Top 10 Mental Health Practices: How I Keep My Mind Healthy and Myself Happy

Or How I Become Less of An Asshole To The People Around Me

8 min readMay 1, 2023

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, I’m sharing 10 of my top mental health practices for keeping my mind healthy and myself happy. My mental health practices range from adequate sleep to psilocybin therapy. I’ve also included meditation, spending time in nature, self-care, and acts of kindness. Engaging in creative activities and building healthy relationships also play a crucial role in my mental well-being. Throughout this post, I’ve included select inspirational quotes relevant to these mental health practices. Join me in spreading awareness and prioritizing mental health and well-being this month and beyond.

“Most of us want to improve our mental health. The key is realizing that it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s about small, sustainable changes in our daily lives that lead to long-term gains.” — Dr. Peter Attia

1. Sleep

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.” — Dr. Matthew Walker

Adequate sleep is crucial for good mental health. While we sleep, our brains work to process emotions, consolidate memories, and regulate our mood. Lack of sleep can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and irritability. It can also negatively impact our cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Poor sleep habits can also contribute to stress and increase the risk of developing more severe mental health problems in the long term.

Getting adequate sleep ensures that I get enough rest, which is absolutely crucial for my mental well-being. The quality of my sleep impacts my mood, cognitive function, energy, and stress levels. While I have an upcoming post dedicated solely to sleep, I’m sharing a few of my favorite sleep-promoting strategies as follows:

  • I cut out caffeine after 2 pm.
  • I eat my last meal at least 3 hours before I intend to sleep. (So if I want to be asleep by 10 pm, I make sure to eat before 7 pm.)
  • I turn off or dim bright lights at least an hour before bed. (I like to light candles in lieu of lights.)
  • I cut out electronics 30 minutes before bed. (I used to leave my phone outside my bedroom, but I still have to figure out how to play my meditation app from my watch.)
  • I read and meditate during those last 30 minutes before sleep.
  • I jot down any worrying thoughts about work, life, or anything else, really, just to get them out of my mind and on paper. I have a journal on my nightstand for this.
  • When all else fails, I do some deep breathing. I count to four (at least) to breathe in and another four to breathe out. If I lose track and my mind wanders, I note it, let it go, and just go back to deep breathing. (Others like counting sheep, but that one’s never worked for me-the idea is to pick a focus, whatever works for you!)

2. Meditation

“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” — Buddha

Meditation is a powerful tool that can significantly improve mental health by reducing stress, increasing self-awareness, and promoting a sense of calm. It can help us develop a greater understanding of our thoughts and emotions, allowing us to better manage our reactions to stressful situations.

Incorporating meditation into my daily routine has helped me with all of the above: reducing stress, increasing self-awareness, gaining a sense of calm, developing a greater understanding of my thoughts and emotions, and better managing my reactions to stress.

I meditate at least twice a day: when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I throw in an additional meditation session as needed: when stuck in traffic, while walking, when I need a break from work, etc.

3. Gratitude Practice

“Every day, think as you wake up, ‘Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.’” — Dalai Lama

Expressing gratitude for all the good things in my life helps me mentally shift my focus away from the negative. Cultivating a habit of gratitude can help develop a more optimistic (or at least, balanced) outlook on life, leading to increased happiness and life satisfaction.

In practice, I jot down or say out loud at least three things for which I’m thankful, usually first thing in the morning, just after meditation. I force myself to do the same whenever I’m going through a particularly challenging moment.

4. Exercise

“Exercise is therapy. Not only for your body, but for your mind and soul as well.” — Unknown

Beyond its physical benefits, exercise helps me manage my anxiety and stress. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators, which can lead to an improved mood and increased feelings of happiness. Additionally, exercise has been linked to enhanced cognitive function, including better memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities.

My approach to exercise is to pick the types that I enjoy doing. Which means I very rarely go for a run … because, I hate running. Instead, I prefer long hikes (sometimes, day-long hikes!), surf, paddleboard, dance salsa, and/or yoga, Pilates, and barre classes, all of which I find enjoyable.

