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Mental health self-care

Mental health self-care
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Taking good care of yourself doesn’t stop at diet and exercise. Your overall wellbeing includes mental health, too, and there are things everyone can do for it on a daily basis. Here’s what you should add to your routine to boost mental health.

Wake up to your goals

Wake up to your goals
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How you start your morning “sets the tone” for the rest of the day, according to Patricia Harteneck, PhD, senior psychologist at the Seleni Institute. And one of the best ways to start the day on a positive note is by focusing on your goals and tasks for the day. By consciously setting goals, you’ll feel more of a drive to accomplish them, and when you cross each one off your list, you’ll feel successful and in control.

Follow a counsellor’s advice on how to stay sane while in coronavirus quarantine.

Commune with nature

Commune with nature
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Outdoor breaks and fresh air are great, but you need to see some green, too. By being around grass and trees, such as during a short walk, gardening, or even a run, you’re helping “alleviate that intense attention strain that many of us experience because we’re basically at a seated job the whole day,” says Ada Pang, a psychotherapist. In fact, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that you only need to spend five minutes in nature to improve your mood and self-esteem. It could be in part because sun exposure helps your body release vitamin D, which hikes levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin in your brain.

Here are some of the best simple pleasures that make life worth living. 

Get out of your chair

Get out of your chair
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Studies have shown time and time again that exercise makes you feel better, particularly because it causes your body to release endorphins, those feel-good, stress-busting chemicals. There’s no need to train for a triathlon, but do make sure to get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day. Bonus if it can serve as a mental break from your usual busy routine. “Not everyone is an athlete, but you still want to be able to get some physical exercise,” says career counsellor and coach Lynn Berger. “For some people, it’s walking up the stairs.”

Sneak in these 60-minute exercises to transform your body. 

Hit the sack already

Hit the sack already
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How much sleep we need varies from person to person. But if you don’t log enough Zzz’s for your brain and body to function optimally, you run the risk of not only feeling exhausted but also being unproductive and anxious, according to the National Sleep Foundation. To optimise your mental health, make a conscious effort to listen to your body and recognise when you’re more tired than usual. On those sleepier days, acknowledge how much (or how little) sleep works for your body, and aim to snooze that long every night.

Here are 11 weird tricks that really do help you fall asleep. 

Count your blessings

Count your blessings
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“We all have a tendency to take things for granted,” Dr Harteneck says. But instead of focusing on the negative, take a moment every day to feel thankful – for the tank of petrol that lasted your whole trip, for fresh raspberries at the grocer’s, for the warmth of bright sunshine on your face. Research from 2019 in the Journal of Positive Psychology has found that gratitude boosts your hope and happiness. And it takes literally one second. Dr Harteneck likes the idea of putting a little index card next to your computer or your nightstand to remind you to jot down why you’re grateful.

Learn more about the power of gratitude. 

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Create a bedtime routine

Create a bedtime routine
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You know you need to power down devices with screens that emit blue light – smartphones, tablets, computers – at least an hour before bed. But that doesn’t mean unplugging and then directly hitting the sheets. Dr Harteneck suggests that you prepare mentally for sleep by listening to an inspirational speaker, meditating, or reading a book. What’s key is that the activity helps you “disconnect from daily stresses,” so you can quiet your mind for sleep.

Discover 16 things CEOs always do before bed. 

Take time to try something different

Take time to try something different
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Too often we’re so consumed with running from place to place that we don’t even realise what’s happening around us. “We’re so busy, we’re like robots,” Dr Harteneck says. To help you be more present, take the time to slow down by doing something familiar in an unfamiliar way, such as soaping your body with your non-dominant hand or sitting in a different seat to eat lunch. “It’s in the discovery of these simple movements and moments that you learn to appreciate how rich life can be,” Pang says. “Having that perspective will put you in a better place to deal with life’s stressors.”

Don’t rush to react

Don’t rush to react
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As we go about our routines day in and day out we develop expectations for how things are supposed to go. But when a certain activity doesn’t go as planned, we react instantly and, in doing so, cause stress hormones to kick in, according to Pang. If this sounds familiar, instead of responding to situations reflexively – cursing rush-hour traffic or a slow Internet connection – take a deep breath and a mental step back. Allow yourself to assess the situation calmly and rationally, potentially improving how you experience similar situations in the future.

Watch out for these silent signs that stress is making you sick. 

Connect with others

Connect with others
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It’s not enough to scroll through and like Facebook posts or Instagram photos – we need to make meaningful contact, even virtually, with live people during our days. According to Dr Harteneck, human beings have historically needed to feel like they “belong to a tribe or a group.” Checking in with supportive friends and family, whether you chat on the phone or use Facetime or Zoom, will make you feel included and involved, which puts your mental health in its evolutionary happy place.

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Philippines lockdown update:
Please be advised that due to the current lockdown in the Philippines, Reader’s Digest magazine May issue will not be available at its regular on-sale date to our subscribers or through our retail channels in that region. We hope to have the issues available in early June, but this is dependent on when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience. Thank you and stay safe!
– The Reader’s Digest team