Here's a recap of the 10 things you can do to improve your quality of life:
1. Meditate - the research regarding its health benefits is impressive, and developing a practice may be less time consuming than you think.
2. Prioritize sleep - go to bed and get up at the same time, avoid using backlit devices before bed, and get some sun in those eyes soon after waking.
3. Exercise - research suggests it may be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression. The recommended "dose" is 5 days/week of moderate-intensity exercise (e.g. brisk walk) lasting at least 30 minutes, or 3 days/week of intense exercise (jogging) lasting at least 20 minutes.
4. Help others - it's been shown to significantly improve a range of psychological factors including confidence, self-awareness, self-esteem, depression, well-being, social-connectedness, life satisfaction, and coping.
5. Notice your emotions - it's hard to know why we're generally unhappy if we habitually attempt to avoid or ignore negative emotions when they arise. Practice being mindful of your emotions, particularly negative ones.
6. Notice and challenge judgments - our judgments allow us to process information more quickly, but they also distort reality in consistent ways. When we consistently fail to notice or challenge them they can start to wreak havoc on our lives.
7. Validate others - validation is the art of communicating to another person that you understand their perspective and can relate to their emotions. It's also an extraordinarily effective strategy for getting your needs met in a relationship and helping other people change their behavior.
8. Maintain a balanced diet - research shows that our perceptions of nutrition are often distorted: we are extreme in our categorizations of food and approaches to dieting. Rather than focusing on cutting out meals or avoiding certain foods altogether, aim for a balanced diet. And DO NOT underestimate the effect food has on your mood.
9. Self-soothe - research confirms that we do not handle complex tasks well when overwhelmed. Develop strategies to quickly regulate your system, including diaphragmatic breathing and temperature manipulation, in order to be more effective in situations that require you to think on your feet.
10. Avoid avoidance - if situations, deadlines, or people make you anxious, your best strategy is to seek them out. By practicing exposure to, rather than avoidance of, the things that trigger your anxiety, you get used to them and over time your anxiety decreases. This age old wisdom applies even to those of us with mild anxiety: you must confront your fear to overcome it.
As I suggested at the beginning of this series, my experience has been that attending to these 10 factors can significantly improve one's life. The majority of the evidence-based therapy approaches in psychology focus on these factors to various degrees because they directly affect a range of psychological issues including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, marital satisfaction, parenting, and overall quality of life.
If you have made efforts to work on the aforementioned factors but are still struggling, or if you could use additional support in addressing them, consider contacting a mental health professional. Cognitive-behavioral therapists, specifically, are often well-trained in how to target these issues.