19 Habits to Try Right Now to Benefit Your Mental Health

Simple yet effective strategies that will help you feel better now and long-term!

By: Lexy Parsons

As the mental health movement continues to grow, more and more people are talking about how important it is to prioritize self-care and sprinkle in daily healthy habits for mental health. Considering the grave prevalence of stress, depression, and anxiety, taking proactive measures to care for our mental well-being is imperative. And though it can understandably feel hard to get out of a funk, know that there are so many simple habits for mental health that you can call upon right now — at this very moment! From mindful breathing practices to nourishing your body with the proper nutrients, these actionable insights will help you achieve a healthier, happier mind (for both your current and future self).

19 Simple Habits to Boost Mental Health

#1 Have a Snack to Stabilize Blood Sugar Between Meals

We’ve all experienced “hanger” pains — and it isn’t fun! Changing from anxious to irritable to fatigued within a short time span (hello, mood swings) is a common consequence associated with blood sugar spikes and crashes. The good news is that consuming a balanced snack (full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats) can prevent energy crashes, increase satiety, and help stabilize your mood throughout the day. 

To balance your blood sugar, opt for whole-food snacks like Greek yogurt with berries, a handful of nuts and seeds with an apple, or cottage cheese with avocado and sliced veggies.

RELATED: 6 Tips to Balance Blood Sugar Between Meals

#2 Amp Up Your Protein Intake

We commonly think of protein as it relates to building stronger muscles and enhancing recovery. However, did you know that protein is also a key player in supporting your mental well-being? Beyond its role in physical health, protein plays a crucial role in the production of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain that influence mood. 

By simply increasing your protein intake — through whole food sources like salmon, turkey, beans, nuts, and seeds — you’re providing your body with the necessary nutrients to synthesize amino acids, thereby supporting your mental (and physical!) well-being.

RELATED: 9 Practical Tips to Effortlessly Hit Your Daily Protein Goals

#3 Get Out In Nature 

Spending time in nature has been consistently linked to improved mental health. After all, you’re getting increased time in the sunshine, fresh air, and the beauty benefits of Mother Earth! Whether it’s a walk in the park, taking your workout outside, or heading for a hike on a nearby trail, connecting with the outdoors can reduce stress, elevate mood, and enhance overall well-being.

#4 Practice Gratitude 

If you’re feeling down, consider coming back to your gratitude practice. Associated with increased feelings of happiness and fulfillment, cultivating a sense of gratitude (even if you’re not feeling super grateful in the moment) has been shown to foster a positive mood and mindset. Whether it’s jotting it down or saying it out loud, take a moment each day to reflect on the things you are thankful for.

#5 Move Your Body 

Low energy and increased feelings of fatigue can sometimes be a side effect of poor mental health. However, challenge yourself to get moving, even if it’s five minutes! Shown to release endorphins, reduce stress, and improve sleep, exercise is one of the best ways to promote a more positive mindset and resilient state of mind.

RELATED: Exercise Endorphins: The Science on Why Exercise Makes You Happy 

#6 Dedicate 5 Minutes To Deep Breathing

Gaining lots of traction in the wellness world, breathing exercises have emerged as a powerful tool to enhance mental and emotional well-being. According to research, breathing exercises can help reduce stress, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and promote a sense of calm. The best part? There are so many different styles to choose from, and you can obtain all the mind and body benefits by dedicating as little as 5 minutes to deep breathing.

Not sure where to start? These guided FitOn routines will help you achieve a sense of calm:

#7 Sign Off Social Media

If you’re in a poor headspace, scrolling through social media probably isn’t going to do you any favors. In fact, excessive social media use has been shown to exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression, and even worsen sleep. Try to take regular breaks from your phone or electronic devices with a social media “detox.” Instead, prioritize real-world connections, or simply take the time to be more present.

#8 Repeat a Positive Affirmation 

Though a simple hack, positive affirmations are a powerful tool that can help reshape negative thought patterns. Choose a mantra that resonates with you and repeat it regularly to cultivate a more positive outlook and optimistic mindset.

Fill in the blank based on how you want to feel: “I am _____” (confident, loved, resilient, beautiful).

#9 Phone a Friend

Taking a page from some of the happiest and longest-living people in the world (like the Blue Zones), social connection is everything when it comes to mental health and overall well-being. While it’s great to pick up the phone and connect with a friend or loved one at any time, it’s particularly important when you’re in need of support. Confiding in someone you love and trust can help to provide comfort, encouragement, and a sense of belonging.

