Mental Health Awareness Month – 7 Habits That Will Improve Your Mental Health

October is Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa. The subject of mental health is something that should be talked about regularly throughout the year, but having a mental health month serves as a reminder that the topic is crucial to our overall health and the quality of our lives. Unfortunately, there are many people affected by mental health, and there is still a stigma attached to it.

It’s often overlooked and many of us don’t take the time for self-care. There are certain factors that take a toll on our mental health, but can’t really be controlled. These include genetics, life experiences, and family history. While there are various types of mental health conditions, many of which require different types of treatment, the more common issues such as anxiety and depression can be improved with daily practices. Here are 7 habits you can incorporate into your daily routine to improve your mental health. 

  1. Sleep
  2. Regular Exercise
  3. Cut down on social media
  4. Strengthen your relationships
  5. Nutrients
  6. Don’t be hard on yourself
  7. Sunshine

1. Sleep

Healthy sleep

Getting enough sleep at night plays a crucial role in your mental health, brain functionality, and mood stability. Although it may not be possible every night, a healthy sleep schedule for adults consists of 7 to 9 hours of sleep most nights. It’s essential to allow your brain to rest and be refreshed for the next day. The quality of your sleep also plays a role in your brain’s functioning; disruptive sleep can lead to mental health symptoms. 

If you have difficulty getting quality sleep at night, try some of these habits 

  • Try to put your phone away at least an hour before heading to bed; this is for your brain to power down naturally for the night. 
  • Journaling or meditation are peaceful activities that can help with winding down before bed.  
  • Try to avoid caffeine after 3 pm.
  • Try to get into the habit of waking up and falling asleep at the same time every day.
  • Do your best to keep your bedroom clutter-free with a relaxed and quiet feeling to it. If possible, it’s best to keep your room at a cool temperature of 18.3°C.

Certain mental health issues can prevent you from getting the sleep you need. It can also be more difficult to have a good night’s sleep if you suffer from a sleep disorder. It’s best to seek treatment from a therapist or sleep specialist if your sleep doesn’t improve.  

2. Regular Exercise 

Exercising regularly is not only important for your physical health, but for your mental health too. During exercise, your brain releases certain ‘feel-good’ chemicals called endorphins, which also help to release stress and pain from the body. Regular exercise also boosts serotonin levels in your brain, which lifts your mood and overall well-being. 

Try to set aside at least 20 minutes everyday for some exercise. Any physical activity will work, even if it’s cycling or just walking around the block. The best part is that you don’t need to spend money on a gym membership, you can easily exercise in the comfort of your own home with YouTube videos or exercise apps that you can download on your smartphone. 

3. Cut Down On Social Media

Constantly looking at information about other people’s lives may cause you to start to compare your life with theirs. This could result in a lower self worth, which also adds to the likelihood of developing anxiety or depression.

You can try to spend less time on social media by:

  • Placing your phone somewhere else, such as a drawer or the living room at night, instead of in your bedroom. 
  • Think of other activities you’d like to try, to replace your time spent scrolling on social media.
  • Turn your notifications off for apps that take up your time, or delete the apps altogether. 

4. Strengthen Your Relationships

Strong relationships

Strong relationships have a positive impact on your mental health in different ways. For example, they add meaning to your life, provide emotional support, and ensure you have company so you don’t have to be alone. 

Stay connected with your friends by simply sending a text to check in regularly, giving them a quick call during the week, or setting monthly dinner dates. Making a habit of catching up with your friends in person can foster a deeper bond, which will ultimately lift your spirits.

5. Nutrients 

Certain foods can affect your mental health. If you’re trying to improve your mental health, it’s a good idea to expand your diet with nutrient-rich foods that won’t only fill you up, but also keep you happy. 

Try adding some of these foods to your diet: 

  • Berries 
  • Bananas and mango
  • Beans 
  • Nuts and wholegrains
  • Vegetables
  • Fish

Also, it’s essential to stay hydrated and drink a good amount of water every day, especially during summer.

Foods like refined carbs, added sugar, alcohol and caffeine, can only make symptoms worse. So, if you suffer from anxiety, try cutting down on such foods. 

6. Don’t Be Hard On Yourself

On some days, you’ll find it may be difficult to even try any of the above, which can make you feel worse. On days like these it’s best to try easier ways of doing things, like setting your timer to clean something for 10 minutes, or choosing a prepackaged meal that you can heat up instead of having to stand over the stove in the kitchen. Try to commit to one thing a day. Whether it’s making your bed, drinking a few glasses of water in the morning, or even journaling, making a daily promise to yourself will eventually become a habit and you’ll begin to feel better about yourself. 

7. Sunshine

The sun is the perfect source of vitamin D, and it can also improve your mood and attitude. Simply just 5 minutes outdoors can only do you good. If you can spend longer outside, you may want to go for a walk, sit in a warm spot in your garden, or breathe in the fresh air outside in the morning. It’s also good to open windows in your home, open the curtains, eat outside, or even exercise outside. 

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We hope the daily habits for happiness listed above will improve your mental health; but remember, they are not a cure. Knowing how to break your worst habits can help, but may not relieve all mental distress. In some cases, the help from a mental health specialist, like a therapist, may be a useful way to work through mental problems. Anyone can seek help at any time, you don’t even have to suffer from a mental disorder to benefit from therapy. Simply reach out to a professional for help if you notice that you’re feeling more anxious, angry, sad, or demotivated than usual. 

If your home is dirty and holding you back, book a professional cleaning service with SweepSouth. That way you can continue on your way to better mental health without a worry. 

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