5 Ways to Get Organized and Reduce Stress This Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

…Unless you easily get bogged down by the chaos that ensues during this incredibly busy holiday season.

We know the feeling of stress and overwhelm that can come along with attending holiday parties, shopping, making travel plans, and everything else that pops up during the holidays.

And these feelings can easily steal the joy out of what’s supposed to be a fun, exciting time of year with family and friends.

But, here’s the good news…we’ve also discovered the secret to not going crazy during this time of year…and it all has to do with organization!

The sooner you are able to get your ducks in a row, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays. So, today, we’ve decided to share how to easily get organized for the holiday season.

Check out some of our favorite organization strategies…

#1. Use a calendar to clearly plan out all your events, vacations, etc.

The best way to get organized is to pull out a calendar. After all, there’s nothing worse than having to run out at midnight to grab cupcakes because you forgot about your kid’s school holiday party or accidentally double-booked your Saturday night plans because you have more than one holiday event to attend.

Whew, talk about stressful!

This year, hang a calendar in a common room for everyone to see. Mark the days you have plans so you can stay on top of what’s coming next on your schedule.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to schedule a few “relax days” when you do absolutely nothing. We promise, you’re going to need them! 

#2. Make travel plans early so you don’t have to stress about them.

Waiting last minute to do anything in regards to traveling can be a pain. For instance, when you don’t plan ahead, you might find yourself…

  • Paying more for travel expenses.
  • Settling for cheap hotels because everything else is booked up.
  • Having to endure long, stressful car rides because plane or train tickets are all sold out.

Don’t wait to reserve your hotel room until the night before you arrive in town. If you know you’ll be traveling for the holidays, get your plans together ASAP.

As each week goes by and we get closer to the end of December, it’s going to be harder and more expensive to book all your travel plans.

#3. Declutter your home.

The holiday season is also a gift giving season. And while there’s nothing wrong with spoiling your kids with a few new toys or accepting gifts from friends and family, the amount of stuff that accumulates in your home can easily become overwhelming.

This year, get organized by weeding through your stuff and getting rid of what is not needed. Or better yet, put together some gently used clothes, pieces of furniture you don’t use, or other household items, and donate them to those who are in need.

To keep your home from filling back up with stuff, ask friends and family who feel the need to give you a gift to send a donation to a charity of your choosing.

#4. Purchase staple holiday foods/baking supplies in advance.

Nothing says the holidays quite like a tray of freshly baked Christmas cookies or a turkey cooking in the oven.

Having to run out to the store to buy eggs every time you get inspired to make some cookies certainly takes the joy out of baking!

This year, put together a list of the foods and desserts you want to make…and do your shopping ahead of time. This way, you can stock up on the materials you’ll need to cook and bake.

If you’re hosting a turkey dinner, buy your turkey early and keep it in your freezer. Planning on making several batches of cookies? Buy lots of butter and then freeze it. You get the idea!

The best part…frozen items, canned goods, and a lot of baking supplies (flour, salt vanilla extract, etc.) will keep for months! If you don’t use all your supplies for the holidays, keep them on hand, and you can use it throughout the year.

#5. Be realistic about your holiday commitments.

Last but not least, we encourage you to be realistic about your holiday commitments.

It might seem like a good idea to say yes to everything at the time, but several weeks later when you’re running from a party to a holiday parade to dinner at your Aunt Barbara’s house, you’re probably going to regret it.

Organize your time wisely. Don’t schedule too many activities for one day. And be okay with saying no to the things you don’t want to do.

How do you stay organized during the holidays? Let us know in the comments below!

10 Reasons to Be Happy Every Day

A bad day at work…cold dreary weather…cranky kids…

Sure, we all have a list of things that can easily dampen our spirits and put us in a bad mood. But, at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, we always try to look for the positives in life.

In fact, we believe that the amount of “happy” we experience each day typically outweighs the “bad.”

And it’s this focus that keeps us all full of cheer, even on the days when nothing seems to go right.

