It seems that everyone is on an endless quest to “be happy.”
We search for it at school and in our jobs, spending countless hours at our desks followed by nights married to our e-mail. We look for it in food, ordering a favorite comfort meal after a rough day. Sometimes we mindlessly search for it on the television or Instagram.
But sometimes we become so focused on being happy, that we forget about the journey.
We have displaced the “little things” that are actually essential to our happiness with counterproductive, and often destructive, habits.
If you’ve been feeling down or stressed out, here are three simple, daily self-care practices that can help you feel your best both now and down the road.
1. Eat Food to Boost Your Mood
Believe it or not, your physical health has a major effect on your mood. What, when and how much you eat can influence whether you feel energized, sluggish, calm, irritable, distracted, or focused! If you’ve ever felt hangry or “out of it” after forgetting to eat lunch, you have some idea of what I’m talking about.
A whole food, plant-based diet is not only best for your physical health, but for your emotional health, too. It consists of foods that come from the earth in their most natural, untouched form, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, herbs and oils. These foods offer the most nutrients per bite, lots of fiber and a generous serving of healthy fat — all of which are necessary to keep our heart, brain and gut happy.
One of the best self-care practices is to fill your plate with minimally processed foods that are rich in antioxidants – foods that our body responds well to. By doing this, you will naturally eat less fried, fast and packaged foods, which can not only make you feel tired, but have been linked to anxiety and depression.
Not sure where to start? Check out our simple healthy eating tips for teens.
2. Prioritize Your Sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in our emotional well-being. It gives our bodies an opportunity to rest and reset, which is essential to avoid burn out and exhaustion. It also promotes hormone stability, healthy energy levels, optimal brain function and so much more.
In general, teens should get eight to ten hours of sleep every night. But according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than 7 out of 10 high school students don’t get the recommended amount. People who get less sleep are more likely to feel depressed or anxious, have trouble at school and work, and to be overweight or obese. They are also less likely to have healthy eating behaviors, and often misinterpret tiredness for hunger.
Get serious about your sleep by establishing a bedtime routine that works for you. Since screens (like your phone, TV or computer) can make it harder to fall asleep, avoid them in the hour or so before bedtime.
3. Get More Face Time
No, I’m not talking about the iPhone kind. Social media—a tool to stay connected—has not only interfered with our #SleepGoals, but it may also make people feel lonely. Ironic, right?
Loneliness is correlated with a slew of adverse health conditions like cancer, heart disease, and obesity. People who experience chronic loneliness even tend to have shorter life spans. Feeling lonely is often accompanied by other difficult emotions, and sometimes mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
The good news is there are lots of ways you can stay connected.
- Think of a friend or family member you want to spend more time with, and set up a weekly phone call or coffee date.
- Revisit activities that bring you joy but you haven’t done in awhile, like team sports, volunteer work or a school club.
- Consider fostering or adopting a pet. Studies show pets are one of the best gifts for both our emotional and physical health.
If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, call (212) 423-3000 for free, confidential healthcare including nutrition counseling, mental health care and other medical care at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. No immigration restrictions, no insurance needed.
Michelle Rubinstein, M.S. completed her graduate education at Teachers College (TC), Columbia University, and has a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Studies (an interdisciplinary program in psychology, sociology and economics) from the University of Michigan. She is currently enrolled in TC’s Dietetic Internship program, and as a future RD, she plans to focus on nutrition and lactation counseling for expecting parents, newborns and infants. Michelle believes in the importance of establishing healthy behaviors from a young age, and would like to support parents throughout their journey as they navigate how to achieve optimal nutrition and eating habits for their family.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 12,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.