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5 ‘Microsteps’ You Can Take Today to Improve Your Mental Health

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Sometimes, all we can do is start small. And it’s better to start small than not at all.

Enter the “microstep.” According to Arianna Huffington — the co-founder of The Huffington Post — a microstep is defined as a small, incremental, science-backed action we can take that will have both immediate and long-lasting benefits to the way we live our lives.

When you’re struggling with mental health issues, the things you know will help you feel better can seem like Herculean tasks. This often leads to defeat and inaction. Microsteps are all about breaking those bigger goals into digestible, achievable actions.

Here’s a list of five microsteps you can take today to improve your mental health.

1. Goal: “I want to start meditating, but sitting still makes me anxious.”

Microstep: Start meditating for one minute each day. Add one minute to your meditation time a week. If you do the math, that’s 10 minutes by 10 weeks. You might reach this goal much sooner, but removing the pressure of having to begin with an uncomfortably long amount of time makes a big difference in getting started.

2. Goal: “I want to wake up earlier, but when I’m depressed, it’s so hard to get out of bed in the morning.”

Microstep: On day one, set an alarm for five minutes earlier than you normally wake up. Just five minutes! That’s no big deal, right? Each day, subtract an additional five minutes.

3. Goal: “I know I need to exercise for my mental health, but I just don’t have the energy.”

Microstep: Select a method of exercise, and start with an amount of time that doesn’t feel overwhelming. Maybe it’s a walk around the block. Maybe it’s 10 minutes on the treadmill or 15 minutes of yoga. Maybe it’s doing five pushups. Any exercise is better than no exercise.

4. Goal: “I need a therapist, but it’s so hard to find one you click with.”

Microstep: Reach out to a couple of local therapists, and ask to have a consultation phone call. This allows you to get a sense of the vibe before you start paying and working with them, and ideally saves you the trouble of having to waste time with multiple therapists you don’t align with. P.S., therapists appreciate this, too!

5. Goal: “I tend to eat my feelings, and I know I’d feel better if ate healthier.”

Microstep: Switch out one meal or snack with something that’s healthy and makes you feel good. If you normally eat full-fat ice cream, swap it with a low-fat alternative ice cream. If you normally get takeout for lunch, pack yourself a healthy lunch instead (i.e. sandwich, apple, banana, nuts, carrots, etc.).

As the Chinese proverb goes: “Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

Photo by Mindspace Studio on Unsplash

Originally published: January 11, 2021
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