59 Ideas for Better Mental Health

In the last five years working as a psychologist, I’ve done approximately 5,000 therapy sessions with clients. And since I started blogging three years ago, I’ve written 235 articles about psychology and mental health.

These are the ideas I’ve come to believe are most essential for cultivating better mental health:

  1. Never worry in your head.
  2. Hold on to hope but let go of expectation.
  3. When you try to control your past you give up control of your future.
  4. If you crave intimacy, practice vulnerability.
  5. Feeling bad is hard enough without feeling bad about feeling bad.
  6. Resilience comes from better habits not more coping skills.
  7. Emotional intelligence isn’t enough; you need emotional fitness.
  8. Focus is a subtraction problem.
  9. If you want to feel differently, you need to think and act differently.
  10. Falling off the wagon isn’t the problem; it’s the rolling around in the mud that gets you.
  11. You need more whitespace in your life.
  12. The best conversations are about connection, not information.
  13. Stop insisting that the world act the way you want it to tomorrow and it will be easier to work with the world you have today.
  14. Dating is an experiment: Look for data.
  15. Just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad.
  16. Helpful criticism is about making the world better; unhelpful criticism is about making yourself feel better.
  17. How we habitually think determines how we habitually feel.
  18. Cultivate emotional curiosity.
  19. Confidence comes from trusting yourself to act on your values instead of your fears.
  20. If you want to think differently, hang out with different people.
  21. To master your emotions, you must be willing to live with them.
  22. Worry is an addiction to the illusion of control.
  23. Confidence isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the belief that you’ll be okay despite your fear.
  24. To be a better listener, focus on the person, not the problem.
  25. You are responsible for what you do, not how other people feel.
  26. Be vigilant for fake guilt.
  27. A great way to make yourself anxious is to insist that everything means something.
  28. Self-esteem comes from doing what’s right regardless of how you feel.
  29. People are successful despite their negative self-talk, not because of it.
  30. You don’t need different emotions; you need a better relationship with the emotions you’ve already got.
  31. Forget about stress management and work on stressor management.
  32. The Other Golden Rule: Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend.
  33. Emotional stability comes when you learn to subordinate your feelings to your values.
  34. Listen to your emotions but don’t trust them.
  35. Self-compassion is a psychological superpower.
  36. Validate your anger; control your aggression.
  37. Emotional intelligence is necessary but not sufficient for emotional health.
  38. Your mind trusts your actions more than your words.
  39. When you spend all your time running away from what you don’t want, there’s no time left for running toward what you do want.
  40. Motivation is a function of values clarity.
  41. Cultivate a healthy skepticism of your own thoughts.
  42. There’s no greater strength than the ability to be gentle with yourself.
  43. Train yourself to see psychological opportunity cost.
  44. Fear and punishment are not sustainable strategies for anything but misery.
  45. You can think your way into almost any type of suffering, but it’s action that will get you out.
  46. Anger is a positive emotion.
  47. Often the best way to change your behavior is to change your environment.
  48. When we’re upset, most of us just want to feel understood and that we’re not alone.
  49. Busyness is a dangerous drug.
  50. Feeling good is nice, but it’s not a requirement for taking action.
  51. If you want to avoid big-time procrastination, give yourself permission to do more small-time procrastination.
  52. The quest for self-knowledge is a fundamentally social endeavor.
  53. When you treat your emotions like enemies, that’s what they’ll start to feel like.
  54. I’ve never seen someone perform worse because they stopped beating themselves up.
  55. Treat emotions like messengers, not viruses.
  56. Just because it’s a thought doesn’t mean it’s important.
  57. Willpower is like your emergency brake: Good to have but not something you should rely on.
  58. Be kind, especially to yourself.
  59. Habits are the soul of mental health.

29 Comments

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Thank you Nick.
I am enjoying learning from you.
Pearls in there.
Maybe, I will create some flash card to use daily before a mindful meditation (mind work out!).
Again thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience.

A lot to digest all at once. I will study one a day for deeper understanding. And I would like to offer one of my own if you don’t mind, Nick, and it is this: when you are feeling down and you think nobody loves you, cuddle with your dog!!”

Great list! I don’t understand what do you mean by psychological opportunity cost, though. Sounds interesting..

Thank you! I’ve been meaning to write an article about this but the basic idea is that it’s important to consider tradeoffs with our mental life. If you spend X amount of time and energy dwelling on a past mistake, for instance, that’s X amount of time and energy you can’t spend on something more enjoyable and productive.

Absolutely incredible Nick .. Thank you .. All make sense and most are applicable to me .. Yep negative self talk .. Downloaded the article .. It deserves another read and analysis from my own perspective .. Thanks again .. I would imagine Brian Pennie will be in agreement with all of this ..

Thanks Paul! And yes, Brian and I tend to be of pretty like mind on a lot of this stuff 🙂

Hi Nick, would you give an example or more detail about these two?
Never worry in your head. Focus is a subtraction problem.
Really enjoyed the list, thanks!

Sure!

If you’re going to worry, do it on paper. Much slower that way and will lead to less anxiety.

Staying focused is usually more a matter of elimianting distractions that it is “trying” harder to focus.

Thanks! I get the Focus now. Can you refer me somewhere for more detail on writing worry to lessen the thinking worry or will the course get us through some of this? So love the course, thanks!

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