on a regular basis. If you’d like to meet more people, sign up for a class that you have been interested in (you have time now that you have started to limit your media!), volunteer for a cause you believe in (also a mood booster), and generally go out into the world to interact with other people.
Joining a gym is a way to meet people, but exercise is also a way to elevate your mood and improve your stress level.
Your changes don’t need to be drastic here, either. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily and include things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking your car as far away from the entrance as possible (be safe, though!). Consistent exercise of moderate intensity regulates cortisol, the stress hormone, and the more intense the exercise the more endorphins that are released. These endorphins send a feel-good message to your brain, promoting relaxation and a sense of well-being.
Along with exercise, making small tweaks to your diet can help you feel much better. Something as small as cutting out soda from your diet, going meatless for a couple days a week, or incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your daily consumption can bring about immediate health benefits. You don’t need to overhaul your diet totally to feel better. Try one of the above changes, or find other changes to focus on (eliminating sugar, eating fewer processed foods, etc.) and commit to it for a month. Add another, then gradually continue until your diet is the healthiest it can be.
Finally, one of the best ways to feel better is to acknowledge the things that are good and beautiful in your life.
Keep a gratitude journal by the bed, and before you go to sleep every night, write down one thing you are thankful for. It may be a stretch on some days, but chances are good that if you think hard enough about your whole day you can find something to be thankful for. At the end of each week (or month if you can wait that long), take a moment to read all of the things you have been thankful for. Share them with your partner or other family members when it pertains to them.
Change doesn’t have to be drastic or dramatic to make a big impact. Which changes to improve your stress and mental outlook will you start with?
Image by Kevin via Flickr