Your health is a foundation for the rest of your life. Your relationships, your job, your hobbies — all of these things become difficult, if not impossible, to take part in and enjoy when you are in poor health.

Issues with physical health are constantly in the news, with awareness being brought to serious illnesses like cancer, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), heart disease, and many more. However, there is one group of illnesses that have been critically overlooked: mental illness.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, almost 20% of adults in the United States have experienced some type of mental illness, but over half those suffering have avoided seeking medical help due to fear of being judged or labeled for their illness.

That’s why Mercy Home is trying to bring awareness to the stigma of mental illness. We want to help people feel comfortable seeking medical treatment, as well as offer some tips for dealing with mental illness on your own. While the best thing you can do to treat your illness is to seek treatment from a medical professional, there are a number of ways you can take care of your mental health on your own. Here are five great ways to combat mental illness.

Talk to someone

One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. When you internalize your feelings, negativity can become overwhelming, and you can have more difficulty seeing the positive things in life.

Three Kids With Arms Across Shoulders

Confide in someone, and you can allow yourself to let go of any pent up thoughts or frustrations. Sharing your feelings with someone can also give you a perspective on your thoughts that you might not have considered before. Whoever you feel like you can turn to — a parent, a friend, a coach, a therapist — remember, you are not alone.

Go out in nature

You probably don’t need to be reminded of how busy life can get: deadlines, meetings, traffic, nine to five, family, rent, mortgage — the list goes on. While technology has made it possible to get more done than ever before, as well as provided new ways to entertain ourselves, it has also taken away time to rest and reflect. Using technology for leisure isn’t wrong, but relying on it too often can distract you from feelings and thoughts that may be bothering you.

Two People in a Canoe

Try unplugging for a bit — go for a hike at your nearest wildlife reserve, or just take a walk through your nearest neighborhood park. Immersing yourself in the beauty of nature can help you find peace, serenity, and time to reflect on whatever it is that you may be struggling with.

Become part of a community

Here at Mercy Home, we strongly believe in milieu therapy, the philosophy that a safe, welcoming, and structured environment and community will help to foster positivity and healing in the individual. Join a community that shares your interests — take a pottery class, join a softball team, start a book club — and get to know the people in your community. Sharing what you love doing with others can help you feel better about yourself, as well as reinforce your passion for that hobby.

Young adult and child

Not sure what it is you enjoy doing? Try something new! You may find out you’re passionate about photography or enjoy meditating in yoga. Learning a new skill can add positivity and excitement to your outlook on life, and being able to share this new-found joy with others will only add to that exhilarating feeling.

Volunteer

A great way to build a positive outlook is to join a movement that’s larger than yourself. Volunteering can be great not only for your well-being, but for the mission for which you are supporting. Serve meals at a local soup kitchen, tutor students, or help out at a food drive. Helping those who need it can also serve as a good reminder of things to be thankful for in your life. The more you give, the more you are able to appreciate.

Doing something for someone else can also boost your self-esteem and give you proof that you have the power to make a difference in the world. When you join a mission or a cause you believe in, you are practicing empathy by becoming part of an idea to help others. Our ability to identify with someone else’s pain is a unique trait that identifies us as human. Using your empathy to make change a reality can allow you to gain a positive outlook on the world, get in touch with your humanity, and help you to cope with your own personal struggles.

Exercise

Working out is a natural choice when taking care of your physical health, but did you know it can also improve your mental health? Exercise provides a release of endorphins in your body, which can give you a feeling of euphoria. If you can’t afford a membership at a gym, try doing body-weight workouts at home, go for a run, or even just a walk.

Mercy Home Hero running

The most important thing to remember is that there is nothing wrong with the struggles you face. Many people have suffered from mental illness, and all people — no matter their age, gender, or race — should take steps to take care of their mental health.

When you take steps to fight mental illness, you are also putting an end to the stigma that surrounds it.

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