Your mental health and emotional health are just as important as your physical health. Unlike a cast for a broken bone, though, caring for your mind is not as obvious a process.
While psychology and psychiatry are key to addressing mental wellness, little changes made at home can help keep you feeling balanced and on track. If you’re unsure where to begin, a 20-day mental wellness challenge can help slowly introduce new ideas for improved mental wellbeing, encouraging you to try something new each day that can help unlock happiness and stress relief.
What is a 20-day mental wellness challenge?
In a high-demand, fast-paced world, it is more important than ever to take time out to ensure your mental and emotional wellbeing are priorities. However, making multiple significant changes to your routine overnight isn’t realistic; the goal is to develop healthy habits that work for you.
The 20-day mental wellness challenge selects different, but beneficial, ways to make small changes in your daily life to help stay positive, calm, and mentally fit. Through this challenge, you can explore different activities, routines, and small changes which can add up to significant positive change in your daily emotional and mental health. These can be simple tasks, like getting enough sleep or making a healthy meal, to more complicated tasks, like talking to a friend or family member about something important to you.
Whatever activities you decide upon should be geared toward improving your mental space, which includes your physical environment. Dedicate a small amount of time to one self-care task each day of the challenge and see how you feel by the end of the 20-day period. By considering which activities had the most profound impact on your mental wellness, you can identify opportunities for incorporating new routines that will have a positive long-term impact.
Self-care ideas for a 20-day mental wellness challenge
Here are some good ideas to add to your 20-day mental wellness challenge. As you read this list, think of your own unique circumstances and try to come up with a few ideas of your own. Remember: you don't have to conquer the whole list at once. Just take on one task each day.
Day 1: Call a friend
Have you ever felt better after talking to a friend? There’s a reason for that: sharing something that’s been weighing on you can help relieve stress and reduce emotional distress. Combat any tendencies to brush off something bugging you by video chatting a trusted friend and talking through it. While feeling vulnerable may not be comfortable at first, talking out our feelings helps us build stronger relationships with our loved ones while also allowing us to work through unresolved issues in our lives.
Day 2: Plan a healthy meal
Feeding our bodies right is the ultimate act of self-care. Healthy foods are important sources of natural energy that keeps us buoyant throughout the day. What you eat can impact your mental wellbeing: certain foods can impact the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is produced in your intestines. You may find that certain foods make you feel better than others. Take time during the mental wellness challenge to explore this, and eliminate any foods that make you feel less than stellar.
It’s not only what you eat that matters: the process of cooking might be calming and relaxing. Taking time out to prepare a nutritious meal for yourself is an act of self-love. It takes time and caring to prepare a meal, so show yourself that you're worth your time and effort. You might also find that you take joy in the process of cooking, whether you find prepping ingredients to be a calming act or that delicious cooking smells elevate your mood.
Day 3: Get your friend a gift
A 2011 study interviewed participants who made purchases for themselves and for a friend, and rated their happiness felt afterward. Participants expressed happiness ratings much higher when they made the purchase for a friend. This phenomenon is called prosocial spending, and it’s been linked to elevated feelings of happiness and satisfaction. The amount doesn’t matter – even picking up the check for some coffee activates these feelings of happiness.
Day 4: Set a mini goal
Big, seemingly insurmountable tasks are intimidating. But every big task is simply a series of much smaller goals. Set a mini-goal just for this day and celebrate when you achieve it. This can be something as simple as organizing your work space, or tackling that unorganized closet that’s been weighing in the back of your mind. You've taken your first small step toward something great. Accomplishing tasks and crossing them off your list is rewarding; they don't always have to be monumental achievements.
Day 5: Write down something good that happened
It can be all too easy to focus on the negatives. There's a good reason for that, of course: focusing on challenges or issues to resolve ensures our continued ability to overcome them. However, when we become excessively focused on the negatives, we sometimes lose sight of all we have to be grateful for. Practice gratitude by writing down something positive that happened to you today. Look for positives even in things that seemed negative on the surface — there is often good even within the bad.
Day 6: Try different products focused on wellness
Adding a new product to your routine can introduce you to new methods of self-care. Consider taking a daily capsule, which can help improve mood and focus*. Exploring wellness-focused products during a 20-day mental wellness challenge might lead you to find a great product that works for you that you never would have tried otherwise.
Day 7: Have a device-free night
Smartphones, laptops, and televisions are central parts of our lives. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with using technology for work or play, it is sometimes necessary to unplug and reconnect with our surroundings. Too much screen time can interrupt sleep and impact your attention span, so take a night off to focus on the world around you.
Day 8: Meditate
Meditation is an ancient method of focusing the mind and finding emotional balance. Considered sacred and spiritual in many cultures, meditation may help reduce stress in participants. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes at the beginning or end of the day, meditation may be just what you need to clear your mind. Take note of how you feel before and after your meditation session; there are many apps you can use to track your progress.
