We grow up wanting to learn the tools and strategies to help us navigate whatever is going on in our lives, from stress to relationship issues or managing a mental health diagnosis. But we can’t just be given a piece of life-changing advice and call it a day.

The best progress you’re going to make in your life is when you apply what you’ve learned in your real life. And you do have the power to enact real change in the way you think, behave and cope on a daily basis. But you need to put in the work.

While this isn’t meant to be a substitute for professional help, I do want to share some of the most impactful and least intimidating mental health strategies that will actually make a difference. If you want mental health advice that you can start acting on immediately, try some of these tips.

11 Little Mental Health Tips That Will Actually Make A Difference

1. Actually try writing down your thoughts.

You hear this piece of advice often for good reason – it helps you get out your frustrations. This is why it’s so helpful to keep a mental health journal.

You don’t need to do anything in-depth or lengthy. Just dedicate five minutes or so a day to write down your thoughts, feelings and ideas. This is especially helpful if you want to keep track of changes in your mood or behavior over time. But it can also just be a good place to work through something in a private, non-judgmental way. Something you might not feel comfortable talking about elsewhere just yet.

2. When you’re stressed, see if you can put a positive spin on it.

Stress happens and it’s never good. But you can take those moments when you’re completely overwhelmed and try to look for the good in them.

Let’s say you’re stressed because you’re up against an intense work deadline. Think about how the stress is actually pushing you to get the work done. This sense of pressure doesn’t have to be negative. It can be challenging and motivating. Or if you don’t have a free weekend over the next two months, look at that as how lucky you are to have such a rich social life. It’s all about how you view it.

Of course, if you’re chronically stressed and there is no upside, view that as a welcome warning sign that you need to slow down.

3. Plan to take daily walks (and do them).

Sometimes you need to step away from what you’re doing or dealing with and get some fresh air. We all know that exercise is important for mental health, but even just taking regular, relaxing walks can help to soothe your mind. Plus, it literally forces you to take a breather when you need one.

Getting out into the world and connecting with life is healing. It can help you get out of your head and into the real world. The best times to take a walk are when you first get up or before you have your evening meal. Try scheduling 10-15 minutes into your calendar to remind you to step outside for a bit.

4. Counter negative thoughts with positive ones.

Negative thoughts are a part of life, but they don’t have to consume you. Don’t try and ignore those thoughts altogether. Instead, counter them with positive statements.

Maybe you had a really long lie in at the weekend and you feel regretful about it. You could follow with a reminder that you really needed some extra rest and alone time. Tomorrow is another day.

5. Make a list of “your people.”

You know who they are. The people you can always call, text or email when you need to feel a connection. By having a group of people that you trust, whom you can talk to in times of need, you allow yourself a strong sense of not being alone.

So the next time you’re struggling, check your list and reach out to someone on it. Work your way down it if someone isn’t free to chat.

6. When you’re stuck in a negative spiral, write down two good things

When you’re really upset, it’s hard to think of anything else. That’s why this exercise is important because it allows you to hit pause and broaden your focus.

Think of two or three positive things in your life at this moment. Something that brings you joy, something you’re proud of or someone who loves you. This can help ease your feelings of frustration. Gratitude is important to cultivate, especially when life feels overwhelming and negative. Even being thankful for a warm fire can help you reset.

7. Have a self-care go-to.

Everyone has certain coping mechanisms that give them a boost when they’re feeling blue, and you might not even realize what yours are. Maybe it’s taking a bath, watching Netflix or putting your favorite dressing gown on.

Just make sure that whatever it is, it’s accessible when you really need it.

8. Have a conversation with your inner voice.

Everyone has an inner voice – the way you talk to yourself in your head or out loud. And we all know that sometimes this voice can be cruel. But ultimately, it’s dictated by you. It can tell you that you’re a failure or convince you to stress about something you have absolutely no control over. This inner critic can make your life more stressful. But if you learn to have a reassuring and soothing inner voice, it can make a big difference in improving your mental health.

Now, obviously this is easier said than done, but here’s a good place to start. When your inner voice is giving you rubbish feedback and advice, stop and consider how you would talk to your best friend in this situation. Then try to adjust your inner voice to talk like that.

You wouldn’t tell your friend that she’s doing everything wrong and everyone hates her. You’d probably say she needs to rethink things and that she should be focusing on what she can control in the situation.

9. Ask yourself “and then what?”

If you’re stuck on an anxious thought, it’s not going to achieve anything. But you can help push your thought process by forcing yourself to think ahead.

For instance, if you keep worrying that you’re going to lose your job, ask yourself what would happen if that were the case. It might seem terrifying at first (you’d be strapped for money, it could impact your relationship etc.), but then follow those thoughts – what would happen next?

Maybe you would look for a new job or find a cheaper apartment. Eventually, your thoughts should come around to reasonable solutions to your biggest worries.

10. Think about your alcohol habits and whether you need to cut back.

Your alcohol intake affects your mental health just as much as your physical health. That’s why it’s important to consider your drinking habits when you’re aiming to improve your mental health.

So if you find that you’re more tempted to drink when you’re feeling depressed, try to cut back on how much you have an how often you have it. It might also be helpful to keep a log of your drinking and your emotions before and after.

11. Have a bedtime ritual.

Quality sleep is a crucial part of your mental health. But it can be especially hard to come by when you’re struggling with anxious thoughts. So do everything you can to try to quiet your thoughts before you get into bed.

It’s unlikely you’re going to solve anything overnight, so hit pause on your thoughts and try to get a solid night of sleep before diving back into things. This might mean writing down anything you’re worried about so you can think about it tomorrow and stop thinking about it now.

There are also winding down activities that won’t work against (whereas Netflix and staring at a screen will), like journaling or reading.

The bottom line is this: there are a number of small yet impactful ways to improve your mental health every day.

This list is by no means a substitute for getting help from a mental health professional who can walk you through individual strategies that can help you. But hopefully, this gave you a few ideas that you can use the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.