To help add some joy back into your day, we’re sharing our list of 10 simple things that make us happy every day. See how many things on our list resonate with you…then make your own list!

#1 — Getting a hug from a family member/friend

There’s truly nothing better than a warm hug from a friend or family member during your day. Whether it be your child, spouse, coworker, or friend, it’s special when someone takes a moment out of their day to let you know you are loved.

#2 — Snuggling a pet

Getting snuggles from a pet is scientifically proven to make you happier. That’s right! Science has proven that cuddling with a pet increases the levels of the feel-good happy chemicals serotonin and dopamine in your brain.

# 3 — Eating dessert

For many people, having dessert is a special treat. So, when the day comes that you get to indulge with a piece of apple pie or delicious chocolate cake, you’re bound to have a smile on your face!

For some delicious dessert recipes you can make at home, check out this blog post!

#4 — Getting 5 extra minutes of sleep when you hit the snooze button

It’s a magical feeling when the stars align and you’re able to hit the snooze button and stay in your cozy bed for an extra 5 minutes…or 10 or 20! We’re not judging! Tomorrow morning, hit your snooze button…we’ve got a feeling there will be a smile on your face as you sink back into your cozy, warm blankets.

#5 — Wrapping up in your favorite blanket after a long day

After a long day of working, wrangling kids, volunteering, or simply getting chores done, it feels great to wrap up in your favorite blanket and just relax. To put an extra smile on your face, stick your favorite blanket in the dry for 15 minutes to warm it up before wrapping up in it!

#6 — Getting a card in the mail

As an adult, it’s likely that you get more bills in your mailbox than letters from family and friends. For that reason, we always have a giant smile on our face and feel really happy when we discover that the envelope we just pulled out of the mailbox is from a friend and not the utility company. Certainly, a reason to smile and be happy!

#7 — Taking your first sip of freshly brewed coffee in the morning

Taking a sip of a fresh cup of coffee in the morning is a simple pleasure, but boy, for coffee lovers, it’s also heaven. The next time you reach for your first cup of coffee in the morning, take a minute and be sure to enjoy it.

#8 — Putting your favorite sweatpants on

Ahhh…the feeling of slipping on a pair of sweatpants after a long day is certainly enough to make us smile from ear to ear. The act of putting on cozy pants signifies the ending of another crazy day and is a reminder that it’s time to relax and unwind–something we can all smile about!

#9 — Hearing your favorite song on the radio

How cool is it when you jump in the car, turn on the radio, and your favorite song starts playing? The best part…hearing your favorite song on the radio automatically calls for an in-car dance party. How can you be unhappy after a red light jam session?

#10 — Reminding yourself how lucky you truly are

There’s a lot of negative happening in the world.

From people in the hospital fighting for their lives to seeing the destruction that occurs after natural disasters like hurricane Irma, it’s so important to reflect on how lucky you truly are.

If you have your health, loved ones in your life, a roof over your head, and a meal in your stomach, there’s no reason not to be happy!

What makes you happy every day? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

5 Self-Care Tips Guaranteed to Reduce Stress

Making time for self-care is very important. It allows you to unwind, destress, and refocus.

And most important, making time for self-care is vital for maintaining both your emotional and physical health. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Between work, raising kids, maintaining your home, volunteering, or doing whatever it is you do each week, it’s very easy to forget about taking care of yourself.

Self-care isn’t a reward.

It’s something that needs to be worked into your weekly routine to ensure you stay healthy and happy.

So, today, we thought it would be fun to share 5 simple self-care tips that you can add into your routine every week. Enjoy…

Give Yourself a Night Off

We know you have responsibilities. Kids need to be fed. Pets need to be walked. Houses need to be cleaned. The list goes on and on.

But here’s a little secret. It’s okay to take a night off once a week. In fact, it’s important that you give yourself a break so you don’t go crazy!

Simply ask your partner to take over dinner duty one night a week.

If you don’t have help from a partner, order pizza once a week instead. Everybody wins on pizza night!

