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Ten Steps to Improve Mental Health

The following tips may help you improve your mental health.

Nashville, Ark. – We all have a “bad” day every now and then. However, if we continue to have “bad” days often, it may be time to look at ways to improve our mental health. There has been lots of focus lately on mental health in the media. Here are some tips to help you improve your mental health.

  1. Socialize – Research shows that loneliness is a bigger predictor of health problems in later life than a poor diet, smoking, or lack of exercise. Finding ways to interact with others can be a huge boost to your mental health. Surround yourself with people who bring you up. Avoid those, if possible, who are always negative.
  2. Mindfulness/Mediation – Practicing mindfulness through mediation, deep breathing, or other practices that allow you to focus on presence in the moment can be helpful in reducing stress. There are many free apps available that help with breathing and relaxing. Think about something you like to do that relaxes you when you are overwhelmed. This does take practice!
  3. Exercise – Daily exercise boosts endorphins that help improve your mood and overall wellness. Any exercise can work. Extension Get Fit classes, Walk Across Arkansas, or even gardening can give you a good workout. Find something you enjoy doing and do it!
  4. Healthy Diet – We have heard it before, but healthy eating is a major key to overall health, including mental health. Some foods may trigger mood swings; such as too much sugar, alcohol or caffeine. Maybe you are not getting enough carbohydrates or protein. MyPlate is a great guide in helping you eat healthy.
  5. Gratitude – Studies show that taking the time to intentionally think about the people, things, places, and experiences in our lives can have real mental health benefits. Keeping a journal or making a mental list can improve relationships, sleep and overall well-being.
  6. Laugh – There really is truth in the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine”. Laughter releases dopamine which is our brain’s feel good chemical. Find ways to laugh every day!
  7. Enjoy Music – Listening to upbeat music or music that you enjoy can boost your mood. However, not all music is equally effective as some may even cause stress. Listen to relaxing music.
  8. Set Boundaries – Boundaries are important tools for healthy relationships. They allow you to connect with those in your life in ways that are comfortable and safe. Boundaries can be flexible and change over time to accommodate changing relationships.
  9. Think Positive – Engage in positive self-talk. Too much focus on the negative brings us down. When you have negative thoughts, push back against them. Ask yourself, “Is this line of thinking fair or logical?”
  10. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help. There may be times you need to seek the counsel of a mental health professional. They can help improve your quality of life. Therapists listen and can offer coping strategies from a neutral prospective. Where you may struggle to identify spots in your life that are causing stress, they may be able to reframe a relationship or experience and help you understand its impact - especially if you are dealing with trauma, grief, or life changes. A therapist can be a wonderful resource.

For more information on stress related issues, contact the Howard County Extension Office. Ask for the booklet on Stress Management. Another great resource is “Blueprint to Happiness”. Both booklets are designed as self-paced courses. The Extension office is located on the second floor of the courthouse. You may also call us at 870-845-7517. The Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week

            This recipe was enjoyed at a recent retreat. It is easy to prepare and tastes great. Serve it along with your favorite Mexican recipes. Makes a great side dish!

Pinto Bean Salad with Avocado, Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Cilantro

1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, rinse and drain

4-5 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar or a mild white wine vinegar

1 avocado, diced into ½-inch pieces

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 cup chopped tomatoes

½ cup finely chopped red onion

½ cup finely chopped cilantro

1-2 Tablespoons olive oil

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Sea salt, to taste

            Pour beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse well until no more foam appears. Let beans drain well for at least 15 minutes. Then blot beans dry with paper towels, place in bowl and toss with white balsamic vinegar. Let beans marinate in the vinegar while you prep other ingredients.

            Cut avocado into ½ -inch pieces and place in a small bowl. Toss with lime juice. Chop tomatoes. Set aside.

Chop red onion and cilantro. Mix onions and cilantro into marinating beans. Then use a large spoon to gently fold in avocado and tomato. Drizzle olive oil over salad and season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt, and gently toss again. Serve immediately at room temperature.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.