9 Tips For Mental Health Maintenance

mental health maintenance

Mental Health Maintenance: 9 Essential Steps for Total Wellbeing

Mental health maintenance is a growing trend for wellbeing and optimum health. Research overwhelmingly shows that integrating small, positive practices into our lifestyles can profoundly impact our psychological well-being.  

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore evidence-based, practical strategies to boost mental health and equip you with an actionable blueprint for fostering greater resilience and fulfillment in life.

The Growing Importance of Mental Health Maintenance

Before diving into the key steps, it’s important to understand why actively maintaining mental health is crucial today. While the stigma around mental health issues is slowly reducing, the past few years of collective trauma, anxiety, grief, and isolation have critically impacted our collective psyche:

Why Is Mental Health Maintenance Important

  • About 1 in 25 U.S. adults lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. 
  • Over 50% of adults in the US will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. 
  • In 2019, over 50 million Americans experienced mental illness, with depression and anxiety among the most common.
  • Shockingly, the US is facing growing suicide rates across most age groups. It is currently the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. 
  • 7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and addiction issues, which are referred to as comorbidity.

The adverse effects of addiction are that it affects mental health, and the addicted person becomes less emotionally and psychologically stable, which could even result in a co-occurring mental health disorder. While genetics and life circumstances do play a role, research shows our daily habits and lifestyle choices have a significant influence over our mental health outcomes.

Even small tweaks can tip the scales towards greater emotional resilience and the ability to manage stress. By proactively integrating the wellness strategies covered next into routines, we can foster sustainable mental health.

Core Strategies for Maintaining Mental Wellbeing 

Let’s explore evidence-backed techniques spanning exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and more that can help boost your outlook and ability to tackle life’s ups and downs.

Mental Health Maintenance Tip 1. Incorporate Regular Exercise 

Starting or maintaining an exercise routine is one of the most effective yet underutilized ways to elevate mood. The mental health benefits of exercise are two-fold:

Boosts mood: Exercise causes the release of endorphins, nature’s “feel-good” chemicals, leaving you more energized and calm after you sweat!  

Alleviates anxiety/depression: Research shows regular activity can decrease symptoms of mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Sharpens cognition: Exercise strengthens focus, motivation, confidence, and cognitive abilities by stimulating the release of BDNF proteins which support healthy brain function.

How to Make Movement a Habit: 

Aim for

  • 30-40 mins of moderate cardio like brisk walking or gentle cycling daily
  • Strength training 2-3x a week  
  • Or any enjoyable activity: dancing, sports, yoga, etc.

Tip: Sync your workouts with an upbeat playlist or entertaining podcast to make it more fun!

Benefits Over Time: Staying active consistently has a compounding positive effect over the long term by reducing inflammation and balancing hormone levels. So be patient with yourself as you build an exercise habit.

Mental Health Maintenance Tip 2. Optimize Nutrition 

You’ve surely heard the phrase “you are what you eat” – this applies not just to our waistlines but also to our mental health! Research reveals that dietary choices directly impact our brain structure, mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and more.

Follow these nutrition tips for an instant mood and energy boost.

Hydration check: Dehydration exacerbates fatigue, headaches, and irritability in the short term. Herbal teas, fruits/veggies with high water content, and smoothies are great ways to increase fluid intake. 

Brain foods: The Mediterranean diet high in omega-3s from fatty fish, colorful veggies, high-fiber whole grains, nuts, and monounsaturated fats has proven cognitive, mood, and mental health benefits. These provide the optimal nutrients to nourish neural pathways.

Portion sizes: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at meals for balanced nutrition. Avoid overeating by slowing down and tuning into your body’s satiety signals.

Benefits compound over time, as consistently nourishing your body and brain with high-quality fuels enhances mitochondrial health and nerve function.

Targeted supplementation can also optimize nutrition in ways diet alone cannot. Under guidance from your healthcare provider, supplements like fish oil, Vitamin D, probiotics, and adaptogens can enhance mental wellness:

Fish oil helps resolve inflammation, underlying mood disorders, and ADHD.

Probiotics promote gut-brain health, which directly impacts stress resilience, anxiety, and depression. 

Rhodiola, ashwagandha, and other adaptogens alleviate burnout and stabilize mood.

So while proper nutrition may require some advance meal planning, the rewards to physical and mental health make it well worth it.

Mental Health Maintenance Tip 3. Prioritize Restorative Sleep

While nutrition provides the raw ingredients for peak mental performance, sleep is when all repair, restoration, and mood balancing occur. 

Yet in our 24/7 wired world, skimping on sleep has become a badge of honor. The truth is sleep deprivation severely impairs emotional regulation, concentration, performance, and quality of life.

Follow basic “sleep hygiene” rules to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed:  

  •  Unwind tech-free for 30-60 mins pre-bed to release melatonin
  •  Establish a consistent ~8 hr sleep schedule in a cool, perfectly dark room  
  •  Supplement magnesium, glycine, chamomile, or CBD oil to ease anxious thoughts 

Power naps of 10-30 minutes long enhance alertness and performance for most adults too without affecting nighttime sleep quality.

Putting sleep higher up in your priorities pays dividends through improved memory, sense of well-being, productivity, and lifespan. 

