7 Healthy Habits for Mental Health

By Ashley Barnes, M.S.

7 Habits for Mental Health

Our daily habits may not seem to have a drastic impact on our mental health and well-being, but they definitely do. The following are 7 healthy habits that can enhance well-being and mental health: 


Yes, you could have guessed that this would make the list. 

We know that exercise is recommended for improving our physical health but has also been researched and observed to have positive benefits on mental health. It increases endorphins in our bodies, which help us effectively cope with stress and pain. Further, when we exercise, studies show that this can in turn positively impact our sleep cycles, enhancing our quality of sleep (Korb, 2015). 

Exercise can look different for each of us depending on our ability status and the time we are allotted with our various responsibilities, but finding ways to integrate exercise into our schedules is recommended. Here are various exercise ideas:

  • Practice yoga.
  • Taking a walk through your neighborhood.
  • Go on a run.
  • Attend a class (pilates, cycling, zumba, dance, etc.)
  • Play your favorite sport (tennis, basketball, pickleball, etc.)
  • Go on a scenic hike, solo or with a friend.
  • Dance to your favorite songs.


Put simply, “Self-compassion is…the process of turning compassion inward.” (Neff, 2022).

It is especially important to practice self-compassion when we “fail, make mistakes or feel inadequate. We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives. Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available to us, radically improving our mental and physical well-being. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we’re inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy” (Neff, 2022). 

The following are some examples of ways you can practice self-compassion:

  • Talk to yourself like you would a cherished, close friend.
  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Forgive yourself for making a mistake.
  • Celebrate your wins.
  • Speak to yourself kindly.
  • Encourage yourself when you are at a low point.
  • Do a random act of kindness (for yourself).


Connecting with our support system can enhance our mental health and well-being. Connecting with friends, family, and those in the community foster meaningful human connection and can make us feel good; research indicates that having perceived stronger and meaningful connections with others can help improve our mental health (Korb, 2015).


Research also indicates that expressing gratitude can improve our general sense of well-being, especially pertaining to our mood (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). We can practice gratitude through a simple thought journal where we make an intention to note aspects of our life that we are thankful for. We can also express gratitude directly to other people. Gratitude helps us focus on the positive aspects of our lives in a way that makes those positive aspects more salient to us.


There are many definitions of mindfulness. As it pertains to mental health, mindfulness describes the practice of acknowledging what is happening in the present moment, both outside of yourself (the world around you) and with yourself (your emotions and bodily sensations) without judgment. “Research in mindfulness has identified a wide range of benefits in different areas of psychological health, such as helping to decrease anxiety, depression, rumination, and emotional reactivity. Research has also shown mindfulness helps to increase well-being, positive affect, and concentration” (UCLA Health, 2023). 

Here of some ways you can practice mindfulness:

  • Stop looking at your phone screen, take a deep breath, and notice what is happening around you
  • Attune to your senses: What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell?
  • Practice meditation.
  • Do a body scan: What sensations do you notice in your body starting from the top of your head to the tips of your toes?
  • Take slow, deep breaths.


Don’t “sleep” on the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Obtaining an adequate amount of sleep helps us cope with stress better, has a positive effect on memory, and improves mood (Korb, 2015). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests adults acquire around 7 hours of sleep per night (CDC, 2017). Sleep hygiene is a term we are suggested to get familiar with and describes good sleep habits that can help improve sleep quality. 

Seek Help

If you have utilized these healthy habits and are still struggling with your mental health, this is an indication that you may need professional support.

Psychiatrists have extensive training in the area of assessment and will be able to best determine if what you are experiencing meets the criteria for a diagnosis like anxiety or depression. Collaboratively, you and your doctor will develop a treatment plan which may involve medication management.

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” has also been studied to be extremely effective in the treatment of a variety of mental health challenges like depression, especially when paired with psychotropic medications like antidepressants. Psychotherapy gives us the opportunity to work through our thoughts and feelings in an effective and healthy manner, all while receiving support from our therapists and developing coping strategies. 

Ketamine is an effective option for treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine, when administered by a mental health care professional at the clinically appropriate dose, targets neurons in a way that stimulates the activity of neurotransmitters in a way that combats depression symptoms. Emerging research is finding ketamine to be effective in combating other mental health diagnoses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP), a combination of psychotherapy and ketamine treatment, is another effective way to combat treatment-resistant depression. In KAP, a therapist guides the patient through the session, engaging the patient in sensitive and attentive psychotherapeutic work to process the experience. 

Please contact us at the Mental Health Center for sensitive, attentive mental health care. We look forward to supporting you!




Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). CDC – sleep hygiene tips – sleep and sleep disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html. 

Emmons, R.,  & McCullough, M. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12585811/. 

Harvard Health Publishing. (2022). What causes depression? Harvard Medical School. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression 

Korb, A. (2015). The upward spiral: Using neuroscience to reverse the course of depression, one small change at a time. New Harbinger Publications.

Neff, Kristin (2022). Compassion. Self-Compassion – Dr. Kristin Neff. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from https://self-compassion.org/ 

UCLA Health System. (2023). https://www.uclahealth.org/programs/marc/about-us/research