By: Brad Krause,

You’ve probably seen articles all over the internet touting the importance of self-care. Studies have shown that self-care is associated with improved mental health control and adherence to routines that promote wellness. Self-care is especially important for those in addiction recovery. Here are some simple self-care activities that can help you build your mental strength.

Focus on Your Healthiest Relationships

Just like our dietary needs emphasize fruits and veggies which most of us don’t eat enough of, there are healthy and positive relationships in our lives that we need to work on. Devote more time to building a social support network that promotes lasting happiness and resilience. This will take effort on your part and may require some re-evaluation of specific relationships in your life, but the payoff is ultimately worth it.

Learn Something New

When you’re learning a new activity or hobby, it can be easy to binge or work obsessively for a short time after interest is developed. According to Lifehacker, your brain will learn best if you spread your learning out over a period of time. Learning something new gives your mind something to focus on and builds confidence as you improve in your new skills. This is also a good time to dive into a sport you’ve always wanted to try, and if you need equipment to get you started, there are many websites that can help you find what you need.

Focus on Owning Your Own Time

According to a 2011 survey from the American Board of Family Medicine, only 6 percent of people over the age of 25 engage in self-care activities on a daily basis. Planning out your days or weeks is a self-care activity because it helps you to schedule time for relaxation or unwinding into your probably very busy schedule.

Learn to say “no” to specific activities that will cut into your life and cause you more stress. It might be hard at first, especially when those activities sound enjoyable, but if you know you might end up avoiding it later, just say “no” now.

Develop Strong Sleep Habits

A recent article from Harvard Medical School discussed data that showed a disproportionate number of people with mental illness suffered from sleep problems. Sleep deprivation can have a severe impact on psychological health. If possible, try to focus on getting to bed at a reasonable time. Shut off any electronic devices you might be using at least 30 minutes before bed. It’ll make a difference.

Meditate Your Stress Away

Research from the American Medical Association shows that for some people, mindfulness meditation can be an important practice. It promotes restfulness, improves vitality, lowers stress, and reverses some symptoms of depression. Try some breathing techniques or listen to guided meditations to gain practice.

Find Your Inner Yogi

It’s been shown that practicing yoga can help increase the levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Low levels of GABA are associated with depression and anxiety, so try doing a little extra yoga. You can practice at a yoga studio or at home by watching online videos. Yoga can also help improve the health of your gut, an area of the body we may not think about too often. Not only can the state of our gut flora affect our immune system, but healthy bacteria can also brighten our moods. If you’re looking to get started with yoga and you want to take a class instead of following along online, there are many options available to you. In fact, there are Medicare Advantage plans that offer coverage to seniors who want to learn yoga.

Focus on the Positive

Focusing on positive aspects of life can not only improve psychological well-being and reduce stress, but it can also promote cardiovascular health and even increase lifespan. Positive thinking isn’t a cure, but it’s an important part of developing healthier habits. Each day, try to write down at least one highlight of your day or think about one thing that makes you grateful to be alive. This will help train your brain into recognizing the blessings in your life.

Give a few of these activities a try and see how you feel. You can focus on being more grateful, get into yoga or meditation, or even just go to bed sooner than usual. Something small like reaching out to a friend can improve your mood. There are a lot of little things you can do for your emotional health that will make a difference.