5. Therapy

“Therapy isn’t just about solving problems, it’s also about amplifying what works and helping people access their own wisdom and clarity.” — Dr. Richard C. Schwartz

Therapy provides me with a safe, non-judgmental space to explore my thoughts, emotions, and difficult life experiences. It’s helped me gain self-awareness, foster personal growth, improve my personal and professional relationships, become less reactive, and enhance communication skills, all of which have contributed to my improved mental health. The two types of therapy that I’ve found most beneficial are: internal family systems (IFS) therapy and psychedelic therapy.

6. Nature

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” — John Muir

Whenever I spend time in nature, I get this sense of calm, connection, and belonging to something greater. It reminds me of my place in the world. It inspires awe and wonder in me, which one study has shown to be one of the best factors for improving happiness. Don’t take my word for it, time in nature has also been linked to increased focus, enhanced cognitive function, and improved creativity. The benefits are even better when coupled with outdoor physical activities, together promoting the release of endorphins and boosting mood. Living in Santa Cruz, I’m able to incorporate hiking, surfing, paddleboarding, and long beach walks into my time in nature.

7. Self-care

“Self-care is a deliberate choice to gift yourself with people, places, things, events, and opportunities that recharge our personal battery and promote whole health — body, mind, and spirit.” — Laurie Buchanan

Self-care helps me reduce stress and boosts my mental well-being. As difficult as it is to find extra hours in the day, I do my best to practice self-care and set aside time for all of the other self-care activities not already mentioned above, such as sleep and exercise. I place under this “self-care” category the other things that I do for myself to feel good, such as: a long hot bath, reading a good book, getting a massage, listening to live music, etc. Self-care can be whatever helps you refill your cup or recharge your batteries.

8. Creative activities

“Creativity can be a way to turn our deepest fears and challenges into something beautiful and powerful.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

Creative activities-such as writing, painting, or playing music-are a healthy form of self-expression, allowing individuals to channel their emotions and release any negative feelings. They can also foster a sense of mindfulness and presence, helping maintain focus and presence in the moment. Engaging in creative activities has been linked to reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Currently, my primary creative outlets are dancing and building my business, The Rise of Privacy Tech (TROPT). But drawing and acting are two creative outlets from my youth that I’m looking forward to picking up again in the near future!

9. Acts of Kindness

“Kindness is a powerful tool for healing and connection, and it is accessible to everyone.” — Sharon Salzberg

Acts of kindness can take many forms. The can be small gestures like smiling at (or if you’re feeling courageous, verbally cheering on) a jogger during your walk, holding a door open for someone, and saying “please” and “thank you” to your Uber driver or waiter. Or they can be more significant acts of generosity and compassion like volunteering your time at the local shelter or starting a non-profit on that one issue you care most about. Engaging in acts of kindness has been linked to increased feelings of happiness and reduced levels of stress and anxiety. Personally, they provide me with a sense of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.

10. Social Connections & Healthy Relationships

“The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” — Esther Perel

Social connections can take many forms, including family, friends, professional colleagues, and community networks. Having meaningful relationships can lead to: increased sense of belonging and support, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, increased feelings of happiness and well-being, and improved self-esteem. On the other hand, social isolation and loneliness can have detrimental effects on mental health, leading to increased levels of stress and anxiety and contributing to the development of mental health conditions such as depression.

Building and maintaining strong relationships my friends, family, colleagues, and community members provide me with the emotional support and connection that I-and every human-so desperately need.

Bonus: Psilocybin Therapy (And Plant Medicine, In General)

“The evidence that psychedelic therapies have the potential to alleviate a range of mental health problems is now overwhelming.” — Michael Pollan

Perhaps the single most important thing I’ve done for my mental health is to engage in psilocybin therapy. Psilocybin, a naturally-occurring psychedelic found in certain species of mushrooms, has been found to have a number of therapeutic benefits. A growing body of research from Johns Hopkins, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and other leading medical research institutions supports psilocybin’s and other psychedelics’ mental health benefits.

In an upcoming post, I share how psilocybin therapy changed my life for the better.

In the meantime, learn more about plant medicine, psilocybin, and psychedelics by reading Michael Pollan’s New York Times best-seller, How To Change Your Mind or by watching the accompanying Netflix documentary of the same title, How To Change Your Mind.

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