Habits to Improve Your Mental Health

By February 22, 2024February 29th, 2024Habits to Improve Mental Health
exercising for mental health

Do you believe that you can have good mental health?

It might seem mysterious and elusive, but mental health is an achievable goal. The psyche has a natural state of fitness that we can practice and sustain, just like physical health.

Like physical health, mental health is not static, but fluid, alive, and changing. We will have times when we are temporarily ill when we become obsessed, one-sided, and extreme in our inner experiences. But most of the time, if we live in healthy enough ways, we can reasonably expect our psyches to be healthy and fit.

We each have a purpose for being here, a reason we said yes to the invitation to human life. We need our mental health to be able to live out that purpose.

In the words of the poet Mary Oliver, what do you want to do with “your one wild and precious life?” Whatever your answer to that question, optimal mental health habits will help you get there.

Make Mental Health a Habit This Year

Could we make mental health a habit? Yes! As we all know, the only thing you need to do to make something a habit is repeat it over and over again until it becomes automatic.

Many daily abilities that we now take for granted were once learned. How to speak our native language, how to use our thumbs and forefingers to pinch, and how to eat with a knife and fork.

When we reframe mental health as something we are learning by way of repeating positive behavior until it becomes habitual, we can dream up and set many goals for ourselves.

Journal Prompt

What is your definition of psychological health?

Looking at that definition, what mental-health-promoting behaviors could you begin to make a habit, now?

Here is my definition:

When I’m psychologically healthy, I feel my lively, friendly spirit seated firmly in my body. I’m brightly eager, willing, and open, and my thoughts and emotions are harmonized to serve my true purpose. I feel grateful, alive connected, and curious to see what happens next. 

What mental health practices could I turn into habits, that will help make that definition a reality?

I could do a 1-minute body scan meditation every morning when I first wake up, to check in with how my body feels

I could journal for 15 minutes every morning with my coffee, to clear negative thoughts and invent new positive ones

I could write down 12 things I’m grateful for every night

What about you?

Tips for Making Mental Health a Habit

habits to improving mental health1. Find the Right Level of Challenge

Use the Goldilocks Principle to find the level of challenge when forming a new habit: not too hard, not too easy, but just right. When you are in the just-challenging-enough zone, that’s when your brain and body systems are changing but also still able to maintain the previous homeostasis.

2. Rinse and Repeat

As the Karate Kid knows, it’s wax on, wax off. Repetition makes something a habit. If you do something over and over and over again, eventually you do it without effort.

Anecdotally, it takes at least 21 days for the body and mind to get used to something and stop fighting it. Therefore, whatever you wish was easy for you, start doing it for the same amount of time every day for 3 weeks, and you’ll find that what was once effortful gradually becomes graceful.

It’s important to give yourself the full three weeks to form the habit, adjust, and get past initial resistance. Then you can make amendments to the practice once it’s already anchored in.

What you want to avoid is changing the practice reactively during the habit formation phase, such that our mood rules when and where the practice happens, instead of the other way around. If we change too much during the habit formation process, it doesn’t ever become habitual but instead stays new and difficult for us.

Shoot to complete several little practices, and build up, just as you might work out with the 2-pound weights for 3 weeks before you try working out with the 5-pounders. Each little habit formation process is key because then that habit becomes a building block on top of which you can place other positive habits.

3. Keep Calm and Carry On

A very important part of every habit formation process is the day we do it anyway, even though we don’t feel like it.

The simple act of doing it anyway, in the face of a complaining mind and rebelling emotions, is where the magic is.

Forming positive mental health habits won’t always be uncomfortable, but some days it is. On the hard days, be proud of yourself for the simple act of persistence.

Some days your mind wanders all over the place during your meditation. Some days you don’t want to do your gratitude journal, or you want to skip your walk because it seems tedious.

But do it anyway, if only to tame and train the part of you that wants to change it all up based on how you feel right now. The reward for sticking with it will come to you down the line – on another day, it will be surprisingly easy to stay calm even in the face of what used to be very overwhelming circumstances.

It is uncomfortable to make a change to your habit, routine, and lifestyle, but rest assured, the power of habit cuts both ways – one day you find the positive behavior has become your new habit, and it becomes uncomfortable to skip it.

4. Good Mental Health Habits for Everyone

Here are 3 positive mental health-promoting practices that everyone can benefit from.

Eat Clean

The impacts of a clean diet cannot be overstated – mental, emotional, physical, and even cognitive health are supported by positive food practices! So however you want to wade in, it is highly recommended to find a way to make healthy eating habitual. Make fresh veggies the main attraction of every meal, eat lots of probiotics, and choose foods for nutrient density as a starting point.

If for just 21 days straight every day we eat clean, the body will adjust and start to associate a feeling of mild pleasure with that clean food. Rather quickly, the body will lose its taste for sugars, over-processed food, unhealthy fats, and other toxins.


Exercise is nature’s anti-depressant. And nature’s anti-anxiety. And anti-stress. And natural mood regulators. And it’s pro-creativity, intelligence, and relationship health. And and and. Exercise, intertwined with holistic therapy, is a powerful healing agent. So let’s find a way to make exercise a strong habit.

Again, we look for the just-right challenge. It’s good to work up a sweat, to get warm, to have the heart pumping, and our muscles tingling or even sore because we used them. The body likes it.

Gentle stretching and walking are great places to start if we’ve gotten sedentary or have movement restrictions. Any kind of cardio (biking, running, dancing) and core strengthening exercises are also enormously helpful for mental health.

Whatever our situation, there is some kind of way of moving the body more that will help, even if it’s just 5 minutes a day at our desks. And any little bit of loving attention we throw the body is massively rewarded in the mental health department.


There are many kinds of journaling practices, and they’re all helpful for clearing mental-emotional clutter daily.

For those of us who find it hard to sit still in meditation because we become unbearably anxious, or have overwhelming emotions in our daily lives (if we are grappling with trauma symptoms, maybe), journals can be especially helpful.

My three favorite ways to journal are:

1. Freewriting – set a timer for 15 minutes and just keep writing and flowing, not worrying at all about whether it makes sense or is spelled right, just thought-dumping.

2. Dialoguing – in script form, have a little conversation with yourself, possibly between parts of yourself.

Something like this:

Me: What’s going on, how are you?
Inner Child: I feel sad.
Me: Aw, I’m sorry honey. Come here and tell me what’s going on, lovie.
Inner Child: Well…I feel like Jim doesn’t like me. I can’t please him.

This one is helpful for when you’re upset or in a state, where something’s wrong, and you need to talk it out with a friend. You’re the friend you talk it out with.

3. Lists

Listing items in different categories helps the psyche helpfully and helps us see and release. Things I’m mad, scared, or ashamed about. Things I’m happy and grateful about. Things I wish would happen this year. Wishes for others. Wishes for the planet. And so on!

Villa Kali Ma Can Teach You Habits to Improve Your Mental Health

improve your mental healthThere is an art and science to the habits of mental health. If you’re curious, or having a hard time getting ahold of mental health for yourself, come talk to us at Villa Kali Ma.

We have made our life’s work out of the study of happiness and how to make it a habit, despite all the challenges we women face in the course of human life. You’re welcome in these halls!

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