#10 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff 

If it’s already happened or if it’s out of your control, sometimes the best thing we can do is let go of minor stressors and move forward with our day. While it may seem devastating in the moment, it may not be as significant as you think. Consider how this event will impact you in an hour, a day, a week, or a month. Looking at the bigger picture may help ease your mind and reduce unnecessary worry!

#11 Treat Yourself

“Little treat culture” is trending, and we’re here for it! This healthy viral habit is all about prioritizing self-care and enjoying small (affordable) indulgences on the regular. Whether it’s stopping by your favorite coffee shop to order a trendy latte or enjoying a small sweet treat after your lunch or dinner, treating yourself is an important aspect of self-care that can help boost your mood and mental health.

#12 Connect (IRL)

Phoning a friend is a great option, but there’s nothing like face-to-face connection. Offering a deeper level of connection and support, spending quality time with friends and family (even if it’s a quick catch-up) can help to benefit your mental health and strengthen your social circle.

#13 Braindump Your Thoughts

When your thoughts are taking over, and it feels like you’re spiraling, grab a pen and paper and write whatever comes to mind. Known as a “brain dump,” journaling is a powerful mental health hack that can alleviate feelings of stress and overwhelm faster than you’d imagine. In fact, journaling for a mere 15 minutes each day has been shown to significantly benefit your mood and mental health. Not to mention, it’s one of the easiest habits that can be done anytime, anywhere.

#14 Have a Piece of Dark Chocolate

Looking for a quick mood boost? Enjoying a small piece of dark chocolate (that’s 70% unsweetened cacao or darker) can help support your mindset and mental health by busting stress and boosting serotonin levels in the brain. Plus, it’s full of antioxidants like flavonoids that help protect the brain from oxidative stress. However, not all chocolate is created equal! Make sure you’re reading the ingredient label and reaching for a quality brand (like Hu Kitchen or Alter Eco).

RELATED: 10 Stress-Reducing Superfoods to Add to Your Diet

#15 Check in on Your Hydration Status

Did you know that dehydration can impact mood and cognitive function? It’s true! According to research, hydrating can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, while dehydration can increase your cortisol levels and adversely affect your brain health. To ensure you stay properly hydrated, carry a sustainable water bottle with you throughout the day! You can even add a handful of berries or a few mint or basil leaves for added flavor.

RELATED: 9 Hacks to Motivate Yourself to Stay Hydrated

#16 Make a Calming Cup of Herbal Tea

Speaking of hydration, consider supporting your fluid needs by increasing your intake of herbal tea. Certain herbal teas, like chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower, have calming properties that have been shown to lower stress, reduce anxiety, and promote a state of calm. You can even make your herbal blend into a comforting latte by blending it up with steamed dairy-free milk and a drizzle of honey!

#17 Do Something That Makes You Laugh

Laughter is truly the best medicine, and there’s science to prove it! When you engage in activities that make you laugh, whether it’s watching a funny movie or laughing with friends, you trigger the release of endorphins, feel-good chemicals that ease stress and promote a sense of calm. Not only will you feel happier in your immediate state, but you’ll also help to promote long-term well-being. So, the next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, intentionally seek out something that makes you laugh. Remember, it’s good for your health!

#18 Benefit Your Brain with an Omega-Rich Snack

Munching on omega-rich snacks like chia pudding or trail mix (made with ingredients like walnuts and pumpkin seeds) is a great way to support your mood and benefit your brain. Linked to decreased symptoms of depression and improved cognitive function, nourishing your body with good-for-you nutrients is a great way to benefit your mental well-being — now, and long term!

RELATED: Food as Medicine: These Are The Best Nutrients For Mental Health

#19 Steer Clear of Anxiety-Provoking Foods 

While sometimes tempting, certain foods — like those high in caffeine or refined sugars may contribute to anxiety and worsen your mental health. Pay attention to how your body responds to different foods, such as coffee, chocolate, or packaged foods. To prevent exacerbating your systems, consider swapping these out for stress-busting alternatives like green tea, golden milk, and fresh berries!

RELATED: Can an Antioxidant-Rich Diet Ease Anxiety?

Support Your Mental Health Every Day! 

With 19 easy-to-implement mental health hacks, you’re well on your way to feeling your best — both inside and out! From snacking on brain-nourishing foods to phoning a friend to trading time on social media for time spent in nature, there are so many ways to boost your mood and benefit your mind. And remember, small changes add up over time! Start small with a few habits that resonate with you, and build as you go. Before you know it, you’ll have seamlessly integrated these positive practices into your daily routine!