Foundations of a Good Mental Health Routine

With back to school upon us, we’re thinking about how this time of year always feels like a fresh start, even if we’re no longer school-aged! If you find yourself craving a bit of a fresh start or a new routine when you feel summer changing into fall, you’ve come to the right place.

Starting a new routine, and sticking to it, is a big step. Remember; it’s OK to work on one new focus at a time like a healthy routine to promote mental wellness. You don’t have to be perfect or change your routine completely or all at once. Trying to make too many big changes at the same time could lead to feeling overwhelmed.

In this blog post, we’re laying out the basics of a good mental health routine.

Get Enough Sleep

One of the most basic ways to promote and maintain good physical and mental health is to get enough sleep. But what is enough, and how can people make it easier to get enough ZZZs? According to the Canadian Pediatric Society1 and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)2, these are the recommended nightly hours of sleep by age bracket:

  • 10–13 hours of sleep/night for children ages 3–5 years old
  • 9–12 hours of sleep/night for children ages 6–12 years old
  • 8–10 hours of sleep/night for children 13–18 years old
  • 7–9 hours of sleep/night for adults ages 18–64 years old
  • 7–8 hours of sleep/night for adults ages 64+

If you find your sleep is lacking, consider prioritizing sleep hygiene for yourself and your family.
Here are some quick tips to help everyone get enough sleep:

  • Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bed.
  • Create consistent bedtime routine. For example: brush teeth, get into comfy pjs, and then have a reward of reading a good book.
  • Add a nighttime routine to wind down and relax. Take a bath, listen to calming music, practice a skill like muscle relaxation, or have a nice cup of caffeine-free tea.
  • Try to go to sleep at the same time each night, and wake at the same time each day
  • Limit distractions like excess light, sounds, TV, and consider leaving phones/devices out of reach from your bed.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Fueling your body with the right balance of nutritious foods, and water are paramount to good physical and mental well-being. Oftentimes, poor mental health can lead to changes in appetite or motivation to prepare meals. Building healthy habits can support good mental health and make things a little easier to manage during tougher times.

Check out these ideas to build healthy eating habits. These great ideas are an exciting way to learn, share, and entertain; all of which can support your mental well-being in their own ways.

  • Try out new a recipe. Check out social media, food bloggers, and cookbooks for inspiration.
  • Jazz up salads by adding grains like bulgur, quinoa and couscous, beans or lentils, and cheese for a well-rounded meal.
  • Experiment with spices and flavours. Try dishes from a variety of cultures. Cumin is great to add to chilis, tacos, and curries!
  • Share meals with others whether it’s a lunch break or dinner with family, Sit together and chat without distractions.
  • Make an effort to savour the textures, smells, and flavours of your meals. Is it crunchy? Salty? Really take time to enjoy what you eat!
  • Batch cook! Spend a morning cooking and freeze portions for easy future meals.

Let’s Get Physical

Getting enough activity is important for your physical AND mental health because it decreases stress and gives us more energy. Public Health Agency Canada encourages Canadians to “move more and sit less” by following the physical activity guidelines established by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

Getting enough physical activity can be accomplished in many ways, you don’t just have to go to the gym or for a run. Here are some unconventional ways to increase physical activity to support your mental health:

  • Take a nature walk
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Take a dance class or dance to your favourite tunes at home
  • Spend the afternoon kayaking or canoeing
  • Do a deep clean of your home
  • Do some stretches or jumping jacks while watching your favourite TV show
  • While sitting at your desk perform simple exercises such as stretches, leg lifts, touching your toes, or glute clenches.

Consistently Practice Self-Care

One of the simplest ways to maintain good mental health is to commit to a regular practice of ‘self-care’. If you follow our Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter accounts, you may already know how much we value the practice of self-care here at the Strongest Families Institute. We have a whole blog post dedicated to easy ways to implement self-care into your daily routine. We encourage you to give that a read next and pick your favourite suggestions to create a self-care practice that makes you feel GOOD! ‘Take 10’ each day for YOU…you deserve it!

Remember, if you need some additional support for mild to moderate mental health issues, we can help! Our programs support Canadians from early childhood through to adulthood, by equipping them with skills to manage common anxiety, worry, and behaviour challenges. Visit our ‘how to refer’ page to learn more.