Do you have a dog that needs to be exercised? Hire a neighborhood kid to walk your pooch once a week or put your pup in doggy daycare for the day.

Are you tired of cleaning? Ask your kids to take over one of your chores, or rearrange your chore schedule.

There are endless ways you can give yourself one night off each week. All it takes is a little planning and creativity.

Have a Girls’ Night

There’s something therapeutic about a glass of wine, some dessert, and a night out with your best girlfriends.

We know people’s schedules are busy, but we also don’t think it’s unrealistic to set aside time for a girls’ night once a month.

All you need to do is pull out your calendar, call up your girlfriends, and pick a date that works best for everyone.

Then, each month, let one person be in charge of making the plans. This takes the stress off of one person having to coordinate everything.

Here’s are a few ideas for a fun girls’ night activity…

  • Have a movie night
  • Make dinner and dessert
  • Take an art class
  • Host a board game night
  • Go out for a spa day
  • Attend a yoga class
  • Enjoy a hike at a local park

Make Time for Exercise

Making time to exercise is so important…

Not only does weekly exercise keep your body strong and healthy, but it will also keep you feeling confident and looking good.

We’re not saying you have to go crazy and join a high-intensity boot camp training program.

Unless, you’re into that kind of thing…in that case, go for it, girl!

But, a daily walk, taking a yoga class, or going for a swim at your local indoor pool are all great ways to keep your body moving.

Not sure what exercise routine you’d like best? Here are a few fun low-impact workout options to choose from.

Check out our favorite low-impact workout activities. 

Make Your Goals and Dreams a Priority

How often have you had to put your goals or dreams on the back burner because you’ve had a responsibility to put someone else before yourself?

First of all, we applaud your selflessness.

It’s take a special person to be able to put someone else’s wants and needs before your own.

Second, we are here to tell you that now it’s your turn to make your dreams and goals a priority.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your duties as a spouse, parent, or employee. But, it does mean that you need to give yourself permission to carve out time each week to accomplish the things you want to do.

For instance, if you’ve dreamed of running a marathon, now is the time to plan a few hours each week to go running.

Or perhaps you’ve dreamed of getting a job in a certain profession, but need to go back to school to earn a degree. Today is the day to start saving up for classes and put together a plan for going back to school.

You can make your dreams a reality as long as you start taking steps toward reaching your goals now.

Treat Yourself

Last, but certainly not least, we want you to know that it’s ok to treat yourself every once in a while.

Craving a dessert from your favorite bakery? Stop by after work and reward yourself for a great work day.

Excited that the pumpkin spice latte is now available in coffee shops across the country? You’ve waited all year for it, girl. Go get yourself a drink!

Tired of screaming kids, spending hours doing laundry, and putting in overtime at work? Use a vacation day, and take that 3-day weekend trip with your girlfriends.

I think you get the point.

Every once in a while, do something for YOU. You deserve it!

What is your favorite self-care tip? Share it with us in the comments below!

Back to School: How to Keep Your Kids Focused

<alt="School Desks"/>In an age of instant gratification, it’s never been more difficult to get people to focus. Many adults have a hard time staying on track without distraction from phone notifications, email alerts, and people competing for our attention. Imagine how difficult it is for children and young adults in school to stay focused.

Youths today love their gadgets because these small devices give them an escape from their environment and access to a bigger world. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this concept. If you were growing up in the 21st century, you’d love your smartphone and Internet just as much, too.

As adults, we can provide guidance and teach our youth lessons about self-control. We can also pass along what we know about responsibility, so our children can stay focused in and out of the classroom.

Here are a few ways you can make a difference in someone’s life and help them focus, achieve, and learn.

 

Nurture Their Interests

 

Even the most timid child opens up when you find out what they’re interested in. Everyone has a natural gravitation toward a certain subject, topic, or hobby. Once you find out what that is, you can “unlock” a young person’s motivation.

