Top Five: Tips to Boost Well-Being and Happiness

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month, Create Routines To Better Your Wellness

Yoga and Exercise can boost well-being and happiness. (Getty Images)

Mental health is a public health crisis for young people across America. May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to uplift the experiences of people with mental health problems and spread awareness about what good mental health looks like. There continues to be a stigma around mental health. But, the reality is over 50% of Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness throughout their lives.

As of the 2020-21 school year, 60% of college students were experiencing one or more mental health problems. Making the importance of maintaining good habits when it comes to daily wellbeing to boost your mood and prevent serious mental health challenges an obvious top priority. To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, here are five things you can add into your daily routine to maintain positive wellbeing on the daily.

Ways to Support Your Overall Well Being and Happiness
Built By Girls Top Five: Mental health is a public health crisis for young people across America. May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to uplift the experiences of people with mental health issues.

1. Get Your Body Moving

Exercise is one proven way to boost your mood. For Rebeckah Price, yoga is one key way that she maintains good wellbeing. Price is a Global Trainer for Nike and her yoga practice centers on making space for those who don’t see themselves in wellness spaces currently. Yoga was initially a way for her to navigate mental health challenges. “I started my yoga practice a long time ago because I was suffering from anxiety,” Price shares. In addition to helping her cope with anxiety, depression, and other life challenges, yoga has been a continuous way for Price to show herself love, foster community, and support her wellness. “My yoga practice has taught me the importance of loving myself and meeting myself with compassion.”

Yoga is one way to get your body moving. However, exercise looks different for everyone. It can be anything from going on a walk, to going to the gym, to dancing. Whichever type you choose, movement is a great way to be intentional about allocating time for yourself and to connect with your body. Find a form of movement that brings you joy and set some time aside each day to engage with it.

2. Be Selfish

One of the most important parts of wellness is listening to your body and mind, setting aside time for yourself, and knowing when you may need more time for yourself than normal. Sometimes this means putting your mental health over school and other responsibilities, which was the case for Leah Brooks. Brooks is a mental health and wellbeing advocate and a medical student at the University of Sheffield in England. At one of her lowest points during placement in a COVID ward and persistent medical exams, Brooks made the decision to take a year off of medical school. “I really got to a stage where I didn’t like who I was. That was really difficult to know that and feel like that, and then, going and trying to help people and give people support and encouragement when I felt like I couldn’t even do that for myself,” Brooks reflects. “I knew I needed to take that time to really…just focus on me without any external pressures.”

After taking her gap year, Brooks returned to school with some of her best exam scores ever. “You can prioritize your mental health, you can prioritize your wellness, and also be in a…high-pressure career,” Brooks states.

People working in the medical field are not the only ones who have to balance a high-pressure job and mental health. Many women who work in STEM fields struggle not only with the intense environment, but also with working in a male-dominated field. After dealing with problems with her menstrual cycle, Bahynah Hughes started creating wellness content to document her journey with lifestyle changes. She is certified in plant-based nutrition and works at a health technology company, focusing on the company’s app that helps health care providers diagnose patients at the point of care. “Imposter syndrome is very rampant for me and women in the STEM world, as well as showing up into rooms and not seeing anyone that looks like you,” Hughes reflects. “It did take a toll on my mental health at one of my earlier jobs.”

As for what women in STEM and high-pressure careers can do to cope with these challenges, Hughes has a few tips. “What helped me was working out my work-life balance and making sure that my physical well-being was okay. [I wanted to make sure] that I was seeking and setting boundaries outside work, and in work, seeking mentorship,” Hughes explains. “Make sure that your self-worth is not only tied to your job or your academic career and that you pursue your passions outside the STEM field as well.”

