By Amy Kim, Psy.D.
Whether or not you’re seeking therapy, everyone, no matter what, is always putting their energy towards feeling better. There is so much lately about wellness, health and bio/life hacking as efforts to simply feel better – emotionally, physically and mentally. But feeling better or being happier isn’t as complex or as much of a mystery as it’s made out to be. It’s not found in the perfect workout, the perfect relationship, the perfect job, the perfect health, the next achievement, a magic superfood or supplement, or some way of eating (or not eating). It’s not in making more money, waiting until your family is just so, or having a certain body. Feeling better can happen right here, right now. How, you ask? Here are the basics:
1) Sleep: Sleep is as important as anything else in having emotional, physical and mental health. Without enough sleep, your mood will suffer, you’ll be more susceptible to irritability, anxiety and overwhelm, your hormones will be imbalanced, your eating habits and food choices will be impaired, and your mental and physical performance will suffer.
2) Eat responsibly: Do not pursue the perfect diet or an eating dogma (paleo, vegan, keto, pescatarian, no dairy, no sugar, no wheat, ad infinitum…you fill in the blank). You must experiment with and decide how you will eat and what you will eat in a way that works best for you. No diet, book or wellness expert can do this for you. Instead, figure what foods, what times of the day, and how much you eat feels best for you and then eat accordingly. This requires tremendous responsibility, as all of the messages outside of you (from so-called "experts" to advertising) will tell you to do anything and everything that’s not optimal for your individual health and lifestyle.
3) Talk to people IRL (that means “In Real Life”, for non-millennials). Spend time with people IRL. Texting, emailing and messaging via social media is not real communicating. People “communicate” more than ever and are lonelier and more anxious, isolated and depressed than ever. You must talk to real human voices and look at real human people.
4) Manage your environment: Consciously choose what you subject yourself to, whether that’s news, social media, junk tv or internet programs, toxic conversations and a “stress” and “busyness”-obsessed culture. People are very attached to complaining, negativity, and being stressed, as if they have no choice about it.
5) Take charge of your mind: Your entire life experience stems from your thoughts. You must become aware of your habitual thinking patterns and decide whether they work for you. If they don’t, what will you do to change them? A competent therapist can help you retrain your thoughts so that your life is better.
6) Move: Just move. No matter how, when, how much, or what you do, simply move your body. This is essential for emotional and physical health. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle with all of its "conveniences" has created the inconvenience of forcing us to put more effort (and money and time) into actually moving our bodies.
7) Rest is required: Dedicated downtime (or time to do NOTHING) for actual relaxation is essential. Most people today don't prioritize rest. Instead, people worship productivity, efficiency and consumption. That means that every waking moment of they day, most people are engaged in some form of activity or doing. Without time to be still and quiet, people find themselves emotionally and physically depleted.