Day 9: Practice Gratitude
Sometimes all it takes to improve mental wellness is taking time to practice gratitude. No matter what difficulties you’re facing in life, you undoubtedly have things to be grateful for. Whether it’s family and friends, your skill sets, or your health, take time to identify the things you are fortunate to have in your life and smile on them for a moment. If you want to take this to the next level, keep a “gratitude journal” and review it whenever you feel the need for a pick-me-up.
Day 10: Get outdoors
Getting outdoors and spending time amongst nature is a great way to re-energize and calm a stressed mind. Researchers have studied the healing and calming power of nature for decades, finding links between connecting with the outdoors and developing emotional intelligence and reduced stress, particularly in children and adolescents.
Whether you like to take long walks through hiking trails, spend time on the beach, or even just sit in your local park, take some time to disconnect and simply enjoy the natural sights and sounds of the world. Just a few minutes of sunshine might be enough to produce mood-boosting serotonin, as McGill University researchers uncovered in a 2007 study.
Day 11: Sing
Belting out your favorite tune can be a great way to relieve stress and have some fun. Singing is thought to release endorphins which help boost happiness. Put on some of your favorite music, crank up the volume and sing along, or take it to the next level by bringing a group of friends to karaoke or organizing a virtual sing-along. Take note of how you feel before, during, and after..
Day 12: Dance
Vocals not for you? You can release endorphins by getting your body moving to the rhythm of your favorite music instead. Getting your body moving is a good way to (literally) shake off the stress of the day and release some natural endorphins. According to the University of California-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, dancing releases happiness-boosting chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine.
Day 13: Take a bath
Soaking in a hot bath is a popular, go-to way to unwind for a reason. A study found that a daily bath improved general psychological wellbeing in its participants. A hot bath can also help you unwind after a long day, improving your sleep. To take your bath to the next level, you can add products like a CBD infused bath bomb to introduce CBD, minerals and moisturizing oils to the water, leaving your mind — and your skin — refreshed.
Day 14: Schedule a game night
Everybody needs time to play, so schedule a game night. Simply letting go and having fun is key for mental wellness. Whether you prefer playing board games, video games, or sports, invite some of your favorite people to join you. The bonds we develop while playing and having fun are critical to reinforcing our support network, and the time spent turning off from work can help us prepare for the next tasks at hand.
Day 15: Read a book
Reading a book can be an important tool for unwinding and improving mental health. In fact, it’s so powerful that it has its own mental health intervention – “bibliotherapy.” Reading engages a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain, giving your mind a literal workout in the process. Not to mention, reading broadens your vocabulary and knowledge.
When it comes to reading though, the simplest explanation may be the best one. Reading is an enjoyable activity that whips up your imagination and transports you into another universe, taking your mind off the day’s stressors. So explore your local library or neighborhood book sale, and dive in as your newly found treasure takes you away to a new world worthy of exploration.
Day 16: Draw or paint something
It doesn't matter if you don't consider yourself artistic, drawing and painting are excellent tools for self-exploration, stress relief, and processing complex emotions. Just like reading is sometimes used for mental health intervention, art therapy is a similarly common tool. Select a medium that works — whether you reach for colored pencils or break out acrylic paints, pick the tools that are best for you.
Day 17: Exercise
Physical exercise encourages the release of natural endorphins, which can boost your mood and improve focus. A study conducted by the University of California-Davis Health System in 2016 observed the mental fitness of those who engaged in regular exercise and found that exercising increased the levels of the neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate in the brain. The study also found that exercise literally gives the brain a workout, and maybe the most effective workout the brain encounters. Whether you're a fitness guru or you're starting from square one, participating in movement, whatever that means to you, can produce positive results for both your physical and mental well-being.
Day 18: Make yourself laugh
The old adage claims that laughter is the best medicine, but this saying is backed by science. Look for humor in everything and make yourself laugh, whether you like watching comedy specials or you crack yourself up with your own jokes. Taking time to goof around with ourselves and our friends can boost mood and reduce stress, so keep those jokes coming.
Day 19: Try grounding techniques
If you find you're highly stressed, try grounding techniques to bring yourself away from racing thoughts. Grounding techniques include counting down backward from 100 or listening closely to the sounds around you and identifying each one individually. Grounding can also include holding an object and feeling its texture or looking at objects around the room and saying their name aloud. Grounding techniques help focus our minds on something other than the thoughts causing us stress and can be used at any time you begin to feel overwhelmed.
Day 20: Go to sleep early
A good night's rest does a lot for our physical, mental, and emotional health. Without enough restful sleep, all our other efforts at health and wellness are hampered. Go to sleep early after winding down and unplugging. If you find yourself struggling to sleep, a CBD supplement may help. The next morning, you'll be thankful you did when you wake up renewed and ready to face the day.
Your 20-day mental wellness challenge should be as unique as you are
Don't feel the need to follow this precise pathway for your 20-day mental wellness challenge. Everyone is different, and that means some self-care activities might be more beneficial to you than others. Think about your priorities and how they inform your 20-day mental wellness challenge. In 20 days, you might find there are more things that help you destress and put your mind at ease than you realized.