Tips to stay mentally healthy

Find your flow

“Flow” is your state of mind when you do something that challenges and fulfills you, without too much pressure on your performance. Note the highlights of your day or week. When did you feel “in the zone”? Hint: Passive entertainment like bingeing a TV show or playing computer games aren’t flow. Think dancing, cooking, painting, even housecleaning — pursuits that absorb you and put your worries aside. Make plenty of time for them.

Catch a groovy beat

Yes, classical music can relax you and ease tension. But what if your listening tastes are more high-energy? An Italian study found quick tempos can help calm you, too. It just happens when the music stops. After listening to fast-paced songs, the subjects’ blood pressures and heart rates mellowed. So whether your jam is Mozart or classic rock, crank it up.

Buy yourself something nice

It doesn’t have to be a spree for fancy electronics or a new designer wardrobe. Sure, the something nice can perk you up for the moment. But research shows the real magic of so-called retail therapy is the sense of control you have over your environment when you make your own choices. So try a little smart shopping to help snap you out of short-term sadness. Just make sure your picks fit your budget, too.  

Read a book

Studies have linked reading to improvements in depression symptoms, as well as mental flexibility and brain function. Make sure it’s a pleasure read — not the news, your computer manual, or even your latest book club pick. Find a book you’ve wanted to check out or a juicy magazine. Sock away at least 30 minutes every day to read in peace.

Keep your support system

When you feel down, it’s easy to think others should know how you feel. But you need to be the one to keep the lines open. Make time for friends and family. Offer to help them out when you can — some research suggests it can be more uplifting to give support than to get it. And while some experts say it’s best to meet up in person, don’t hesitate to draw on electronic tools like Skype, online chat, and texts to stay close if needed.

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