Mental Health Maintenance Tip 4. Adopt Mind-Body Practices 

Unmanaged chronic stress takes a tremendous toll mentally and physically, raising the risk for inflammation, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, and lowered immunity. Research shows mind-body practices like yoga, meditation, breath work, and chanting help reverse these effects by activating the body’s relaxation response through the parasympathetic nervous system pathway.

Benefits of regular mind-body exercises include:  

  •  Lower stress hormone levels 
  •  Slowed heart rate and breathing
  •  Increased blood flow and oxygenation of tissues
  •  Reduces anxiety, depression, and pain
  •  Heightens focus and emotional resilience

You can find apps that offer guided meditations easily accessible anytime, anywhere. Even 5 minutes of deep breathing, when you feel overwhelmed, gives the nervous system a chance to reset itself. By learning to activate the body’s self-soothing systems through mindfulness practices, you equip yourself with skills to handle life’s curveballs with greater finesse. 

Mental Health Maintenance Tip 5. Set Aligned Goals and Boundaries 

Feeling overwhelmed, over scheduled, and overworked are surefire ways to mental exhaustion. That’s why regularly reassessing priorities and resetting boundaries are vital skills for maintaining self-care.

Tips to Avoid Burnout:

  •  Audit your schedule and cut unnecessary obligations 
  •  Break large tasks down into bite-sized daily goals
  •  Learn to say no! Avoid over-committing your time/energy
  •  Schedule fun diversions – comedy specials, concerts, meals out 
  •  Outsource help around the house if possible

Remember – progress, not perfection is the goal! Celebrate small daily wins setting and completing aligned tasks. Guilt over chores left undone exacerbates stress unnecessarily.

Mental Health Maintenance Tip 6. Foster Positivity, Purpose, and Relationships  

Thus far we’ve covered lifestyle tweaks to care for our bodies and manage stressful thoughts. But human beings thrive when we move beyond surviving to nurture our spirits through self-expression, creativity, and connections.  Let’s explore research-backed tips to foster positivity, purpose, and community:

 Mental Health Maintenance 7. Cultivate Gratitude, Generosity, and Optimism

Our thoughts influence emotions, which over time reshape neural pathways and beliefs about life. By intentionally shifting focus towards the positive – practicing gratitude, acts of kindness, optimism, and positive affirmations – we compound daily boosts in mood, relationships, and motivation.

Simple Habits for Happiness:

Gratitude journaling: Jot down 3 things you’re thankful for daily  

Share affirmations: Verbally appreciate friends, family, and coworkers  

Savor tiny joys: Recharge with heartwarming videos, uplifting music, and laughter breaks

 Mental Health Maintenance Tip 8. Discover Meaningful Pursuits  

Engaging in hobbies, causes, or practices bigger than our narrow self-interest – whether it’s volunteering, connecting with nature, learning guitar, or baking – brings a sense of meaning, achievement, and purpose.  Studies reveal this boosts motivation, enjoyment of life, and self-esteem and protects cognitive abilities as we age.

Tips to Unearth Your Passions:

  •  What energized you growing up before added responsibilities/expectations?
  •  Check local community events/classes to spark new interests   
  •  Schedule regular “playtime” doing activities purely for enjoyment 

Mental Health Maintenance Tip 9. Invest in Social Connections

Relationships serve as the foundation of health and happiness. Yet in the digital era, rates of loneliness and isolation have markedly increased, especially among the elderly. But social connection may just be humanity’s most potent panacea – it benefits physical health as much as emotional resilience!

Why Community Combats Stress

  • Reduces inflammation which underlies numerous chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and dementia
  • Lowers blood pressure and risk of strokes/heart attacks
  • Fortifies the immune system to fight viruses and disease
  • Buffer’s cognitive decline and enhances memory  
  • Provides emotional nurturing and support 

Tips to Put Community Back into Your Calendar

  • Share meals with friends, family or neighbors  
  • Join clubs, classes, and causes aligned to your values where you can connect regularly with likeminded people
  • Schedule video call catch-ups or small group hangouts
  • Volunteer with animal shelters, environmental groups, etc.  

Remember – quality social connections centered around common interests and meaning have the most significant mental health benefits. Even brief shared moments like short phone calls make a surprising difference!


  1. How do I make self-care a priority with an already packed schedule?

The key is to start small by identifying tiny slots of time where you can fit in effective recharging activities. For instance, close your eyes and do deep breathing for 5 minutes during your lunch break, or listen to an uplifting podcast during your commute.

Also, take inventory of unnecessary obligations you can cut or delegate to free up bandwidth. Lastly, bunch 2-3 self-care activities together for efficiency, e.g., invite a friend on a walk rather than meeting over coffee.

  1.  When should I seek professional support for mental health concerns?

While lifestyle tweaks can help manage transient symptoms, persistent feelings of fatigue, sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness warrant an evaluation by a licensed counselor or therapist, especially if they interrupt daily functioning over 2-4 continuous weeks. Sudden, unexplained declines in work/academic performance, withdrawal from normal social activities, significant disturbances in eating/ sleeping patterns, or substance abuse also indicate a need for professional support.

  1. What budget mental health resources are available?

If finances are a constraint, check if your employer or health insurance offers free counseling sessions or coaching. You can also look into community support groups, nonprofit clinics with income-based fees, and online therapy options that start around $60-75 per week.

Some other ways to access care include regional mental health service helplines, support groups through religious communities, volunteer peer counseling services, and nonprofits assisting domestic violence survivors, veterans, etc.

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