How To Tell The Difference Between Useless And Effective Mental Health Tips

illustration of a woman whose head is shattering

There's a well-known problem among us mentally ill folks where people who have never experienced mental illness will offer tips to improve our mood that are largely useless. Most of these tip-givers are genuinely trying to help, and we realize that. But it's tiresome to hear the same advice over and over that so clearly comes from a place of ignorance.

The first thing we heard when we were diagnosed with a mental illness was that we should try exercise and healthy eating. And it's true, these things can help — but it's not that simple. They might help somewhat, but they're not a cure, and not all of us have access to healthy foods and yoga studios. Plus, people who have never suffered from depression have no idea how difficult it is to exercise when just getting out of bed feels exhausting.

However, not every mental health tip is useless. We in the mental illness community seem to have developed a problem where we react to anything that looks like a tip to improve our mental health like it's just another "have you tried yoga?"

We can't be dismissing every bit of advice we come across. There are good mental health tips out there, and following some of them has helped me out immensely. So before you roll your eyes, consider the following.

What is the source? It's easy to check out someone's blog or Twitter account to see if they're fellow sufferers of mental illness and therefore know what they're talking about.

How much effort do these tips take to implement? Taking up yoga or changing your diet are both pretty big undertakings, especially when you're dealing with constant mental battles. However, a lot of the good tips I've seen are easy enough even for a depressed, anxious person like me — things like opening up a window and breathing in the fresh air or taking a moment to think of something that made you laugh.

Are they backed by medical science? Some tips that are actually useful might seem like they smack of the old "positive thinking" advice that doesn't help when it's a vague platitude. However, there is a lot of advice out there that comes from people's experience in therapy. There are techniques that have been proven effective like talking back to the negative voice in your head. If you're not sure, ask the person giving the tip where they got the idea.

The point is this: Don't dismiss every mental health tip you hear. Mental illness does require some effort to improve, and sharing our tips with each other as a community can make all our lives easier.

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