Here Are 5 Ways To Improve Your Mental Health Before Bell Let’s Talk

January is supposed to be the blank slate we all need after weeks of endless parties, presents, and champagne. But with the new month and new year comes a sluggish return to the office, with an extra 5-pounds under our belt, bags under our eyes and what seems like 5-layers of clothing underneath our winter coats. It’s no wonder that January is home to Bell Let’s Talk – a day where Canadians join together to discuss mental health and stop the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Mental health is something everyone should feel comfortable talking about – whether it’s expressing feelings of anxiety with a friend or sitting down with a doctor about intrusive thoughts. 1 in 5 Canadians struggles with or will struggle with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or mood swings throughout their lifetime. Whether your mental health is a huge part of your day-to-day life, or simply something you want to get better control over, here are 5 simple tips to feeling better about yourself and your mind.

1. A meditation app

Downloading a meditation app is one of the easiest things you can do to make your mind at ease. A mindfulness app like Headspace only requires 10 minutes out of your day and can greatly improve the quality of your mental health. Headspace allows for guided meditation to help you clear your mind, focus and breathe. The app is voiced by an incredibly soothing British man that will have you feeling calmer in no time. I recommend setting a designated time to meditate, either in the morning before you start your day or in the evening in addition to your nighttime routine.

2. Get outside

It’s clinically proven that the outdoors can do wonders for your mood. Outside environments are often referred to as ‘restorative environments’ that can help relieve mental fatigue. Doses of nature have been quoted as a widely accessible tool for concentration, as time outside can help people return to tasks refreshed and more focused than before. Time outdoors can also reduce stress and decrease your heart rate. Try to get out and walk at least for 10 minutes in every day, even if it’s just to the store or your local coffee shop.

3. Practice gratitude

A gratitude journal can be a great tool for putting your life in perspective. Regardless of your day or the terrible things that happened, it can be very fulfilling to write down a couple things you’re grateful for. Writing down the good things that happened that day can help you be present and gives each day its own identity as opposed to letting them all blend together in a big, mess of a week. Some days there will be amazing entries, “Just met Tom Hanks at TIFF!” other days, they will be more mundane like, “Free doughnuts at work’ – but they’ll all be positive and isn’t that something to get psyched about?!

4. Have something to look forward to

In the iconic words of Julia-Louis Dreyfus, the key to happiness is having something to look forward to. You need to make plans that you’re excited about in order to help you push through those 5 days that sit between weekends. It doesn’t have to be crazy – maybe it’s a pizza from your favourite place or going out for drinks with your friends, just make sure that you have that plan in motion. When you make time for the things that make you happy, you’re prioritizing your own well-being on a more conscious level. These little happiness markers can make a huge difference.

5. When in doubt, see your doctor

You always have someone to talk to – I can’t stress how important that fact is. Whenever you’re feeling poorly about yourself or your well-being, you can always reach out to medical professionals for conversation and council. Making an appointment can feel like a big deal, but I promise – your medical professional wants to help you. If don’t feel comfortable talking to friends or family, doctors will always listen to you and keep it confidential.