The pandemic, inflation, political unrest and numerous other stressors have made mental health at work a top priority. In Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report, the authors found that mental health concerns, not surprisingly, increased over the prior two years. In the 2019 study, 59% of those surveyed reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition over the previous year. But in 2021, that number went up to a startling 76%.
While companies have a long way to go to prioritize employee well-being, here are ten ways you can improve your mental health at work.
Begin your day with mindfulness
Studies show that by checking your phone right after waking up, you are priming your brain for distraction. Think of it this way. Looking at your cell phone first thing in the morning is the equivalent of having a hundred people in your bedroom screaming at you. That’s not the best way to start the day! Instead, improve your mental health at work by beginning your morning with a yoga or meditation practice so you can healthily ease into the day.
Focus on your strengths
Rather than focusing on your weaknesses, concentrate on being more of who you already are. Capitalize on your strengths and seek out projects that give you satisfaction. Because when we use our strengths, the activity feels natural to us, and we are more likely to experience accomplishment.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Teddy Roosevelt asserted that “comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare ourselves to others, it leads to low self-esteem and unhappiness. Instead, compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Concentrate on healthy improvements, like measuring yourself against specific goals. That way, you’re focused on who you are versus who you aren’t.
Start a gratitude culture
Studies of gratitude at work link it to less stress, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs and coworkers. One way to start a gratitude practice is by writing down one thing that went well that day and why. Another idea is simply writing a note (or email) to someone you are grateful for. You can even start your team meetings by going around the room and having each person share one thing they are thankful for.
Talk it out
The late Maya Angelou once said, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” One of the best ways to improve mental health is to know you aren’t alone. First, find someone you can trust, like a friend, family member, therapist or coach. Then share your story. You can also go on social media platforms like Facebook and search for groups that focus on mental health at work. By joining in the conversation, you will also be able to help others.
Accept rather than judge feelings
Fluctuating emotions are part of life. But what causes us angst isn’t the emotion itself. It’s the judgment of the emotion. When we feel fear, sadness or shame, our first reaction is to reject that feeling. Instead, accept them. That simply means being aware of your emotions and accepting them for what they are right now, knowing that they won’t last.
The average American spends over seven hours looking at a screen each day. Unfortunately, that means we spend more time indoors than we should. So instead, make it a point to get outdoors each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Research shows that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological wellbeing. For example, a University of Chicago study found that being exposed to nature improves attention, memory, and cognitive flexibility, while exposure to urban environments is linked to attention deficits.
Do things for others
There are so many ways to do things for others at work. For example, you can volunteer to help with a special project, take on a mentee, or offer to train a new hire. In addition, evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health. For instance, it can reduce stress and improve mood, self-esteem and happiness. And the best part is that an act of kindness usually doesn’t require a considerable investment of time or money.
Find the humor
You’ve heard that saying that laughter is the best medicine? Well, it’s no joke. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has short-term benefits like stimulating organs, enhancing your oxygen intake and increasing the endorphins released by your brain. It also has long-term effects like strengthening your immune system, relieving pain and improving your mood.
Learn something new
Many times, we feel depressed or anxious when we are unchallenged. That’s why learning new skills can improve your mental health at work. By learning something new, you build a sense of purpose, raise self-esteem and boost self-confidence. Some things you could try include signing up for a course, getting certified in a new skill or shadowing a senior staff member.
Overall, slowing down will help you make better decisions and connect deeper with people. Make time for self-reflection. Some helpful methods include journaling, meditation, and simply taking breaks. Remember, while you may go slower, you will go further.
The massive societal shifts of the last few years have left many of us feeling stressed and vulnerable. By embracing these strategies, you’ll be taking a proactive approach to improving your mental health at work and paving the way for others to do the same.