Are you looking for the ultimate evening routine for better mental health? In a society obsessed with maximizing productivity and efficiency, it’s not surprising that many people overlook the importance of a relaxing evening routine. Many of us were raised to believe that rest is synonymous with laziness and that any free downtime we might have in our day is wasted if it’s not part of some grand plan to make us richer.
But the truth is that how we end our nights is just as important as how we start our days, if not more so. Finding healthy ways to wind down in the evening — be it cuddling with a weighted throw blanket or taking a post-dinner walk — helps our brains separate the night from the day and shift us towards better mental health. Also allows us to decompress after a long day. Not only that, but following the same nightly rituals makes it easier to let go of needless worry and, subsequently, get a better night’s sleep.
To that end, we’ve created the ultimate evening routine to support your mental health. Add some (or all) of these nightly rituals to your evening routine for your better mental health and you’ll feel like a brand-new person!
Healthy Dinner is Great for Better Mental Health
Instead of grabbing unhealthy takeout on your way home from work, cook a healthy, light meal that won’t make you feel sluggish or interfere with your sleep. Not only are home-cooked meals more likely to contain essential nutrients that support energy levels and help you maintain a positive mood and better mental health (hello, B vitamins), but the act of cooking itself can be surprisingly therapeutic. Following a simple recipe is a great way to decompress and take your mind off negative thoughts, and if you cook with a friend or a significant other, you stand to reap even more mental health benefits.
Tip: If you lack the motivation to whip up an elaborate meal, stick to healthy, low-effort meals, such as canned beans. You can throw them in a whole wheat tortilla with guacamole and have a delicious (and nutritious) meal in minutes!
Set the Mood with Candles and Lighting
It’s no secret that our environment can influence our moods and emotions. For instance, research suggests that bright fluorescent lighting, the dominant lighting in many workplaces, can trigger feelings of anxiety and discomfort. On top of that, it can interfere with the body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
For promoting better mental health a good night’s sleep and make your space feel more tranquil, consider dimming the lights a few hours before bedtime. (If you don’t have a dimmer switch, you can simply use a lower wattage bulb.) For additional stress relief, utilize aromatherapy candles that fill your home with relaxing scents, such as lavender, ylang-ylang, and eucalyptus.
Unwind with Weighted Products
Ideally, everyone’s nightly routine would involve a loving hug. After all, hugging is proven to relieve stress, lower heart rates, and blood pressure, and even boost our immune systems.
Unfortunately, not everyone can get a hug on demand. That’s why weighted blankets are a must-have in your evening wind-down routine. Weighing anywhere from five to 30 lbs., these heavier-than-normal blankets deliver gentle pressure to the body, triggering a cascade of feel-good chemicals that help put your mind and body at ease. Also promotes better mental health.
Weighted blankets are popular because they provide an easy, effective, and natural way to relax after a stressful day. You can plop down on the couch and enjoy the blanket’s soothing effects as you read or watch TV. Spin-off products, such as weighted eye masks and weighted robes, are also worth considering, particularly if you travel for work or prefer something you can wear around the house.
Cap Your Screen Time
As tempting as it may be to spend the entire evening binge-watching the latest season of Stranger Things, it’s best to set a limit on your screen time will also work towards better mental health. Research shows that excessive screen time is associated with lower psychological well-being, particularly among children and teenagers. For optimal mental health and wellness, consider limiting your screen time to no more than 90 minutes in the evening. Instead of watching television or scrolling on your phone, consider a calming activity — like journaling, reading, or solving a jigsaw puzzle.
Do Light Stretching for Better Mental Health
Most people don’t need reminding that sitting for long periods is bad for their health. Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, among other serious health conditions. However, sitting too much can have consequences for our mental health as well. In fact, studies have shown that sedentary time increases the risk of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression.
Rather than sitting on the couch all evening, do some light stretching or yoga before bedtime. If you want to go hard with a high-intensity workout, make sure you get it done at least one hour before bedtime to avoid disrupting your snooze.
Cleaning your home is the last thing anyone feels like doing after a long day, but you won’t regret it come morning. Besides, taking care of the dishes in the sink and the clothes scattered across your bedroom floor can improve your mental state almost instantly. The reason? Clutter takes up space in our brain and negatively affects our ability to wind down, which can, in turn, lead to trouble sleeping.
Pro tip: Blast some tunes while you clean to make the process a lot more fun.
Take a Bath
Nighttime bathing has its merits. For starters, you don’t feel rushed as you do in the morning. You can take your sweet time washing your hair and body without fear of running late for work. Bathing is also great for your mental health, with countless studies showing a link between bathing and lower levels of stress and depression and promoting better mental health. Best of all, evening bathing has been scientifically proven to increase sleep quality and sleep onset — that is, the time it takes a person to fall asleep. For extra shut-eye, step out of the tub and lather up with a lavender-scented lotion (hint: now would be a good time to utilize that weighted robe!).
Make It Your Own
Of course, this is just one example of an evening routine for better mental health. We’re all different people, and one person’s relaxing activity may be another person’s source of stress. With that in mind, feel free to tweak this routine as you see fit. For instance, instead of listening to music while you tidy up, you might listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook. By catering this routine to suit your needs, you can maximize your mental health benefits and your overall health as well as promote your better mental health.
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