Expert-Recommended Self-Care Practices for Optimal Mental Health

Discover the most effective self-care practices leading mental health experts recommend to promote optimal mental well-being.

Expert-Recommended Self-Care Practices for Optimal Mental Health
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Mental health is crucial to overall well-being, and self-care is vital in maintaining and improving mental health.

Leading psychology, psychiatry, and wellness experts have provided valuable insights and strategies to help individuals prioritize their mental well-being. This article explores the most effective self-care practices recommended by top experts in the field.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation have gained significant attention as powerful tools for promoting mental health. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), emphasizes the importance of regular mindfulness practice. He suggests starting with short, daily meditation sessions and gradually increasing the duration. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment and can help reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance emotional regulation.

Dr Tara Brach, a clinical psychologist and meditation teacher, advocates for "RAIN" (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) to deal with difficult emotions and cultivate self-compassion. This technique involves recognizing and allowing emotions, investigating the underlying causes, and nurturing oneself with kindness and understanding.

Physical Activity

Physical activity profoundly impacts mental health, as highlighted by Dr. John Ratey, a psychiatrist and author of "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain." Regular exercise, such as walking, running, cycling, or yoga, can significantly improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, natural mood lifters, and helps alleviate stress.

Incorporating regular physical activity into one's routine is crucial for maintaining mental well-being. Experts recommend aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Engaging in activities combining physical movement with mindfulness, such as yoga, can provide additional benefits for the body and mind.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep plays a vital role in mental health, and experts emphasize the importance of good sleep hygiene. Dr Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and author of "Why We Sleep," advises maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a restful sleep environment, and avoiding caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime. Adequate sleep is essential for emotional regulation, cognitive function, and overall mental well-being.

To improve sleep quality, experts recommend establishing a relaxing bedtime routine that includes reading, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation techniques. Avoiding screens and stimulating activities before bed can also help promote better sleep.


The connection between diet and mental health has gained increasing recognition recently. Dr. Drew Ramsey, a psychiatrist and author of "Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety," emphasizes the role of nutrition in supporting brain health. He advocates for a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants, are particularly beneficial for mental health. Incorporating these nutrients into one's diet can help support brain function and improve mood. Experts also recommend staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, as dehydration can affect mood and cognitive function.

Social Connections

Strong social connections are crucial for mental health, as highlighted by Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist and researcher. Her studies indicate that nurturing close relationships, engaging in community activities, and seeking social support when needed can significantly reduce levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Experts recommend spending quality time with family and friends, participating in social groups or clubs that align with one's interests, and reaching out for support during challenging times. Building and maintaining a strong social support network can provide a sense of belonging and improve overall well-being.

Professional Help

While self-care practices are essential for maintaining mental health, experts also emphasize the importance of seeking professional help when needed. Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist and expert on mood disorders, advises individuals to consult with mental health professionals, such as therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists, for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Therapy can provide valuable support and guidance, helping individuals develop coping strategies, process emotions, and address underlying issues. In some cases, medication prescribed by a psychiatrist may be necessary to manage mental health conditions effectively. It is crucial to follow healthcare professionals' guidance and prioritize professional help as part of a comprehensive self-care plan.


Self-compassion is a powerful tool for promoting mental well-being, as emphasized by Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research. She encourages individuals to treat themselves with the same kindness and understanding they would offer to a friend. Practising self-compassion involves acknowledging one's struggles, being gentle with oneself, and recognizing that imperfection is part of the human experience.

Engaging in self-compassion exercises, such as writing a letter to oneself from the perspective of a compassionate friend or practising self-soothing techniques, can help cultivate self-kindness and emotional resilience. Research has shown that self-compassion can reduce self-criticism and promote overall well-being.

Stress Management

Effective stress management is crucial for maintaining mental health, and experts recommend various strategies to help individuals cope with stress. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Time management is another essential aspect of stress management. Prioritizing tasks, setting realistic goals, and taking regular breaks can help prevent burnout and reduce stress. Experts also suggest engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as reading, gardening, or pursuing creative interests.


Journaling is a powerful self-care practice that can help individuals process emotions, gain insights, and track personal growth. Mental health experts recommend setting aside time each day to write down thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Expressive writing can be a therapeutic outlet for exploring and understanding one's inner world.

Keeping a gratitude journal, where one regularly writes down things they are thankful for, can also positively impact mental well-being. Focusing on gratitude can help shift perspective, enhance mood, and cultivate a sense of appreciation for life's positive aspects.

Top Books to Read for Mental Health and Self-Care

In addition to the self-care practices discussed above, several mental health experts have written books that provide valuable insights and guidance for improving mental well-being.

Here are some top books to consider reading:

  1. "Full Catastrophe Living" by Jon Kabat-Zinn
    In this groundbreaking book, Jon Kabat-Zinn introduces the concept of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and offers practical strategies for incorporating mindfulness into daily life. The book explores how mindfulness can help manage stress, chronic pain, and other health challenges, promoting overall well-being.
  2. "Radical Acceptance" by Tara Brach
    Tara Brach, a clinical psychologist and meditation teacher, presents the concept of radical acceptance as a path to emotional healing and transformation. The book combines Buddhist teachings, stories, and guided meditations to help readers cultivate self-compassion and mindfulness in facing life's challenges.
  3. "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" by John J. Ratey
    Psychiatrist John J. Ratey explores the profound impact of physical activity on mental health and cognitive function. The book presents compelling research on how exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health conditions, as well as enhance learning, memory, and overall brain health.
  4. "The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris
    Based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), "The Happiness Trap" challenges the notion that happiness is the ultimate goal. Instead, Russ Harris provides practical strategies for accepting negative thoughts and emotions, clarifying values, and acting towards a fulfilling life, even in difficult experiences.
  5. "Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself" by Kristin Neff
    Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in self-compassion, offers a powerful guide to cultivating self-kindness and understanding. The book explores the three core components of self-compassion - self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness - and provides practical exercises and meditations to help readers develop a more compassionate relationship with themselves.
  6. "The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma" by Bessel van der Kolk
    Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk presents a comprehensive exploration of trauma's impact on the mind and body. The book combines cutting-edge research with insights from van der Kolk's clinical experience to offer a holistic approach to trauma recovery, including mind-body therapies, neurofeedback, and other innovative treatments.

These books, written by leading experts in their respective fields, offer valuable insights, practical strategies, and inspiration for improving mental health and practising effective self-care.

Whether you seek to deepen your understanding of mindfulness, self-compassion, the mind-body connection, or trauma recovery, these books provide knowledge and guidance to support your journey towards optimal mental well-being.


Incorporating expert-recommended self-care practices into daily life can significantly enhance mental health and overall well-being. Mindfulness, physical activity, sleep hygiene, nutrition, social connections, professional help, self-compassion, stress management, and journaling are all essential components of a comprehensive self-care plan.

Remember that self-care is a personal journey; what works for one individual may not work for another. Experimenting with different practices and finding what resonates can help create a tailored self-care routine that effectively supports mental health.

By prioritizing self-care and seeking guidance from mental health experts, individuals can develop the tools and strategies to navigate life's challenges, build resilience, and promote lasting mental well-being. Taking proactive steps to nurture mental health through self-care is a powerful investment in oneself and a foundation for a fulfilling and balanced life.