Some say that a good measure of mental health is how you feel shortly after you wake up. If you take the time to address your mind in the morning, the positive effects can linger as the day goes on.
Let’s look at some unconventional ways to start your day on the right foot when you’re struggling with your mental health. These are simple methods that almost anyone can do, regardless of circumstance.
1. Step Outside, or at the Very Least, Open a Window
It’s tempting to keep the blinds closed when you’re having a tough time in your head. You just want to be tucked away, isolated, and comfortable in a dark place. Letting light in almost feels offensive. That’s understandable.
However, science shows that being in nature is healing. And even if you live in a city, stepping outside and looking up at the morning sky helps you orient yourself. You get a boost of vitamin D too, which helps with brain function.
If you’re in a bad place, what matters most are the subjective psychological benefits of being outside and how it helps you muster the energy to handle daily responsibilities.
In that regard, being outside, breathing deeply, and seeing the world as it is, is better than isolation. It brings you one inch toward a more open, healthier mindset.
It takes you out of your head for a moment and expands your perspective. Sometimes that’s enough to make things a little better.
2. Embrace Writing, Even if You Don’t Write
“It can be like a meditation. You can write to yourself. You can be as angry as you want. You could make up anything you want. You are never freer than when you are putting it down.” — Henry Rollins, Author and Songwriter
Writing does something special for the mind.
Julia Cameron is an author who invented a technique called Morning Pages. Morning pages were intended to be a way for artists to boost creativity and come up with new ideas.
But what people found is that doing this exercise helped them dive deeper into their psyches and even change their lives.
Here’s how you do it:
- Every morning, take out a piece of paper.
- Write one page of exactly how you’re feeling without stopping.
- Don’t edit, pause, or think.
Write exactly how you feel about yourself, the world, your situation, your fears, your relationships, or anything. If you’re on a roll, take it beyond one page.
Writing out your painful feelings gives them a sense of release. It’s as if you’re literally getting them off of your mind and onto paper.
Morning pages are an emotionally intimate process where you get reacquainted with who you are and what you believe. This can be difficult, but also enormously healing.
You can get this type of clarity every morning if you make it a practice. There are other ways to use writing too: You can make gratitude journals, a list of things to hope for, or things you can appreciate about yourself (if your self-esteem is feeling low).
3. Just Be With Yourself For a Moment
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” — Blaise Pascal
Regular meditation practice is wonderful, but traditional mindfulness meditation is not for everyone.
Instead of forcing yourself to sit still and focus on breathing, you can simply practice listening to how you’re feeling.
You take some time in the morning just to address your feelings. Think of it as an emotional check-in or a status update. You don’t completely shut down, you just take the time to be with yourself, like a good friend asking how you’re doing.
Instead of numbing feelings with coffee or technology, take time to be with yourself, even if it’s just five minutes.
You can do several things in these check-ins:
- You can find ways to coach yourself through difficult feelings.
- You can practice CBT and DBT techniques.
- You can remember the things you’ve been through in the past.
- You can observe how you’re feeling in a compassionate way and think of things that might make you feel better.
This simple moment of self-care can change the trajectory of your whole day and give you the strength to do the healthy activities that will bring you forward.
4. Nourishing Activities, Personal Projects, and Little Victories
This could be any activity, hobby, or pursuit that brings you joy. In most cases, these activities do not include things that numb your feelings like scrolling social media.
Ideally, you could find a way to fit in nourishing activities before work or class.
- Check the progress on some plants you’ve been growing
- Practice an art form you’re trying to learn.
- Call someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
- Reorganize your living space and try something totally new.
- Try your best to make a perfect bed to come home to.
These activities will be difficult if you’re stuck in depression and don’t feel like doing anything, but if you manage to do one, you can keep moving forward from there.
Say: “OK, I’ve made my bed. Can I muster enough energy to change that light bulb?” If you keep doing little activities you can start to gain a kind of momentum, and you can prove to yourself that despite how you’re feeling you can still find ways to live and make progress.
Morning Routines Should Serve You, Not Burden You
No, you don’t have to be ultra-regimented, devour vitamin supplements, or blast yourself with cold water in the shower (unless that works for you).
By practicing these routines, you can get ahead of your depressed feelings and give yourself enough energy to work through what’s bothering you. All the while handling any obligations you might have.
A good morning can flavor your entire day. To review:
- Expose your mind to the outside world and avoid too much isolation.
- See writing as a balm for your pain (even if you’re not a writer).
- Address your thoughts and feelings. Be there for yourself like a friend.
- Get a couple of things done, or at least find something that brings you a bit of joy.
If you’re still in a bad place, just keep being there for yourself, even if you can’t get out of bed. You can still learn to recognize and be with your pain, so start there, and don’t give up.