Finding out what someone is interested in is simply a matter of paying attention. People naturally crave attention. Think about all the status updates you see on social media about the most mundane things. It seems silly, but that’s a perfect example of how we all want people to listen to us.

When you nurture the interest of a child, you can watch them develop the thing they like doing most. As I’m sure you know, it’s much easier to stay focused when you’re doing something you enjoy.

 

Regularly Schedule Family Time

 

There’s nothing more important than having a safe place to talk, share, and be yourself. Your home and your family is the best support you can provide for your child. Scheduling regular family time each evening keeps a consistent environment in place that nurtures you and your family, both physically and mentally.

For example, you could make 6-8 p.m. strictly family time. This means turning off the smartphones, TV, and any other distracting devices. Make it a time for a non-rushed dinner, conversation, and a family activity.

 

Keep Them Active

 

Kids get in trouble when they don’t have anything to do. A way to free a child from boredom is to keep them active in groups, sports, or activities. Not only will this keep them from getting in trouble, but they’ll also live healthier lives, develop social skills, and learn the importance of teamwork.

In a nation where obesity rates get worse each year, it’s important to keep your child physically engaged with at least one thing each day. Aim for 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day. It’s much easier to stay fit and healthy as you age if you learn the fundamentals of exercising as a child. Plus, when your child stays active, they can focus better on their schoolwork.

These are just a few ways you can promote focus and attention for your child. Do you have any of your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: Night Owl City

Simple Ways to Make Yourself Happier

<img src="image.gif" alt="A branch" />Remember being a kid and your biggest chore was eating all of your dinner?

What a “problem” to have!

When it comes to living happier, you could learn a lot from a children. In fact, children laugh an average of 300 times a day while adults only laugh around 20 times.

It’s easy to forget to live a happy life as you get older. Bills, careers, stress, relationships, and countless other adult activities can burden your day-to-day routine. If you don’t remember to be happy, you’ll walk around with a frown, as if there’s a permanent rain cloud above your head.

But there’s a bright side to being an adult: you have more control over your life than you did as a child. While you have more responsibilities than a child, you don’t need anyone’s permission to do exactly what you want. Making a change for the better is simply a matter of wanting to do it.

So, give yourself permission to be happy. Here are a handful of ways to get happy:

Do Nice Things for Others

Giving to others is just as nice as receiving. For some people, giving is actually more beneficial. Think about the last time you received a random gift. Remember how happy it made you feel? Re-create that experience for someone else. When you see her face light up, you’ll feel happy you’ve made someone else happy—for no particular reason at all! Spreading happiness works like spreading the flu, except with less coughing.

You don’t need to buy your friend a new car to make her happy (although if you did, we’re sure she’d be ecstatic). A simple cup of coffee does the trick.

It doesn’t even have to be a friend, either. Why not buy something nice and give it away to a stranger? Even better: do something nice for someone without them knowing it was you. Doing this removes them feeling the need to reciprocate, too. You still get the good feeling of being helpful and they don’t have the pressure of paying you back.

Learn a New Skill

You can do anything you want. Yes, anything! All it takes is the desire to do so and a little effort. Taking on a new hobby and seeing your newfound skill develop over time will make you happy!

If you ever wanted to play the piano, do it! No one is stopping you. Start today, and in six months you’ll be amazed at your progress.

You could even take a class completely unrelated to anything you do or thought you’d be interested in. Imagine the surprise of your friends and family when you take up karate or archery. Not only will they be impressed by how outgoing you’ve become, but they’ll be inspired to pursue new skills, too!

The takeaway for learning a new skill is to break the mold of regularity. You don’t have to dye your hair pink and buy an entire new closet of clothes. Simply start making small adjustments by learning something new, and happiness will flow through you.

Handwrite a Letter to Someone

Can you recall the last time someone wrote a letter to you? Perhaps it was a card for an event, like a birthday or a wedding invitation. There’s something magical about receiving a handwritten letter. Not only is it more exciting to open than a bill, handwritten letters make you feel special. Getting a handwritten letter means someone took the time to write to you!

