Today is World Mental Health Day, so it's as good an opportunity as any to talk about mental health.
I've written before about the dangers of untreated mental illness for the 1 in 6 Americans who suffer, including many entrepreneurs: loss of productivity, depression, and even suicide.
But what if you're not in the 1 in 6 who are labeled mentally ill?
Some people may differentiate between "normal" and mentally ill, but I firmly that believe that every one of us can improve our mental health, no matter what. Just as even marathon runners can improve their physical health, even people in top mental health can become more fit. So, mental health does not have to be a topic exclusively for people with depression or anxiety. It can, and arguably needs to be, a topic for all of us.
Here, then, are 5 simple ways to improve your mental health, no matter where you're at today:
There is lots evidence that physical exercise in not just good for our bodies, but good for our minds. 20 or more minutes of cardio activity, especially at the beginning of the day, can absolutely elevate your spirits. Even better than exercising alone? Making it social: playing a team sport or working out with others. I've got the best of both worlds when I ride my Peloton bike 3 times a week: the comfort and ease of working out at home, with the social component of virtually riding and high-fiving with hundreds of people around the globe. In additional to exercise, eating well and sleep are helpful for your mental health.
2) Joining a peer group
There is amazing power in talking with people who are going through something similar to what you're going through. Think, for example, about the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's much harder to feel alone when you're in a room or virtual room filled with people who have similar experiences and challenges to yours. For entrepreneurs, here are five peer groups worth considering. Entrepreneurs Organization, and my amazing Forum, in particular, has been transformational in my mental health and my life over the past nine years.
3) Talking to a therapist or coach
I've been seeing therapists since I was 11 years old. The most traditional way to improve mental heath, it's incredible to have someone whose only job is to listen to you and empathize with you. Unfortunately, there is still great stigma around the notion of seeing a talk therapist. That's why I've been passionate about leading UMA, a marketplace that connects people to therapists and coaches (and that's currently funding your first appointment in its entirety).
Writing a thank you note, making a gratitude list, and acts of kindness and gratitude all have a powerful effect of improving your mood. In fact, there is physiological evidence that you can't be grateful and sad in the same moment. I've called gratitude "the best, legal drug on the planet" and I've even spoken of the business ROI of gratitude. For tips on how to better use gratitude to improve your mental health, check out the organization Thankful.
5) Calling for Help
While the four above practices can be very valuable in improving your mental health and happiness no matter where you're at, if you're reading this and acutely struggling, you should strongly consider a more urgent approach, such as calling a friend, family member, or even the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.8255. Also, I can think of no better way to spend 5 minutes than by talking to someone who is seriously depressed and in need of help, so feel free to email me or tweet me to set up a few minutes to chat if you prefer a stranger to a friend or a hotline.
Whether it's through exercise, peer groups, therapy, coaching, gratitude, or something else, it's just as essential to take care of our minds and hearts as it is our bodies. Here's to improving your mental health, on #WorldMentalHealthDay and everyday.