When was the last time you stopped to consider your lifestyle?

Our lifestyle has so many aspects, from the things that surround us every day to the things that we believe in, prioritize, and aspire to. From our values to our eating habits, every aspect of our daily lives contributes to our lifestyle. Sometimes, we contemplate our lifestyles; we read magazine articles or blog posts and come up with new ways to make time to exercise or a fresh way to decorate our kitchen. But, the rest of the time, our lifestyles and the habits that form them remain tragically unexamined. That’s a problem, particularly when it comes to mental health.

Americans are not doing so well on the mental health front, you see. More than 44 million American adults are living with a mental health condition, but not all of them even know it. Eyebrow-raising numbers of Americans report feeling anxious, depressed, or simply stressed out, and some studies suggest that those numbers are on the rise.

Adjusting your lifestyle

Caring for your mental health is something that you can and should do with the help of a professional. But your mind isn’t something that you can patch up with the occasional trip to the doctor’s office, and no good psychologist or psychiatrist would tell you that. Rather, your mental health is something that you need to spend time working on every day.

It will take a conscious effort to identity your mental health needs and adjust your lifestyle. But not every moment you spend caring for your mind will be a conscious one, once you’ve gotten started. To a huge degree, our lifestyles are determined by mindless habits; create good habits, and you’ll find that caring for your mind and well-being becomes second nature.

How to care for your mental health

So what sort of habits should you cultivate to care for your mental health?

For starters, you can simply cultivate healthy habits in general. Your mental health and physical health are closely connected, and things such as poor eating habits and binge drinking episodes are going to wear on your mind as surely as they wear on your body.

You also need to treat your mind more like you treat your body — with the help of a professional. Virtually anyone can benefit from therapy, yet far too few of us turn to professional therapists for assistance. You don’t need to be suffering from depression or anxiety to get a hand from a therapist; stress is enough, say the experts at Therapy Group of DC (and in Washington, D.C., they see more than their fair share of stressed-out folks). The typical struggles we all face can be made a bit easier with therapy.

The foundation of a lifestyle that is good for your mental health has two basic things: physically health habits (such as eating well and exercising) and professional mental health care. To that foundation, you can add a whole host of helpful practices.

Mindfulness and meditation, for instance, are great ways to gain some peace and improve your mental health. Study after study has shown medication to reduce stress and improve mental health. Why not give it a try?

Setting aside time to consider your own thoughts and feelings can be a huge help, too. You don’t need to be in a therapist’s office to take stock of your emotional well-being and overall mental health. Hit the pause button and reflect on your feelings. Consider journaling, which is a great way to process thoughts and emotions.

Mental health is important, and yours isn’t going to get any better unless you invest in better habits and lifestyle decisions. Act now, and good luck.