April 26, 2023
Life gets busy for all of us, and constant stress can do a number on our mental well-being. Whether it’s work, the news, family life or other concerns, it’s easy to get in a rut when these stressors weigh us down during our daily routine.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat stress and remain positive throughout the day. Dr. Greg Nawalanic, PsyD, clinical director of psychology services at The University of Kansas Health System Strawberry Hill Campus, provides 6 easy steps you can take daily to improve your mental well-being.
Start the day positively
When you wake up, start each day with a 10-to-15-minute meditation to set a positive intention for the day.
“Hold a deep breath for a 4 or 5 count, slowly exhale, and do 2 or 3 of those,” Dr. Nawalanic says. “Only breathe as you must, so you're not forcing yourself to take these deep breaths because you’ll start to get dizzy. Then try to identify a positive intention for your day.”
Examples of positive intentions you could set for the day are trying to be more:
- Anything that is positive and that can add positivity to your day
Seize the day
It can be easy to just go through the motions, but Dr. Nawalanic recommends actively engaging in work, studies or daily responsibilities.
"Engage and remember why you are at work or school doing what you're doing,” Dr. Nawalanic says. “You're there for income. You're there to provide for yourself, loved ones, whatever it might be. If you have a career that you went to schooling for, remind yourself that this was your goal, and you are actually in your goal and living that moment. This is the vision you had for yourself.”
Pause electronics and be present
Nowadays we use our phones for so many things, but remember to detach from your devices when possible. It’s tempting to check in on work after hours or spend time on social media, but it’s more important to take the time to be present and in the moment.
Dr. Nawalanic recommends putting devices down for at least an hour and instead spending time with loved ones like a spouse, children or pets, or even taking time for yourself.
“Mindfully engage with the people for whom you work, the people who are supposed to enrich your life,” he says. “It’s about active, mindful, purposeful engagement in the things we do, and doing the stuff that will make us feel better.”
If you need to have your phone nearby, the next best thing to do is to turn off as many notifications as possible. It’s one thing to check your phone when you want, but it’s another thing when your device is telling you when to check it with a notification. Turning off notifications allows you to take control and release yourself from the anxiety of constantly checking your device.
Be intentionally grateful
This is an easy one: Spend a moment each day to identify at least 1 thing for which you are grateful. You can identify more, but at least 1 can help you remain positive. Even if it’s just “I got up today.”
Do the “3 good things” exercise
At the end of the day, sit down and reflect by completing this popular “3 good things” exercise:
- Think of 3 good things that happened today. Something that you accomplished, something that happened or maybe something that you heard about or saw on the news.
- Write down those 3 good things. A journal works best.
- Reflect on why those things happened and the role you played in them happening. What did you or someone else do to make them happen?
This exercise can also help you remain positive and focus on the good things in life.
End the day positively
End the day as you start it, with another 10-to-15-minute meditation where you reflect on the day.
“Recall that positive intention that you set and reflect on it,” Dr. Nawalanic says. “If you didn’t do it today, it's something you can do another day. If you did do it just 1 time, you're literally going to bed a better version of yourself than you were the day before.
“While 1 day won’t seem like a huge difference, think about the power of 3 to 6 months and what that can look like.”
More ways to improve mental well-being
- Try to identify the threats to your happiness, and work to diminish or avoid those threats.
- Know that you must work for happiness and the life you want. You owe it to yourself to change and improve your life and yourself for the better.
- If you can’t do it by yourself, reach out to licensed professionals who can help. Taking the first step is difficult, but it will be worth it.
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