Learn / Developing New Habits for Mental Health

Developing New Habits for Mental Health

Kayla Gill
 April 22nd, 2024|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

In today’s fast-paced world, prioritizing mental wellness is more important than ever—and it often feels harder to do. While it’s important to get professional help when necessary, consistently practicing healthy habits plays a huge role in maintaining mental health on a day-to-day basis. 

Making these small changes can help you manage stress and build resilience that will empower you to navigate challenges and live with more ease. 

Stress Less, Live More: Daily Habits for a Healthier You

It’s all too easy to neglect our mental well-being when feel overwhelmed by stress. But prioritizing your mental health doesn’t have to be complicated. Incorporating simple yet powerful practices into your daily routine can help you reduce stress levels, boost your mood, and cultivate a sense of calm. 

Try these 10 habits to improve mental health:

1. Prioritize Quality Sleep

A well-rested mind is a resilient mind. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night to allow your body and mind to rest and recharge. Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensure your sleep environment is dark, cool, and quiet.1 Getting good-quality sleep will enhance your focus, mood, and ability to manage stress effectively.

2. Nourish Your Body With Balanced Meals

What you eat directly impacts your mental well-being. Fuel your body with nutritious meals rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. A balanced diet provides essential nutrients that support your brain function,2 improved mood, and overall energy levels.

3. Embrace Regular Physical Activity

Exercise is a powerful tool for boosting mental health. Find activities you enjoy, like dancing, yoga, or long walks outside, and try to do them for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Physical activity releases endorphins—natural mood elevators that relieve stress and anxiety—while also promoting better sleep and cognitive function. Rather than looking at exercise as a chore, think of it as making movement a regular part of your life.

4. Practice Mindful Presence With Meditation

If you’ve never meditated before, it might seem intimidating. But doing this simple practice for just a few minutes each day lets you be more present, experience life more fully, and place some useful distance between your stressors and your reactions. If you have a hard time sitting still, combining mindfulness with movement through a practice like tai chi can help. 

See meditation teacher Tara Brach’s instructions on how to meditate, or check out apps like Insight Timer for free guided meditations.  

5. Connect With Loved Ones

Social support is vital for emotional well-being.3 Nurture your relationships with loved ones by scheduling regular catch-ups, making time for meaningful conversations, and offering your support. Spending quality time with friends and family provides a safe space to share your thoughts and emotions, and increases your sense of acceptance and belonging. 

6. Engage in Activities You Enjoy

Make time for the things that bring you joy. Our days are often dictated by the items on our to-do lists, but it’s just as important to do the things your heart desires. If finding time for yourself is a challenge, try adding playtime to your daily schedule. Incorporating fun into your routine is a great way to reconnect with life and protect your mental health in the process. 

7. Challenge Yourself to Learn New Things

Stepping outside your comfort zone may feel, well, a little uncomfortable at first. But it significantly boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Learning new skills, picking up a new hobby, or simply exploring unfamiliar topics keeps your mind engaged, sparks creativity, and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Embrace challenges and allow yourself to discover the joy of lifelong learning. You may not always feel like it, but you’ll be so happy you did. 

8. Practice Gratitude

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude significantly reduces stress.4 Take time each day to reflect on the good in your life, however big or small. You can do this by journaling, appreciating your loved ones, or simply taking a moment to notice the beauty around you. 

9. Spend Time in Nature

Nature has a calming effect that reduces stress and anxiety. Whether it’s a walk in the park, a hike in the woods, or simply sitting in your backyard, spending time outdoors will noticeably improve your mood. Allow yourself to disconnect from the daily grind to reconnect with the natural world—and reconnect with yourself.

10. Limit Screen Time

In our hyper-connected world, setting boundaries with technology is a must. Try to limit your screen time throughout the day, especially before bed. Try these techniques to stop mindless scrolling: 

  • Track your screen time or set limits using the settings on your phone. 
  • Turn off notifications during certain hours. 
  • Don’t bring your phone to bed.  

A mindful presence in the real world means a calmer and healthier you.

Take Charge of Your Well-Being: Why Habits Matter

These actions may seem small, but when you practice them over time, they have a noticeable impact. There’s a reason most mental health treatment centers focus on exercise, nutrition, and sleep hygiene as core parts of their program. These foundational habits for mental health are the building blocks of a happy life.

Additional Support for Mental Health

Our culture often rewards the very habits that lead to burnout. But taking steps to improve your mental health isn’t a sign of weakness. Self-care is a sign of strength. 

If your mental health challenges are severe, prolonged, or interfering with your daily life, it’s important to get professional help. You can even book a session from the comfort of your own home. See our resources for online therapy and contact providers directly to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Developing Habits for Mental Health

How can habits impact mental health?

Daily habits play a significant role in mental health. Prioritizing quality sleep, nourishing the body with balanced meals, and engaging in regular physical activity all contribute to emotional well-being. 

How do daily habits affect stress levels?

Daily habits play a crucial role in managing stress and building resilience. Prioritizing self-care practices like movement, mindfulness, gratitude, and play positively impacts stress levels. 

Can practicing mindfulness really improve mental health?

Yes, mindfulness practices like meditation and tai chi have proven benefits for mental health. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine, even for a few minutes, can help you feel more present and calm, and manage stress effectively.

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