Think of someone who brings happiness in your life. Maybe it’s a family member, or perhaps it’s a friend. It could be someone you’ve never met, like a book author or a celebrity. Regardless of who it is, spend a solid hour writing them a letter expressing how good they make you feel. When you’re done: fold, stamp, and send. Oh, and don’t forget to smile, too.

You never know what can come from sending a letter. One couple sent a wedding invite to the Queen of England on a whim. And guess what? The Queen showed up!  It just so happened the Queen of England was in the area that day and didn’t have any other plans. Just a simple letter made that couple’s day much happier.

They didn’t ask for permission — they simply took the action.

Remember: you have the freedom to go out and create a happier life for yourself. No one is stopping you. You can start to be happy right now by just putting a smile on your face.

Share your favorite ways to make yourself happy below!

Photo Credit: Denis Collette https://www.flickr.com/photos/62202285@N00/2206463202

How to Reduce Stress During the Holiday Season

According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans already take medication for stress-related causes each week, and the holidays only tend to perpetuate anxiety. Even if you’re one of the lucky people who don’t ordinarily feel stressed under the pressure of deadlines or events, the holidays have a way of sneaking stress into the most carefree lives.

There are your children’s wish lists to tackle, the holiday expenses to wrangle, the gifts to wrap, parties to plan, cookies to bake and cards to write—all in addition to your normal responsibilities.

Don’t let stress ruin your holidays. Here are some quick tips for how to keep calm during the bustling festivities:

1. Take some “you” time. If there were ever a time to get a massage, this is it. Book one for December to diffuse the chaos of last-minute frenzies. If you’d rather stay in, pamper yourself with a little dark chocolate and red wine—and for solidarity, invite your best friend over to enjoy a much-needed break.

2. Focus on fitness. Not only is exercise  good for the body, but it also releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more content. Frustrated that you couldn’t find that impossible gift for your niece? Take it on the treadmill! You’ll burn calories, improve your state of mind, and give yourself some time to gain perspective. Remember, a fast-paced walk through the mall also counts as an aerobic activity!

3. Volunteer. Consider volunteering at a local charity. In addition to benefitting from what experts identify as “helpers’ high,” you may also meet new friends and make lasting connections that will enrich your life throughout the entire year.

4. Rethink gift giving. Streamline the hectic process of gift giving by buying fewer gifts, doing all your shopping online, or making modest online donations to the favorite causes of friends and family. No matter what the catalogues tell you, the best gift you can give is your time—so spend it with your family and friends and relish every minute of it.

5. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Remember, you can always say “no.” Consider this an absolute necessity for protecting your health and sanity during the holidays. As a bonus, it works well the rest of the year, too! Stay positive, anticipate happiness, and you’ll make it through the holidays with the right attitude in place for the coming year.

What are some ways you combat your holiday stress?

Five Steps to Waiving a Grudge

GrudgesTo err is human, but did you know that to forgive is good for your health? Even though we’ve all been hurt by someone before—friends, peers, parents, or significant others—forgiving those who wronged us can lessen anxiety and stress, reduce the symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure, and boost self-esteem. Make the decision to let go of resentment with these simple steps, and you’re well on your way to both physical and emotional well-being:

Remember it’s a process. Forgiveness is an active engagement, and it takes emotional work to forge through. Make the commitment to yourself to stay with the process—and remind yourself that you deserve relief and comfort. Forgiveness, after all, is not about the other person. It’s about getting you to a better emotional place.

