Twenty Steps to Improve Your Mental Health and Take Charge of Your Life

Twenty Steps to Improve Your Mental Health and Take Charge of Your Life

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This is an article about everyday actions you can take to maintain and improve your mental health. We all have varying levels of improvable mental health, and we improve mental health in the same way we improve physical fitness – by working our way through difficult experiences and developing our abilities and skills to handle those experiences.

When I say that improving your mental health is just like improving your physical fitness, I’m not suggesting that mental illnesses aren’t real biological experiences. Physical fitness is all about biology.

Imagine we select a random, 30-year-old, average guy that doesn’t exercise. He hasn’t exercised since he left school. He says he’s allergic to exercise. He hates it. But life has a way of throwing him into situations where he’s forced to exert himself.

Just as he arrived at his office building the other day, already a few minutes late for a meeting, the lifts broke down, so he had to carry his bags up 30 flights of stairs to the office. By the third floor his heart was pounding, and he was gasping for breath. He could feel the sweat soaking through his shirt.

There was no ambiguity in his mind about what he wanted to do, but no matter how much he berated himself to get up those stairs as quickly as possible, he kept stopping to catch his breath. His muscles burned. He felt sharp pains in his knees with each step. There was no way he could hope himself into easily handling 30 flights of stairs.

It wasn’t a cognitive choice. He couldn’t simply choose to have the strength, flexibility, and endurance he needed right then. No amount of positive thinking would have given him the skills or speed to get up those stairs any faster. Now, if we could measure the cortisol, adrenaline, and blood oxygen levels in his body at that moment, we could say that he had a ‘chemical imbalance’.

His hormone and neurotransmitter levels would be all over the place. If we did a brain scan on him and compared that to scans of people who exercised regularly, we would likely see obvious differences in brain activity and structure. But none of those biological indicators would mean that he necessarily has a disease. They wouldn’t indicate that he’s incapable of developing the skills and physical capacity to handle that experience.

We wouldn’t label that guy as having an Endurance Disorder. Even if he was forced to run up the stairs every day for a week and failed every time to do it without stopping, that still wouldn’t indicate the presence of a chronic disorder.

With a month or so of sweaty, difficult practice, while making changes throughout his life to support that practice, he could make that climb without stopping. This is true with any fitness challenge. If you don’t run, it’s not weird if you can’t run. But you can learn how to do it.

Also Read: Practicing Mindfulness: The Nine Aspects of Mindfulness Practice


Take responsibility for making changes and empower yourself to make them. Recognizing that you can make changes to improve and maintain your mental health is not about blaming yourself for the mental health challenges you’re experiencing. It’s about taking back the power that anxiety and fear rob us of.

Feeling empowered to make a change can still seem like a daunting task. But one of the most beneficial lessons I learned on my journey was that I could make changes everywhere, even with seemingly normal activities. With the first exercise, we’ll dive into, below, you’ll get to see how an activity you do many times daily (possibly over a hundred times each day) can be an opportunity to make changes that support your mental health. This exercise covers many of the fundamental techniques that we’ll build upon in this article ahead.

EXERCISE: Learn how to catch an urge

The most basic mental fitness skill is learning how to catch an urge, accept it, and then make a conscious, mindful decision about what you want to do. Everything we practice after this is simply an extension of accepting your internal experience and making a healthy decision.

If you can master this skill, your productivity, your ability to pay attention to the people you care about, your ability to make decisions that support your romantic relationships, and your ability to use your free time in a way that makes you feel good about yourself can all improve.

You’ll be able to handle whatever pops into your head, no matter how intense, keep your attention where you want to focus it, and make choices to build long-term health and happiness instead of reacting impulsively to short-term discomfort.

One of the simplest ways to practice this exercise is with your mobile phone (but you can adapt it to anything you do automatically, such as checking things on your computer, automatically turning on the TV when you get home, etc.).

Here’s how it works:

  1. Carry your phone with you at all times. There’s nothing wrong with having a phone on you. It’s how you interact with it that causes the problems.
  2. Experience the urge to check your phone. Maybe you want to see if you received a text message you were waiting for, or maybe you want to check for a response to an important email, or your lottery numbers, or your dating profile for a message from ‘the one’ – whatever it is, don’t try to get rid of the urge, but also don’t check your phone! Feel the uncertainty. So much of improving your mental health is about learning to handle uncertainty.
  3. Choose when you want to check your phone. This is about putting you back in charge of how you spend your time and energy. Urges don’t have to dictate your actions. You are not a dog. You do not have to chase every stick your brain throws for you. When you notice the urge to check your phone, accept that urge – it’s totally fine for it to be there – but set a time and place when you’ll check it. And then follow through on that, whether you feel you need to or not when that time arrives.
  4. Practice. Keep practicing until you no longer check your phone as an automatic reaction to the urge to check. Only use your phone when you choose to use it. You may need to practice this exercise for a week or two before it begins to be normal. But only go back to reacting to the urges your brain throws at you if compulsively reacting to urges is something at which you hope to become incredibly skilled.

If you don’t feel you have a problem with checking your phone, or it’s not something that bothers you, that’s great. This should be very easy for you then. But try this exercise before you decide it’s not a struggle for you.

If you can learn how to handle a simple uncertainty like, ‘Did I get an email?’ you’ll be much more prepared to handle a big uncertainty like, ‘Should I end this relationship?’ or ‘What if I’m about to die?’ If you find that not checking your phone causes you noticeable discomfort, or that you check it so automatically you don’t even notice quickly enough to stop yourself, keep an open mind to the possibility that there are other behaviors in your life you’re unaware of that are contributing to poor mental health and fitness.

Also Read: Breathing Techniques for Anxiety

Hereby, below-mentioned you will find twenty effective steps to improve your mental health and take charge of your life.

Twenty Steps to Improve Your Mental Health and Take Charge of Your Life

  1. Understand that you are not a rock
  2. Recognize your problems
  3. Practice Mindfulness
  4. Meditate
  5. Follow your values
  6. Focus on changing actions, not thoughts or feelings
  7. Stop Coping
  8. Break your if X Then Y thinking pattern
  9. Stop Checking
  10. Understand your fears
  11. Stop Controlling
  12. Tame the monster
  13. Switch the fuel of life from fear to values
  14. Break your motivation addiction
  15. Throw out unhelpful beliefs and desires
  16. Practice non-judgments
  17. Make happiness a practice
  18. Embrace uncertainty
  19. Plan for your wilderness adventure
  20. Keep taking steps

“Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate to ourselves.”


Related: Basic Mindfulness Exercises: A Step-By-Step Guide (Part I)

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