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3 Skills to Improve your Mental Health Today!

Building long-term happiness can feel like it takes forever- but I have good news for you! There are 3 skills you can practice today that will significantly improve your mental health & ability to get through tough times.

These skills come from dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) which has been shown to be highly effective in helping in regulating emotions & building long-term emotional resilience.

These skills can be difficult at first, but keep at it- practice makes perfect:)

1. Change Your Body Chemistry

When we experience high levels of distress, our body & our brain engage in processes to deal with the perception of threat. You may have heard of the 'fight/ flight' response- this is when the body injects large amounts of adrenaline & other stress hormones to get us ready to run or fight off the threat. Unfortunately our brain & body is telling us there is a bear coming at us- but there is no actual bear!

When we are in fight/ flight mode the rational part of our brain is switched off & no matter how hard we may try, we can't think clearly in those moments. It's not that we're not trying hard enough- it's just a brain thing!

Skills that change body chemistry help settle the fight/ flight response & get our rational brain back on-line.

Examples of skills that change body chemistry include:

- plunging your face into cold water

- pacing your breathing (inhale 4 secs; exhale 8 secs)

- tensing & releasing muscles (tense for at least 15 secs)

- exercise (ideally at least a 7/10 intensity for you)

2. Challenge Beliefs about Permanancy:

When we are in the midst of emotional distress, our brain often tells us we will never feel better. This is a false, but very powerful belief that intensifies distress, hopelessness & urges to avoid distress (which end up making it worse).

Ask yourself the following the next time you are distressed:

- have you ever felt better than you do in this moment? (the answer is yes & therefor history tells us you will feel better again)

- remember that change is the only constant- nothing stays the same forever

- remind yourself of tough times you have previously gotten through (or write them down/ ask a trusted person to remind you!)

3. Remember Emotions are Just Feelings:

Emotions can feel incredibly intense & can trigger physical sensations in our bodies that feel very uncomfortable- even painful. However, emotions are 'just' feelings. They can't actually cause us harm- they just feel uncomfortable until they pass (which they always will- see point 2!)

It's our attempts to get away from emotions that can cause us harm. Behaviours such as drug & alcohol abuse, self harm & isolating are common examples of attempts to get away from distress, but end up making things worse in the long-term.

Remind yourself that:

- emotions are just feelings that come & go

- the most emotions can do is make us feel uncomfortable in our bodies for awhile until they pass

- acknowledging & validating emotions with compassion is the easier way through distress & avoidance makes things worse in the long-term.

It's important to understand that the world teaches us things about emotions & distress that are not particularly helpful or true- eg. toxic positivity anyone?!?! It takes time & practice to change our relationship with distress to make it more manageable & to build our confidence to manage tough times.

Keep practicing & don't give up! If you need help, reach out & find a good dialectical behavioural therapist to help & encourage you:)


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