  • Reflect on the facts of the situation. In essence, meditate on what has happened, the role you played, and how the outcome has affected your life and state of mind. Try to recall what happened as objectively as possible.
  • Accept these facts. Know that what’s done is done, and you cannot undo the past. The only remainder of the situation left in your control is how you manage your role in the aftermath. Do not stoop to revenge. Do not obsess over what you should have done before. Put it in a box in your mind and seal the lid.
  • Say it out loud. When you are ready to let go of your hurt and bitterness, look in the mirror and tell your reflection that you forgive the person who offended you. It does not matter if you actually say it to the person so much as yourself. Their role in this circumstance is finished, even if they never apologize or you never confront them. You can only rely on yourself to make you feel better about it.
  • Don’t be the victim. Even if you are, you have to remove yourself from that mindset to end the cycle of hurt. Know that people and circumstances shape the person you become not by what’s done to you, but how you react to them. Relish this control you have over your mind. You have the power to transform your thoughts, and to push the painful and bitter ones away. You have the choice to let your life be defined by your compassion and understanding rather than your hurt.

What has helped you move past a grudge before?

 

How to Reduce Stress by Managing Your Time

time managementTime (or lack of) is a big stressor for many of us, and managing our time can reduce that stress significantly. Time management is something most of us lack, and just a few ideas can help you get a handle on your time and spend it wisely.

The following time management tips are simple but effective:

Get a planner.

Part of the reason we are so stressed is because everything we need to remember is scattered: sticky notes here, cell phone memos there—and then we try to commit important tasks and dates to memory. Everything needs to be in one place, preferably in something you can carry with you at all times.

A planner is the most efficient and easiest way to keep track of everything. It doesn’t have to be large or complicated—you’ll be surprised at how many different planners you’ll find once you make the decision to use one. Some planners are very low tech, while others will also update your computer or other electronic devices. Get whichever makes sense for you. The main goal is to use it.

Plan your day and prioritize your tasks.

Use the planner to decide what you’ll do each day, and determine which tasks have high priority. Those are the tasks you should be focusing on. This is not to say the low-priority tasks are not important, but those with high priority should take precedence. Track your progress each day so you can see how efficiently you’re working.

Quit trying to remember everything.

The planner will become a significant part of your brain once you start to use it. You’ll be amazed at how free you’ll feel when you don’t have to try to remember everything. Just consult your planner each morning, and live your life.

Learn to say no.

Here’s another great use for the planner—it’s a great way to tell someone no easily and gracefully. If you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do or don’t have time for, pull out your planner and consult it, and then tell that person you’re booked on that date.

Delegate when and where you can.

Do you really need to go to the store, or can you send your teenager?  Look at your to-do list and see who could take over some of your low-priority tasks. Maybe it’s time to teach others in your household to do some laundry, or to allow your assistant to help you with your work email. You don’t have to do it all.

Analyze how you’re doing.

At the end of each month, take 10 minutes to look back and see how well you managed your time. You’ll see where you have improved and where you still need help. Adjust accordingly.

Did you find these stress and time management tips effective? Is this a topic you’re interested in hearing about in the future?

Is Seafood on Your Menu at Home? 5 Reasons It Should Be

seafoodSeafood is one of the healthiest foods you can eat and is full of good fat, vitamins, and minerals. Some species of seafood, such as shellfish, have unfairly earned a reputation as an unhealthy food. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Shellfish are a good low-fat source of protein, and except for shrimp, are low in cholesterol. People in Nordic countries and in Asia who eat high levels of fish live longer and are healthier than the rest of the world. They have lower rates of certain cancers, such as breast, pancreas, lung, and colon.

For best results, eat fish at least twice a week to receive the highest level of benefits.

Fish is one of the best heart-healthy foods.

The Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring, and tuna are polyunsaturated, which protect against heart disease by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. Fish reduces blood clotting, which lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. The fats also keep arteries elastic, which reduces blood pressure and coronary disease.

Fish oil reduces inflammation.

Inflammation plays a role in various diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and hypertension. In fact, most autoimmune diseases and many chronic disorders have been linked to inflammation, which is caused by poor diet, environmental toxicity, and stress. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help treat or prevent these diseases.

Seafood has high levels of essential vitamins and minerals.

Eating a variety of seafood gives you a full range of vitamins and minerals. Oysters are a good source of vitamins A, B, and D, magnesium, and calcium, and crab, shrimp, clams, and mussels are high in zinc and iron. These nutrients ensure good eyesight and healthy muscles and skin.

