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13 Genius Tips From Therapists That Will Improve Your Mental Health

An inside look at what you'd learn in therapy, tbh.

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Everyone's mental health needs are different, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few things that could help almost anyone be a little bit more mentally healthy. So BuzzFeed Health talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.

1. Open up to other people about your feelings — the good and the bad.

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"When we begin expressing our true feelings with others, we realize that most of us share the same insecurities and fears. We are less likely to take things personally, make assumptions, and internalize the comments or behavior of others, which reduces the need to act out in negative or self-destructive behaviors and decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety. The ideal is to be authentic and vulnerable with others, by sharing our innermost feelings."

—Barbara Nosal, PhD, chief clinical officer at Newport Academy

2. Treat yourself, and whatever mental health issues you might deal with, with compassion.

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"Behind me on my office wall sits the quote, 'If your compassion does not include yourself it is incomplete.' For mental health, compassion is a strong foundation for addressing the mind, body, and soul. Compassion means to show loving kindness. Compassion is at the heart of understanding, forgiveness toward self and others, and love. Compassion means acting from a place of nonjudgment.

When we look at our mental health this way, we can look at life in its entirety with compassion, and that will change how one perceives the world and those around you."

—Beth Rue, MSS, LSW, primary therapist at Summit Behavioral Health

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3. Create balance in your life by knowing which activities drain you and which ones recharge you — then plan accordingly.

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"If you aren’t sure where to start, here is an idea: Make a list of the activities in your daily life (work, chores, hangouts with friends, sports, grocery shopping, helping your child with homework, etc.). Now beside each activity make note if it charges your 'battery' or if it depletes it. In other words, what gives you energy and revitalizes you mentally vs. tires you out or stresses you out?

If you find your day is full of the activities that require more energy, you will feel zapped by the end of the day. Is there wiggle room to create time for things that charge your battery daily or every few days? Make shifts in your life and create balance or you risk feeling burnt out all of the time!"

Joanna Boyd, MCP, RCC, Vancouver, Canada-based clinical counselor

4. Don't beat yourself up for decisions that turned out to be the wrong ones.

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“So many people live in regret for choices they made in the past. And yes, if they had today’s information, they might have made a different choice and avoided the problem. But think about it. What did you know at the time? Would you have made that choice knowing it would be a mistake? Of course not. Your decision probably made the most sense with the data available to you.

There’s no reason to keep beating up your former self. When you forgive yourself for your past decisions, you're free from the blame and can find the bandwidth to manage the current issues in your life."

Ryan Howes, PhD, clinical psychologist and professor at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology

5. Schedule your life ahead of time so you don't make plans based on your mood, but based on what you really want.

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"Activity scheduling entails creating a plan, say, Sunday night, for the week where you plot out times to be with people, take exercise classes, work on projects, etc. Often, people wait until a mood or motivation moves them. Rather than waiting for those tenuous experiences, I urge people to be proactive and follow their values. Don't wait to feel better, but start to live better now."

Jennifer L. Taitz, PsyD, LA-based clinical psychologist

6. Get a little sunlight whenever you can.

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"Whether you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or not, the evidence is strong that getting outside just for a little bit can be very helpful. It also makes you get more of a jump on your day — you feel you've already 'done' something by being out of your house — and if you pair it with exercise, even better. Just a five-minute walk before you get in your car to go to work or hole up with your computer in your home office can not only give you an extra boost of motivation, but also give your thoughts some time to settle and get organized. So resist the urge to occupy yourself with your phone while you do it!"

Andrea Bonior, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World

7. Pick up a book and educate yourself about mental health or emotional well-being.

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"Educate yourself. Books like Guy Winch's Emotional First Aid, or my book, The Anxiety Toolkit, are a great start. What's important will depend on your personality and needs. For example, if you're an anxious overachiever you'll need to learn skills tailored to that."

Alice Boyes, PhD, former clinical psychologist and author of The Anxiety Toolkit

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8. Be selective about who you turn to for support, because not everyone is going to be a good choice.

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"When it consists of happy, healthy, and supportive peers, a strong social network can have a positive impact on our mental health."

—Barbara Nosal, PhD, chief clinical officer at Newport Academy

9. Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on yourself.

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"I tell clients to remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side. That couple you see, who you think are so happy, may be miserable. The person driving that nice expensive car may be in debt up to his or her eyeballs. Or that person who you think is so beautiful may suffer from extremely low self-worth and be tormented by any little change in his or her appearance. Focus on yourself and your own happiness and do not compare yourself to others."

—Marc Romano, PsyD, director of medical services at Delphi Behavioral Health

10. Get enough rest, pay attention to what you’re putting inside of your body, and make time to get moving.

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"Exercise is key; speak to your primary care physician to see what kind of physical activity is right for you."

Amanda Zayde, PsyD, New York City–based clinical psychologist

11. Learn to be "flexible" in how you think and act.

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"Like a nice, flexible muscle, the more we can be flexible in how we think about — and act in — situations, the less likely they are to have an enduring negative impact on our lives. In other words, there are almost always multiple ways to interpret situations (with many interpretations generating less negative emotions). Similarly, there are multiple options in how we choose to act in those situations (with many behavioral choices bringing about better/most satisfying/less problematic outcomes)."

Simon Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine

12. Spend more time focusing on other people.

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"I'm pretty blown away by the idea of Loving-Kindness Meditation. Meaning, instead of drowning in sadness, purposefully spending a few minutes wishing people well (from you to a mentor to a stranger to a person you know struggling) can actually lead to productive actions and increase your joy.

Relatedly, volunteering is key to feeling better and living better. You forget your problems, get some perspective, and actually bring positivity to this crazy world by showing up in ways only you can."

Jennifer L. Taitz, PsyD, New York City–based clinical psychologist

13. Remind yourself, as cheesy as it sounds, that you can make it through this.

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"My favorite piece of advice for coping with life's ups and downs is remembering that the adversity and resulting emotional pain and turmoil that life brings us is both inevitable and temporary. Yes, it seems unhelpful in the moment, but for people who suffer from chronic mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, it can help to reframe challenging situations and put some things into perspective. Life is fleeting, and so is the joy and pain. But in the end, it's worth it."

Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based clinical social worker

By the way, if you’re feeling curious about therapy yourself, you can learn more about how to start here, since pretty much everyone can benefit from talking to a professional. For more information on free and affordable mental health care options, check out this guide.

Anna Borges is a health writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Anna Borges at anna.borges@buzzfeed.com.

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