Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. However, it’s easy to let our mental wellness slip when life gets busy or stressful. Although many people associate self-care with expensive spa treatments and lavish vacations, there are plenty of simple and affordable ways to improve your mental health.
In fact, you may want to start by creating a budget category for mental health so you can know what you have to prioritize this area of your life. Here are five easy and budget-friendly ways to improve your mental health.
Exercise has been proven to improve mental health by reducing stress and anxiety and boosting mood-enhancing endorphins. You don’t have to join an expensive gym or buy fancy equipment to get moving. Go for a walk, jog, bike ride outside, or try an at-home workout routine like yoga or Pilates.
There are numerous free workout apps and YouTube channels that provide effective workouts that require no equipment at all. I do pay for an exercise app that is about $70 per year. That only adds up to just under $6 per month, and the app provides exercise programs, custom meal plans, meditations, and bonus help content.
If you want to go to the gym, try to start with a budget-friendly membership like one through Planet Fitness for just $10 or 24. Get into the habit of using your membership and visiting the gym regularly before you consider another, more expensive option.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can effectively process emotions and improve your mental health without spending a ton of money. Journaling can also help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and improve problem-solving skills. You can use a simple notebook, or there are various free digital journaling apps that allow you to journal on your smartphone or tablet.
Try to start with a notebook to avoid distractions that come with using a device. You can also consider purchasing a gratitude journal or one that has prompts to help you think about specific things. Discount stores like Five Below have tons of fun journal options.
Focusing on the good things in our lives goes a long way in improving our mental health. Each day, take some time to write down three things you’re grateful for. You can also practice gratitude by creating a gratitude jar. Write down the things you’re grateful for on slips of paper and put them in the jar. Pull out a slip of paper regularly to remind yourself of the good things in your life.
3. Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is crucial for both our physical and mental health. However, it can be challenging to get enough quality sleep when we have long to-do lists and busy schedules. Prioritize your sleep by creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding stimulating activities before bed, and setting up a comfortable sleep environment. Even small changes, like turning off screens a half-hour before bed, can improve your sleep quality.
Think about what time you want to wake up in the morning, then aim to get to bed 8 hours beforehand. This means, if you want to wake up at 6:30 am, you should be sleeping by 10:30 pm at the latest. You may even want to start winding down for the day around 9:30 pm with a bedtime routine.
If you struggle to get enough sleep each day, start by trying to get to bed one hour earlier each evening and go from there.
4. Try a Therapy or Counseling App
Sometimes, you just need to talk to a therapist or counselor who can listen to your needs and make healthy recommendations. Therapy can get expensive, but first, see if your health insurance can cover these services. They may have certain recommended therapists you can use that only collect a small copay.
If therapy is not covered under your insurance, consider a counseling app like TalkSpace or Better Help. These services allow you to connect with licensed therapists for scheduled sessions as well as text communication. Better Help only costs around $60 to $90 per week compared to the $75 to $200 per session that the average in-person therapy session can cost. While therapy is an investment, think of ways you can cut back slightly in other areas of your budget to improve your mental health.
5. Incorporate Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment. This practice can reduce anxiety, improve focus, and promote well-being. You don’t have to spend hours meditating to practice mindfulness. Start by taking a few deep breaths each day and focusing on your senses. You can also incorporate mindfulness into everyday activities, like taking a mindful walk or eating a mindful meal.
There are also numerous free apps that offer guided meditations and mindfulness exercises, making it easy to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.
Summary: Improve Your Mental Health By Starting With the Basics
If you can’t afford to go on a fancy retreat to a secluded area of Europe this year, you’re not alone. Plus, there’s no guarantee taking an expensive sabbatical will improve your mental health anyway. Instead, start with the basics that actually happen to be budget-friendly as well.
Start prioritizing sleep and what you’re putting into your body. Get a gratitude journal and use it for 5 to 10 minutes daily. Get up and move, meet with a friend, take a break from social media, or sign up for a therapy app.
Don’t underestimate the power of small changes – start with one practice and see how it makes a difference in your life.