3. Build Your Support System

Surrounding yourself with good people is a crucial part of supporting your daily wellness. Identify your support system and the people you can lean on during bad days, and make sure you’re nurturing your social life, along with school and work. Price expresses that a support system can be helpful to know you’re not alone and that you have people who can support you. “Sometimes you feel alone and when you feel alone, sometimes you make decisions or do things that might not be in your best interest,” Price expresses. “I have one or two people that I’m really close with.”

If you don’t have a good support system and don’t have the means to build one, Price recommends journaling, “just so [you] have someone to talk to.”

Hughes echoes the importance of some kind of support system. For her, her support system includes long-term friends and people who she’s met in the wellness sphere. “It is important to find your community in each aspect of your life,” Hughes emphasizes.

4. Set Wellness Routines

Routines aren’t for everyone. It can be challenging to maintain a consistent routine each day. However, continuously having time set aside for wellness can ensure that you maintain good daily wellbeing. Especially at the beginning and end of the day, having some time for yourself to engage in wellness activities can be very beneficial. Hughes starts each day with a warm drink, journaling, and some kind of movement. “My morning feels so good and I feel very uplifted for the rest of the day,” Hughes shares.

Brooks also has a routine that she uses at night to wind down, which she prioritizes even with her busy medical school schedule. “That’s typically when I’ll read, phones go away, and then I’ll do some form of activity [that’s] something I really fancy doing in the day, so that I know I’ve got it to look forward to,” Brooks explains. Note that putting screens away before bed can help improve your sleep as well, which benefits overall wellness.

Brooks also emphasizes that it’s important to remember to be gentle with yourself. “With mental health, it can be really difficult to keep that routine.” She isn’t perfect with her routines and it’s okay if you’re not either. However, setting routines are useful in ensuring that you have time each day for yourself and the things you love to do, so you consistently have balance in life.

5. Spend Time on Your Hobbies

Work- and school-life balance are very connected to daily wellbeing. It’s helpful to have things that you’re passionate about and invested in outside of your career and academic life. “Pour into yourself day to day,” Hughes expresses. “Start out small by doing things you’re passionate about that you enjoy [and] that bring joy and happiness to your life.”

Hobbies can also be joy boosters for when you’re feeling down. Brooks expresses that seemingly little things are simple but effective when it comes to uplifting your mood. “[If] it tends to be more like my mood’s low, something like binge watching my favorite TV show, going on a walk in the sun, spending time with my cats, just little tasks [can help].”

Mental Health Awareness Month

Each of these tips can be helpful in bettering your wellness. While these things can help boost your wellness, wellness is not just a set of actions. “Wellness to me is something that’s holistic,” Price shares. She describes wellness as organized by houses, with each house being one part of your wellness including emotional, financial, spiritual, and physical wellness. “If my house in one area isn’t strong, then it’s going to impact the other houses in other aspects of my life.”

In addition, it’s important to remember that wellness is for everyone. Price, Hughes, and other wellness advocates are working to increase the inclusivity and representation in wellness. Price commits to practices that help make her yoga practice more inclusive, such as highlighting various intersectionalities and talking about how they impact wellness, offering free equipment to use in her classes, and offering classes on a pay as you can scale.

Meanwhile, Hughes is vocal about her wellness journey, to show people that the wellness space is for them. “Because a lot of people don’t see themselves- Black, Brown, non-binary [people]- in the wellness space, people tend to shy away from certain things and feel like those things aren’t for them.” Wellness spaces are not always diverse, but everyone deserves to feel good and have a space to nurture their wellbeing. “I’m just trying to show that people that look like me are welcomed in those places and we can take up space in the wellness area.”

Wellness is for everyone and investing in yourself each day can help to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Try implementing one or more of these tips into your daily life to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month this May- and remember, be patient with yourself. “It takes time,” Price reminds. “Supporting your wellbeing is a process and a journey that’s never ending.”

Hailey Dickinson (she/her) is a creator passionate about using writing and digital platforms to build community, make connections, and ignite positive social change. She is a Communications Major with a social media emphasis at the University of Minnesota and will graduate in December 2023.

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