TIPS

Ways to support a positive sense of well‑being

There are many simple things you can do to protect and improve your mental health!

Below are some tips you can follow to help you take care of and strengthen your mental health. It doesn’t matter whether your mental health is high, reasonably good, or low. Strive to do as many of the activities listed below as you can.

You know yourself best and probably know which of these suggestions will work for you. But consider challenging yourself by trying something that may be outside your comfort zone.

If you find it difficult to get started, connect with a friend, family member, or co-worker who can help you get motivated.

If you’re having trouble completing your daily activities, please reach out to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or someone you trust for advice and support.

And if you’re ready for next steps, read on!

Be active

Find a physical activity you enjoy that suits your lifestyle and fitness level. Being active improves your mood and energy level, and reduces stress. This is a concrete way to take care of and improve your mental health.

Some of us enjoy vigorous exercise like playing soccer, training for and running a 5K or 10K, or taking a spin class. If this is for you, set a fitness goal for yourself and dive right in.

But being active doesn’t mean you have to play a sport or be athletic.

For some, gentle stretching or low-intensity activities are a better fit. For instance, you can do yoga while sitting on a chair, work in your garden with a stool nearby so you can rest every now and then, or walk to the corner store. You can stretch your neck from side to side to relieve stiffness, extend your fingers out as far as they can go, or even stretch your face muscles. There are many ways to stretch!

And if being outdoors in the heat or cold is difficult for you, try being active in your home with a fan or the heat on to keep you comfortable.

You may not have a lot of time in your schedule to take care of your body—some of us have children, parents, jobs or other activities that require our time. But even as little as 10 minutes of physical activity a day can help improve your mood and well-being1.

What can you do to be active?

  • Go for a 10-minute walk.
  • Step outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air.
  • Speed walk while doing errands.
  • Walk your dog or a neighbour’s dog.
  • Go hiking in nature.
  • Go fishing with a friend.
  • Go snowshoeing.
  • Go swimming at a local pool for a leisure or lane swim.
  • Join a local walking or running group.
  • Join a community gym.
  • Take a cardio fitness, yoga, Pilates, or spin class.
  • Join a sports team, such as lacrosse or soccer.
  • Tend to your plants.
  • Rake the leaves in your yard.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Stretch any part of your body.
  • Play with your children or grandchildren.
  • Put on your favourite song and dance.
  • Engage in activities that support your day-to-day life, such as running errands, taking a shower or bath, or making a meal you like.

There are many ways to be active, so find activities that interest you and adapt them to your abilities and needs. Start from where you’re at, and begin a fitness challenge today.

Start connecting

Social relationships can help your mental health and wellbeing1. Having close relationships with people you trust, connecting with others, and being emotionally supported can:

  • Lower your stress levels
  • Increase your well-being
  • Improve your self-esteem, confidence, and sense of empowerment2.

Some of us may feel isolated or lonely. This can sometimes be the case for single parents, young caregivers, or the elderly, who may find it difficult to leave the house, and for those who are newcomers with few or no family members or friends nearby.

Try connecting with people you work with, your neighbours, and people with similar experiences. Or reach out to family members and friends who you haven’t spoken to in a while. Every positive social interaction is good for your mental health!

If you find it difficult to reach out in person, you can try sending an email or letter, or calling someone using free technologies, like FaceTime, Skype, or WhatsApp.

What can you do to stay connected?

  • Keep in touch with friends and family.
  • Spend time with your dog, cat or other pet—animals can help us feel loved3.
  • Connect with your Elders or ceremony family.
  • Go for lunch or dinner with co-workers.
  • Ask your neighbours over for a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Say “hello” to people you see regularly.
  • Get involved with a faith or cultural group that fits your values (through prayer meetings, for example).
  • Visit your place of worship, such as a mosque, synagogue, church, or temple.
  • Participate in spiritual and cultural activities, such as long house ceremonies, healing circles, round dances, or sweat lodges.
  • Visit your local community or friendship centre.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or yard sale.
  • Participate in a local hand drum group or seek out local powwows.
  • Join a peer support group.
  • Join a music, dance, or language class.
  • Join a club at school, where you work, or in your community.
  • Reach out to others with similar experiences.
  • Speak to a healthcare professional, like your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or social worker for suggestions on ways to connect in your community.

Ultimately, connecting with others helps make your social networks stronger and broader. You do this when you stay in touch with the people you know, provide support to others, and look for ways to meet new people.

Try to connect with people who matter to you, those who don’t judge you and who accept you as you are. This doesn’t have to be formal. You can start by simply asking a friend how their week is going, or making plans to see each other soon. Or you can do an activity together that interests you both.

And remember that it takes time for any relationship to become supportive, encouraging, and meaningful2.

Take notice

Many of us play different roles in our lives, from being a worker to a caregiver, which means we may have to multitask. Women in particular sometimes place others’ needs ahead of their own, which can limit the time they have to reflect and enjoy their surroundings.