Fatty acids in fish keep your brain healthy.

Omega-3 fatty acids increase blood flow to the brain and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Children who consume seafood tend to perform better in school, and the incidence of depression tends to be lower in those who eat seafood.

Omega-3s keep kids healthy and strong.

Pregnant women who eat a variety of seafood tend to have full-term, healthy babies with lower rates of asthma. Doctors believe that fish oils control allergens in the body. Even if a woman doesn’t eat seafood during pregnancy, the allergy control benefit occurs if the child consumes fish oil daily.

As with any food, the fresher the seafood, the better. There is a chance of mercury contamination in some fish, but the benefits outweigh the risks. To reduce mercury, choose fish that is wild caught, and eat fish lower on the food chain, such as sardines and herring. Predatory fish, such as swordfish and mackerel, will have the highest levels of mercury because they eat the smaller fish, so mercury builds up in the larger fish’s body.

What is your favorite fish?

5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

mental healthYour mental health is a vital part of your overall health, yet we often ignore it. When you feel mentally alive, your physical health improves as well. Follow these five tips to improve your mental health and increase your happiness.

1. Address negative beliefs.

Most of us hold negative beliefs, and they have a detrimental effect on our mental and physical health. We choose to hold these beliefs for whatever reason, and some may be valid while others are outdated or simply incorrect. Negative beliefs lead to a negative attitude, which saps your energy and alienates family members, caregivers, and friends.

To change a negative belief, you must identify it. Ask a trusted friend for help with this. Once you have determined which are your negative beliefs, ask yourself three things: where they came from, whether they are true, and whether you still want to hold onto them. Letting go of negative beliefs can be difficult but tremendously freeing, and it must be your decision to move forward without them. No one can force you to release a negative belief.

2. Replace the negative with a positive.

Whenever a negative thought creeps into your mind, focus on the positive of the situation instead. The negative thought will float off, and you’ll be happier, more relaxed, and able to deal with the situation as a whole. This is not to say you don’t need to deal with negative thoughts or situations—sometimes you do—but often negative thoughts are holdovers from those negative beliefs you’re trying to lose.

For example, if you’ve lost 10 pounds and have a negative thought about your ability to continue losing, remind yourself that you’ve already lost 10. Tell yourself how good you feel, and encourage yourself to keep going. If you let a negative thought stay in your mind, you’ll fall into it and have a difficult time climbing out of it. Concentrate on the positive, and don’t dig yourself a negative hole.

3. Reduce stress.

Stress causes not only physical problems, but also mental blocks and issues. Reducing stress is one of the fastest ways to boost your mental health. One quick way to feel better is to take three deep breaths: inhale through your nose, close your eyes and hold it for two seconds, and then exhale through your mouth. Exhale as fully as you can, and feel the stress melt.

Several other ways to decrease stress include exercise, meditation, massage, and aromatherapy. Sometimes walking away and being alone for 5–10 minutes or listening to your favorite music is all you need to reduce anxiety. Experiment to find your best stress relief.

4. Take a break from your life.

A change of scenery is always good for your mental health. Take a week-long vacation at least once a year. You’re doing yourself and your family a disservice if you accrue vacation time and never use it. Find the time to do something for you. Get away and explore new places, or take a week off to work on a hobby you never seem to have time to enjoy. You’ll return refreshed, relaxed, and happier.

5. Exercise your mind as you do your body.

We move through each day doing what we must, but we don’t stimulate our minds as often or as deeply as we should. Your mind craves challenge and creativity, and you feel alive and alert when you give your mind a new job. Take a class, learn a new hobby, go to a symphony or museum, or do the crossword in the newspaper. Try something new and excite your brain, as well as improve your memory.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and the more you take care of your mind and exercise it, the happier you’ll be. If you do it consistently, the benefits last long into old age.

What’s your favorite way to take care of your mental health?