How To Maintain Healthy Habits - And Why It Matters For Mental Health

By Sparklle Rainne (They/Them)|Updated June 22, 2022

Health is a term that has a unique meaning to everyone, but many of us have a general goal to care for our health. In this article, we will look at how we can all create and continue healthy habits in daily life, as well as how to support ourselves in the maintenance of these habits - and how these practices can positively impact your mental health

Why Healthy Habits Matter

When you pursue healthy habits, it can have a positive impact on all areas of your life. When we think of health or health-promoting behaviors, we first envision or think of those meant to support our physical health alone. However, it is vital to remember that virtually all aspects of well-being are connected. For example, let's say that you have high-stress levels. You may think of how this affects you emotionally but shrug it off. In reality, it's not something to shrug off; persistent levels of high stress can have serious consequences, including trouble sleeping, high blood pressure and an increased risk for heart disease, early mortality, trouble concentrating or focusing, depression symptoms, such as the loss of interest in activities, and irritability that may impact personal relationships. If you work to manage stress, it may help various areas of life or well-being and mitigate some of these concerns or their risk. This is only one example of how a habit that seems only to support one piece of your holistic health may support all areas of your health. The same is true for getting enough sleep. So, what are some habits that you might implement to improve your health, and how can you include them in your life? Let's talk about it.

What Are Some Examples Of Healthy Habits?

Where can you start if you want to aid your overall health? Here are some examples of healthy habits you may want to include in your everyday life that can support mental and physical health:

  • Strive for a healthy sleep schedule. Sleep is necessary, but many of us tend to skimp on it. This could be due to health conditions, like insomnia, or it could be due to a busy schedule. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that a healthy adult between 18 and 64 needs somewhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Why is it so vital? Getting enough sleep mitigates the potential health consequences of not getting enough, which include but are not limited to a higher risk of getting into a car accident, an increased risk of heart disease, lowered productivity, concentration, or focus, and mental health concerns, such as an increase in symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Keep up to date with medical appointments. Staying up to date with medical appointments and screenings, including cancer screenings, check-ups with your primary care physician, and dental exams, are all important. This way, if something serious is happening, you're more likely to catch it sooner rather than later, and you will be aware of any health concerns to look out for or manage.
  • Engage in physical activity. Physical activity is an example of a healthy habit that has proven benefits across many areas of health and well-being. Activities such as walking, yoga, swimming, and even daily activities that are active, such as gardening or cleaning, can all have a positive effect on your mental and physical health.
  • Make positive social connections. Did you know that positive social connections, as well as general social or peer support, are shown to promote both your physical and mental health? Benefits of social connectedness may include but aren't limited to better heart health, a boost in immunity and pain tolerance, lower stress levels, and a decrease in depression symptoms. So, if you want to nurture your well-being and notice that you face challenges such as isolation or don't connect with others as much as you want, you may aim to increase social activities.

  • Decrease your stress levels. Alongside lack of sleep or trouble with sleep, high-stress levels are an incredibly prevalent concern among individuals in the United States. Stress, particularly when it's ongoing, can increase depression and anxiety symptoms, muscle tension and pain, trouble sleeping, fatigue, and irritability. It can also increase the risk of or worsen the symptoms of several different physical health diagnoses or concerns. If you want to decrease your stress levels, you can directly reduce sources of stress in your life, if possible. For example, you might change your schedule so that it causes less stress. Since stress is sometimes unavoidable, having coping tools to manage it is also a very important part of decreasing stress.
  • Meet your nutritional needs. Although nutritional needs can vary extensively, they must be met. Nutrient deficiencies are common, and they can have serious impacts on your mental and physical health. Some frequently seen nutrient deficiencies in the United States include but aren't limited to iron deficiency and vitamin D deficiency. Furthermore, stable blood sugar, often achieved by eating regularly and consuming balanced meals, can aid both physical and mental health. If these things are a source of stress for you, reducing the stress around food and body image can also have positive health effects. It may enhance your social life and your emotional, psychological, and physical health.
  • Get in touch with your feelings. When you suppress your emotions, it can have consequences, and they don't just relate to your mental health, but they can also seriously impact your mental well-being. Getting in touch with your feelings can mitigate potential negative outcomes.
  • Laugh more often. Laughter is shown to have several positive health effects. These include but aren't limited to lower stress levels (as characterized by physical and psychological or emotional stress markers), supporting heart health, and improving your mood.
  • Attend mental health therapy. Mental health therapy can enhance your life and well-being by assisting you in emotional expression, getting enough sleep, relationship improvement, stress management, and in some cases, even helping with treating physical health concerns.

Healthy habits aren't one size fits all. Some people, such as those with chronic illnesses, will have different health needs and statuses than others. This should be considered, and it may change what a health-promoting lifestyle looks like for you as opposed to what it looks like for someone who does not live with a chronic physical or mental health condition.

How To Maintain Healthy Habits

Now that you know what habits you might decide to use to promote your overall health, how can you maintain them? There are several different ways to help yourself maintain healthy habits. Here are some of them:

  • Build a routine that includes the habits you want to see. Creating a routine can support the implementation of healthy habits because it allows you to plan them into your day directly. For example, you might build a bedtime routine that supports your sleep patterns and set aside time for that routine, or you might set aside a certain block to take a walk in the morning.
  • Identify what leads to setbacks, if applicable. If you notice that you face challenges when attempting to implement a certain habit or behavior, identify what might be causing or contributing to this. For example, maybe you want to eat more fruits and vegetables, but it isn't easy to do so because you're busy and they aren't readily available throughout the day. Once you acknowledge that this is difficult because you are busy and don't have these foods available, you can work to mitigate it by making them more accessible to yourself throughout the day. For example, you might make a quick morning smoothie or prepare dishes with fruits and vegetables in advance so that you can take them to work for meals or snacks.
  • Be compassionate toward yourself. Remind yourself that small steps or changes count, and remember that any habits you add or change should be things that benefit you as a unique person. Habit change can take time, and self-compassion in and of itself can be a healthy behavior.
  • Ask for help. We talked a little bit about how therapy can support your health, but what we didn't cover yet is the role that it can play in habit change. Perhaps, there is a healthy habit that you want to implement regularly, but you noticed that there are roadblocks to doing so. For example, some people may want self-sabotage, or you might find that something else gets in your way. Is this true for you? It may be beneficial to seek the support of a professional, such as a therapist or counselor, who can help you move past obstacles and work toward your goals.

Online Therapy

Online therapy options like BetterHelp make getting the mental health support you need easier. You don't have to commute to an in-person office, and when you sign up, you'll answer a brief series of questions to help our team connect you with a therapist. BetterHelp has continued to improve throughout the years, and currently, there are over 20,000 independent, licensed professionals with a range of specialties who provide therapy through the platform. If the first therapist you work with through the BetterHelp platform isn't the right fit, you can switch to a different therapist easily and cancel your plan at any point in time if you want to. Online therapy through BetterHelp is proven effective by research, and it's usually more affordable than traditional, in-person therapy without insurance. Even better, financial aid may be available for individuals who need it.

Are you ready to try it? Click here to get started, or read our website's therapist reviews and FAQs to learn more about BetterHelp.

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