Given these demands, it’s especially important to slow down and take notice of the small things. Whether you’re in a crowd or in the privacy of your own home, being mindful of what you’re doing, sensing, and feeling is good for your mental health1. Staying mindful will increase your awareness of what it is about the thoughts you have, the activities you do, and the people you’re with that make you feel the way you do.

It will also help you to notice any signs that might tell you that your mental health may be at risk. This could include feelings of hopelessness or that life is not worth living. If you have any of these thoughts, seek support from your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or someone you trust as soon as possible.

You don’t have to carve out a lot of time to reflect on how you’re feeling. Just take a brief moment to acknowledge your feelings when you’re between tasks, while eating a meal, or at the beginning or end of the day.

Being aware of your thoughts and feelings can help you focus on what you value most and reflect on what you’re grateful for in your life.

How can you stay focused on the present?

  • Meditate, pray, or try deep breathing exercises.
  • Pay attention to what you’re eating.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Take a walk through your neighbourhood and notice your surroundings, the sun on your skin, and the breeze on your face.
  • Sit on a park bench and listen to the birds or the wind in the trees.
  • Notice the aromas around you from coffee roasting, the cheese shop, fish monger, roti or samosa shop, spice house, a sacred fire, moose stew, or baking bannock.
  • Savour the moment.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Acknowledge how you’re feeling in the moment.

Always take some time for yourself. Start right now by taking a few minutes to check in and ask yourself how you’re feeling at this very moment.

Keep learning

If you keep learning, you’ll be doing your mental health a favour. Exposing yourself to new and exciting things can help you build on your strengths and learn what matters to you. It can also help you build resilience and improve self-esteem1. Learning can help you expand your social network and access community resources so you can achieve your personal and professional goals4.

When you set your own learning goals, about the things that matter to you, you’ll feel empowered. As you keep learning, you’ll gain a sense of self-confidence that will improve and sustain good mental health throughout your life.

Learning can come in a variety of forms. You don’t have to sign-up for a class or buy lots of new books and materials. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do or know about. It’s never too late to start something new that will help you feel good about yourself. If you have access to technology, you can also learn online.

How can you keep learning?

Set some personal learning goals, such as:

  • Learn a new skill at work.
  • Take a class at your local library.
  • Sign up for a class in a subject that interests you.
  • Take a creative writing workshop.
  • Learn a new hobby or focus on a new topic that interests you.
  • Learn how to cook a new meal.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Learn different ways to manage your finances.
  • Visit a local museum to find out more about your cultural or faith community.
  • Participate in workshops on traditional activities (hand drumming, language classes, beading, traditional food preparation).
  • Participate in a community kitchen.
  • Take a pottery, crafting, knitting, painting, improv or music class.
  • Travel to a new neighbourhood or country you haven’t visited before.
  • Train to run a 5K, like the SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. Run for Women, that supports women’s mental health programs.

Set small personal learning goals that are achievable for you, and that you can feel proud of. Learning new things can be fun, and builds satisfaction and self-confidence.

Give

Acts of kindness are a powerful way to improve or maintain your own mental health, while making someone else feel good1. Giving to your community can make you feel like you have a place in the world and increase your sense of self-worth1. Although it can be difficult to find free time, giving can be as simple as offering a smile, holding a door open, or helping someone carry their groceries up the stairs.

It’s also important to give back to ourselves. Take a moment and think about something that makes you happy. Sometimes giving yourself a pat on the back or thinking about a positive experience you recently had is what you need to get through a difficult time. At other times, repeating a positive affirmation or quote that is meaningful to you is a great way to give to yourself.

Here are some ways to give:

  • Say “hello” to your neighbour, mail delivery person, or coffee shop server.
  • Compliment someone on a special skill or personal quality.
  • Say “thank you” to someone who did something for you.
  • Help a neighbour shovel their driveway or bring in their groceries.
  • Babysit for a friend or relative.
  • Join the parent council at your child’s or grandchild’s school.
  • Coach a sports team.
  • Support a local charity or food drive.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or mission.
  • Volunteer to run activities in your place of worship or cultural community.
  • Donate money or time to a cause that is close to your heart (such as running a 5 or 10k to raise money for a charity).
  • Volunteer as a ceremonial helper to assist Elders.
  • Reach out to a friend who might be going through a difficult time.
  • Reach out to a friend who has gone through similar experiences as you or is in your peer support group.
  • Treat yourself to an activity or experience that brings you joy
  • Take notice or think about the things you feel thankful for in your life.

The more you give back to yourself, your community, and the people around you, the more you will feel happy and rewarded.

Resources

You might need extra support to improve your mental health, or you might need help in times of distress. Check out the list of mental health services below, which can support you in your province or territory.

Sources and citations

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