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  • Dr. Nickeisha Clarke, Psy.D.

How to Thrive not just Survive: Your Guide to Building Mental Fitness

Updated: Apr 10

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's easy to overlook the importance of our mental health. Yet, akin to physical fitness, our mental and emotional well-being require regular attention and care. As a licensed psychologist, I want to share with you key habits you can cultivate to boost your mental health, leading to an enriched and more fulfilling life.

Understanding that mental health is equally as significant as physical health is the first step towards a happier and healthier you. Implementing good habits for your mental landscape can make an incredible difference in how you feel and how you function on a daily basis.

Let's begin by exploring some beneficial habits that can yield positive changes to your mental health.

  1. Quality Sleep: Never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. Sleep is as essential as food and water for our bodies. When sleep is inadequate or disrupted, anxiety and stress take root, clouding our thinking and draining our resilience. Sleep helps us to process our experiences, consolidate memory, and refresh our emotional capacity. Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and consider establishing a comforting nighttime routine that signals to your body that it's time to wind down.

  2. Routine Exercise: Movements and physical activities release endorphins, also known as 'feel-good' hormones, which naturally enhance your mood. The endorphin rush that accompanies even a simple walk is nature's antidepressant, lifting our mood and quelling anxiety. Exercise strengthens our neural networks, boosting cognitive function and memory. It can be our stress valve, a place to channel nervous energy into powerful movement, leaving us feeling calm and grounded. Aiming for regular exercise doesn't mean you need to engage in intense workouts each day but rather finding the form of physical activity you enjoy. This can be a brisk walk, yoga, dancing, or even simple stretching - anything that gets your body moving.

  3. Balanced Diet: The food we fuel our bodies with isn't just about physical energy; it's about nourishing our minds, too. Nutrition plays a vital role in our mental health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein provides the essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that keep our neurotransmitters and brain cells in tip-top shape. Conversely, processed foods and sugary treats can trigger inflammation, disrupt gut health, and leave us feeling drained and anxious. Choosing a balanced diet isn't just about calorie counting; it's about nurturing the chemical landscape of our minds, promoting focus, enhancing mood, and building resilience against stress. So, swap the chips for crunchy carrots, the sugary cola for sparkling water, and watch your mental health blossom.

  4. Mindfulness and Meditation: Engaging in mindfulness practices and meditation can drastically reduce stress and anxiety levels. These practices help you focus on the present moment, promoting a sense of peace. Mindfulness and meditation aren't about achieving some mystical state; they're about reclaiming control of our inner world, moment by moment teaching us to witness our thoughts and feelings without judgment. Just a few minutes each day dedicated to mindfulness can lead to significant benefits for your mental health.

  5. Social Interactions: Human beings are social creatures, and positive interactions are crucial to our mental health. Regularly connecting with friends and loved ones can provide emotional support and decrease feelings of loneliness or isolation. Even small social events or quick catch-ups can be incredibly uplifting.

  6. Goal Setting: Setting realistic and achievable goals can give us a sense of direction and purpose. Goals can be as simple as finishing a book, learning a new recipe, or as substantial as planning a vacation. The key is making sure that your goals are measurable, within your control, and time-bound, which provides clarity and motivation.

  7. Taking Breaks: It is vital to recognize when you need a break. In a world that often equates busyness with success, it's important to pause and rest to prevent burnout. Breaks can range from short moments of relaxation to longer periods of vacation. What's essential is that you listen to your body and mind, and give them the time off they require.

  8. Professional Care: If you find that negative feelings persist and start to impact your daily life, it might be time to seek professional help. There's no shame in reaching out to a therapist or counselor when you're struggling. These professionals can provide guidance, support, and coping strategies tailored to your specific needs.

Just as there is no single approach to physical fitness, there is no one-size-fits-all for mental health practices. You are the expert on your own life, so feel empowered to experiment with these habits and find what works best for you. By incorporating these good habits into your life, you're not just surviving; you're thriving.

At every turn, remember to be kind to yourself. Be patient, because changes to your mental health can be gradual. Celebrate small victories, and always seek help if you feel overwhelmed. Your mental health journey is uniquely yours – honor it and nourish it.

Take care of your mind, and it will take care of you. Here's to a mentally healthier you!

Stay tuned! I will go into a deep dive about each of these eight strategies in future blog posts. 


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