For many of you reading this blog, exercise is your go-to method of reducing stress, clearing your mind, and simply making yourself feel good. Some of us can’t start the day without it. Some of us need it in some way, shape, or form each day to feel complete. But it’s useful to have a toolbox of other outlets which you can utilize to help improve your mental state when you are feeling a bit “off your game.” For me, I like to have at least two mental lifts each day. I start my day with exercise, but then by early afternoon those endorphins have worn off. At this point in the day, I need another pick-me up – another mental boost. My body and schedule do not always permit another round of exercise at this point in the day. So here are some other strategies I employ to provide myself with an afternoon “mental boost” to help me get through the day.
The Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Mental State (Other than Exercise!)
1) Get some fresh air
In place of “real exercise”, often a few deep inhales of clean, crisp, fresh air will effectively help to clear your mind. I like to take a brisk walk with my dogs or even race a few laps around the house with my kids. The combination of fresh air and a slight increase in blood flow might be just the boost you need to help you get through the day.
Don’t be afraid of meditation. It’s the simplest way to quiet your mind and your body. All you need is a quiet place to sit for 5-10 minutes. This may feel strange for athletes such as myself who like to go, go, go, go and go some more. However we are the ones who need to slow down the most. Just for a few minutes. Sit and breathe. Try to quiet the mind and focus on just being in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation is easy, powerful, and incredibly beneficial. And anyone can do it. Check it out and give it a try. Commit to doing it daily. You’ll notice a significant difference in your mental state.
Studies have shown that the simple act of putting a smile on your face can effectively lift your mood. So find something that makes you happy. Maybe it’s a picture, a thought, a place, or a memory. And put a smile on your face. Hopefully that smile will stick around. And when you smile at others, you not only enhance your own mood, but you effectively lift the mood of those around you. It’s a win, win. All from lifting up the corners of your mouth.
4) Show gratitude
The act of showing gratitude is another easy way to lift your mood. Write a quick note of thanks to someone who has impacted your life, or simply go out of your way to acknowledge someone who does the little things to make your life easier. Showing gratitude helps you focus on what is important and meaningful in your life. And it’s another win, win. You and the recipient both get a mental boost. So find ways to be thankful and show gratitude on a regular basis. Not just on Thanksgiving.
5) Follow the 3:1 positivity ratio
Studies have shown that in order to be happy, your thoughts should follow a 3:1 positive to negative ratio. This one is simple to execute. If you find yourself ruminating in negatively, follow your negative thought with three positive thoughts. Reflecting on what makes you happy and what has gone well in your day might be just the boost you need to turn your day around. So dwell on the positives and leave the negatives behind. It’s all within your control!
So take control of your day. And find opportunities to boost your mental state to make every day fulfilling, and productive, and positive.