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I think we can all agree that 2020 was a particularly taxing year, but for those of us who were already dealing with mental health struggles, it was especially rough. We’re all ready for 2021, of course, but when you’re feeling like the weight of the world is just too much, embarking on a new adventure feels more daunting than exciting. That’s why it’s important to consider a few key mental health tips as we look to the year ahead—prioritizing your well-being is essential to thriving, and you’ve totally got this.
There are all different kinds of mental health struggles people deal with on the reg, some of which are more debilitating than others. A moment of stress is not the same as an intense, anxiety-induced panic attack, and a quick cry doesn’t compare to the weight of clinical depression. Sometimes, your struggles can be cured by a good vent sesh, a long walk or a cuddle with your pet; others require therapy and even prescribed medications. Everyone is different, and we all have different needs, but all of our feelings are valid, and we can all take steps to overcome our struggles in the year ahead.
Below, find 21 ways to improve your mental health in 2021. Some are small—keep a gratitude list, tell a friend you love them—while others are more intense, from cutting out toxic people to consulting your doctor for medication. I won’t pretend a glass of water can cure your lifelong anxiety; these are simply small ways to make each day a bit more bearable, so you can enjoy the life you deserve.
With that, read on and keep these tips in mind for the next time you feel overwhelmed. Remember: This is your year and you deserve to make the most of it.
1. Keep A Journal
Sometimes, you’ve just got to vent—but you might not always feel comfortable turning to a friend or family member. As Gretchen Weiners of Mean Girls once said, “Let it out, honey. Put it in the book!” Journaling is a great way to get things off your chest at the end of each day, so you can wake up and leave yesterday’s troubles behind.
2. Get More Sleep
Depression and anxiety can definitely make a good night’s sleep feel impossible, but it’s important to catch those Zzz’s, baby! Your mind and body need that time to reset, and waking up tired will only bring you down. Give yourself a set bedtime and put your phone out of reach so you won’t stay up scrolling TikTok—if your racing thoughts keep you awake, melatonin gummies or CBD might help you fall asleep faster.
3. Distance Yourself From Toxic People
Babe, it’s time. Cut those negative people out of your life once and for all. Wish them well, far away from you! There is nothing wrong with feeling like you no longer benefit from a friendship, but you need to be proactive in making sure you distance yourself from them and surround yourself with people who bring you joy.
4. Express Gratitude For Close Friends
As you cut ties with the wrong people, remember to thank the right ones. Sometimes, letting a friend know you care and are grateful for them can open up a beautiful conversation. Remind loved ones that you love them and don’t be surprised when they express similar gratitude for you in return. Your heart will be bursting!
5. Find A Creative Outlet
You need a hobby to channel your energy into, whether you chose to use it as a reward for doing well or a safe activity to turn to when you need a pick-me-up. Maybe it’s art, photography, web design or a new sport. Finding the right outlet makes dealing with a hard day a thousand times more bearable.
6. Book A Therapy Appointment
If you feel like this is necessary for you, consider booking an appointment with a therapist, whether in-person or virtually. Don’t be afraid to shop around until you find your perfect match. The right therapist will really get you, and want to help you grow and thrive.
7. Take Up Meditation
If you want to lean into hardcore meditation, by all means! If not, at least take a few moments each day to calm yourself, clear your mind and practice intentional breathing. When your thoughts are racing and your heart is pounding, this grounding activity can make all the difference.
8. Keep A Gratitude List
Write down the things you’re thankful for! Make yourself note at least one per day, and you’ll be surprised to find that (even on your absolute worst days) there is always something small and beautiful to bring you joy.
9. Drink More Water
Your physical health really is connected to your mental health, so for the love of all things good, drink some water! If you need, you might also consider re-evaluating your diet and making the healthy choices that feel right for you. Don’t force yourself into something strict; just be kind to your body and give it the fuel it needs.
10. Find Someone Who Can Relate
Sometimes, venting to your happy-go-lucky friend about your depression makes you feel worse. Find an IRL or online group of people you can open up to—or, just one friend who really gets it. Feeling understood makes exploring your own emotions even easier, and perhaps you can offer others comfort in return.
11. Practice Breathing Techniques
This one’s right up there with meditating. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and about to dive head-first into a panic attack, having a few tried-and-true breathing techniques to turn to can make all the difference. They’ll help you stabilize your body and mind, allowing you to get to a calmer place.
12. Speak Positively About Yourself
Hype yourself up. OUT LOUD! It’s not enough to just think it. Repeat positive mantras over and over every morning—or, whenever you need a boost. Here’s an example: I am worthy. I am loved. I am doing the best I can. I am stronger than what ails me. I am getting better every day.
13. Let Go Of Regrets & Anger
You will be forever tense if you carry anger, sadness and regrets with you—it’s time to let that shit go. Forgive and forget, and allow yourself the serenity that comes with not being plagued by negative memories.
14. Get Some Sunshine
Vitamin D is real, y’all! Try to get outside each day, whether it’s a long walk or just a few minutes sitting with your iced coffee during your work break. It might seem like it wouldn’t make a huge difference, but you’d be surprised what fresh air can do for the soul.
15. Hit The Gym
No, you don’t need to stress about your body. Just get moving! Laying in bed all day often seems like the most tempting option when you’re struggling, but it will only make you feel worse in the long run. Do some quick exercises, go for a long run or a short walk, or play a sport.
16. Disconnect From Social Media
If you’re one of those people who suffers from anxiety, depression or imposter syndrome brought on by the fake world of Instagram, delete the app! Or at the very least, limit your use of it. If you can’t stay away, do a follower clear-out: Unfollow any accounts that stress you out, and only follow ones that bring you joy and make you feel good.
17. Pet Your Dog
Or a friend’s dog, or a neighbor’s! When you spend time with animals, your stress hormones lower and your happiness hormones skyrocket. Perhaps even consider an emotional support animal to help you while traveling and in public.
18. Help Others
I swear, helping others helps you, too. Volunteer, support a friend or aid a family member and you’ll definitely feel great about yourself after. You are so caring, compassionate and generous with your time! Knowing you’ve helped someone else will definitely squash any negative thoughts about yourself.
19. Consider Prescription Medication
If and only if you feel comfortable, consult your doctor about taking a prescription to help balance everything you’re dealing with mentally. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and often, the right meds can work wonders! Do what’s right for you, and be proud of your decision to take your mental health into your own hands and be proactive about it.
20. Communicate With Family
Let whoever you live with know where you’re at with your mental health. Whether it’s “Hey Mom, I’m really going through it right now, I need you to check on me,” or “Hey Roommate, I’m in a bit of a funk right now, sorry if I snap at you,” letting others know allows them to care for you properly. It never hurts to have someone else looking out for you.
21. Remember: You’re Doing The Best That You Can
YOU are amazing for even clicking on this article—that alone is proof of how ready you are to turn your mental health around! 2021 will be what you make of it, so allow yourself the best possible chance to succeed and get yourself in the headspace you deserve. Love you, mean it!!