Many individuals experience mental health issues throughout their lifetimes. Taking proactive steps to improve mental health can help. From exercise and mindfulness to therapy and support groups, there are many ways to optimize mental health.

About 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness every year. And more than half of U.S. residents will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

There is a wide range of methods for improving and maintaining mental health. Exercising, sleeping well, and socializing can all boost mental health. Getting professional mental health support is also an effective option for many individuals.

This article reviews ways to improve mental health. Read on to learn more.

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Prioritizing physical activity is an effective way to improve mental health. A recent study found that even short periods of exercise can dramatically improve a person’s mental health. Researchers noted that physical activity reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and postpartum depression.

Regular exercise can increase energy levels, improve mood, and reduce depression. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate physical activity each week.

Examples of effective ways to incorporate physical activity include:

  • cardiovascular exercise
  • outdoor activities
  • yoga

Speaking with a mental health professional can also help improve mental health. Some benefits of therapy may include:

  • recognizing and changing negative thought patterns
  • learning how to better manage stress
  • receiving emotional support
  • improving interpersonal skills to enhance relationships

Approximately 75% of people who go to therapy do experience mental health benefits. Therapy can both address immediate problems and identify long-term strategies to improve mental health. Speak with a mental health professional to learn more about available options.

Read more about mental health.

Research has shown that social connectedness is an important part of mental health.

Individuals who become socially isolated may experience sleep problems, high blood pressure, and increased stress. Connecting with others can improve overall health and reduce the risk of certain mental health conditions.

Volunteering may be an option for socializing in a low pressure environment. Nursing homes, soup kitchens, and nonprofit youth organizations are examples of places that may need volunteers.

Other options for connecting with others include playing on a local sports team, joining a book club, or taking cooking classes.

Living with high stress levels can worsen the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Taking short breaks throughout the day can help reduce stress and improve mental health.

To reduce high stress levels, it can also be helpful to identify the causes and signs of stress. Identifying stressors is the first step to finding ways to manage them. Learning the signs of stress, like muscle tension or headaches, is also helpful. Managing stress early can reduce the chance of a negative impact on mental health.

Read more about stress and how to manage it.

Learning new skills can improve self-confidence and boost mental health. Pursuing a new interest can also help create a sense of purpose and drive.

For example, a DIY home project is a great way to learn new skills in a familiar environment. Building a dog house or repainting a bedroom are both examples of skill-learning opportunities. Taking local cooking classes, mentoring, or learning a new sport may also help improve mental health.

Mental health problems often affect sleep quality. Research has shown that sleep disturbances are common among people with mental health conditions, such as:

  • depression
  • substance use disorder
  • anxiety
  • behavior disorders

Improving sleep habits can reduce the symptoms of a range of mental health conditions.

To improve sleep, it can be helpful to set aside time to relax before bed. Turning off phone or television screens, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath are all examples of ways to relax before bed to help improve sleep.

Learn more ways to improve sleep.

Research shows that art can help with processing emotions and managing mental health conditions. Getting creative can also improve confidence and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Some individuals may enjoy learning a new instrument or joining a local choir. Spending time drawing or painting can also help get the creative juices flowing. Photography, sewing, and creative writing are other possible avenues for creative expression.

There are many ways to manage mental health individually and with community support. But in certain cases, it may be necessary to speak with a healthcare professional.

Individuals with a mental health condition may experience:

  • a sense of hopelessness
  • little or no pleasure in favorite activities
  • tiredness
  • sleep disturbances
  • weight changes
  • suicidal thoughts

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Anyone experiencing these symptoms may want to consider speaking with a mental health professional if they do not improve.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about improving mental health.

How can I fix my mental health naturally?

There are many options for treating mental health naturally. Exercise can boost mood and reduce mental health symptoms. Learning new skills, engaging with other people, and improving sleep quality can also help. Speak with a mental health professional to learn more.

What are positive mental habits?

Positive mental habits are those that support improved mental health. They may include positive self-talk or solution-oriented thought patterns.

Negative thoughts are a typical part of life, and they are not necessarily a sign of a mental health condition. Learning to emphasize positive thoughts and solutions to everyday problems may take time. But improving mental habits is crucial for supporting mental well-being.

Many people experience mental health conditions at some point in their lives. Taking steps to improve mental health can help prevent and treat these conditions.

Exercising regularly, speaking with a therapist, and connecting with others can all help support mental health. Giving back to the community through volunteering or exploring creative projects can help uncover a sense of purpose and inspiration.

In certain situations, individuals may need professional support to improve their mental health. Anyone experiencing new or worsening mental health symptoms should speak with a mental health professional.