Archive,  Mental Health

3 Tips to Make Your Home a Mental Health Haven

Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this podcast (episode #382) and blog, I talk about how to make your home a mental health haven. 

When the world feels like a mess (a common sentiment these days!), it is important that your home is a haven—a place where you can rest, relax, and feel happy. Thankfully, there are many ways we can create a joyful atmosphere at home, including:

1. Intentionally bonding with your loved ones at home. We are made for deep, meaningful connections. When we feel connected and part of a community, we boost our mental resilience and toughness, as well as our mood. As I point out in my book, 101 Ways to Be Less Stressed, meaningful socialization helps us feel happy and at peace within ourselves, balancing the energy in the brain and helping us build up our cognitive resilience. Some ways I love to bond with my family and friends are:

  • Walks/exercising together.
  • Cooking family meals or baking together.
  • Playing board games like Scrabble or Clue, building puzzles or making up Lego sets.
  • Watching our favorite movie or TV series (we are big Lord of the Rings fans!).
  • Planning and going on trips together.
  • Sitting on the floor in each other’s rooms and chatting about life.
  • Watching funny videos together.
  • Sharing cute pictures of our pets in our group chat.

2. Practicing good mental self-care. Often, we tend to focus on our physical needs, and forget to meet our mental needs! But mental self-care is as important as eating, hydrating and exercising, because we don’t go 3 seconds without thinking! This includes practices like:

  • Self-regulation. As a cognitive neuroscientist, I have found that the most effective way to manage unhappiness in the moment and boost my mood is to practice intentional, directed self-regulation. I do this using my Neurocycle mind-management technique, which I discuss in detail in my latest book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and app Neurocycle. The Neurocycle is a way to harness your thinking power through mind-management that I have developed based on years of research and clinical practice; any task that requires thinking can use it, which means everything can, because you’re always thinking. In fact, this de-stressing, self-regulation technique can really work with any issue, and can be done anywhere, any place and at any time—all you need is you! There are 5 steps in this method:
  1. Gather: become aware of how you are feeling emotionally and physically and how you are behaving, as well as your perspective and attitude in the moment.
  2. Reflect: ask, answer and discuss in detail what you gathered awareness of in step 1. Ask questions like “What does this mean?”, “When do I feel this way?”, “Is there a common pattern?”, “How do I experience unhappiness?” and “Why was I triggered?”.
  3. Write: write down your answers from steps 1 and 2, which will help you organize your thinking and gain more clarity into how you feel and why, so you can take steps to change your thinking and heal what is making you unhappy.
  4. Recheck: In this step, do what I call a “mental autopsy”. Recheck what you wrote down, looking for thought patterns and triggers, and think about why you feel the way you do and how you can be happier.
  5. Active Reach. Work out an action for the day based on your recheck step, which will help you practice what you learnt about yourself, such as building more fun into your day to help bring some joy back into your life. Maybe take a long hot bubble bath, bake your favorite dessert or watch your favorite feel-good movie. Allow yourself to have fun and be happy!
  • Taking what I call “thinker moments”, where you just let your mind wander and daydream for a few minutes, also helps calm the mind, reboot your thinking and improve your mood. I talked about these in depth on my podcast and in my books Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and Think, Learn, Succeed.
  • Brain-building, which involves deep thinking to learn and build memory. This is a great way to boost your mood by exercising your mind. You can do this with any information, whether you are listening to a podcast, watching a documentary or reading a book or article. The goal is to think deeply about the information in chunks and then teach back what you have learned to yourself or a loved one (or even a stuffed toy!). I talk about this in detail in Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess.

3Bringing the outside in. I am sure by now you have heard of the phrase “plant mom”; these are people that love filling their homes with indoor plants and greenery. But this shouldn’t just be a social media trend. Fresh, living greenery and natural light can have a profoundly positive effect on our mental health, helping us calm down, breathe better and feel more at peace in our living and working environments.

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