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31 Days of Mental Health Challenge

May 1, 2023

A man standing outside with his eyes closed, enjoying a moment of peace.

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall health and well-being, and it is something that affects all of us. For Mental Health Awareness Month, Atlantic Health System has created a 31-day mindfulness calendar. Each day features a different mindfulness practice that can improve your well-being.

Topics include sleep hygiene, diet, exercise, cognitive distortions, journaling, storyboarding, aromatherapy, and many more. These practices are designed to be easily incorporated into daily life and to help individuals practice self-care amidst our often-chaotic lifestyles.

Whether you’re new to mindfulness practices or an experienced practitioner, this calendar offers valuable tools and techniques for improving your mental health.

31 Day Mental Health Challenge Calendar Summary

Get started on a month of increased mindfulness and peace.  For a summary of what you’ll be up to all 31 days, grab this calendar download. 

Week One

Day 1 - Sleep

Make a commitment to good sleep hygiene. Our mental health is impacted by our sleep.

  • Commit to a regular bedtime.
  • No caffeine before bed.
  • Turn off technology an hour before bedtime.
  • Talk to your medical provider if you need more guidance.

Day 2 - Diet

It is true that we are what we eat, and what we eat impacts our mental health.

  • Add more fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce sugar and processed foods.
  • Try cooking something new and share a meal with loved ones.
  • Talk to a health care provider if you need more guidance.

Day 3 - Exercise

Motion means better mental health.

  • Make time for a short walk every day.
  • Look for ways to add a few steps by taking the stairs, parking further away, dancing.
  • High five yourself for small “steps”.
  • Consider a workout coach, a buddy, or an exercise specialist to get you moving.

Day 4 - Cognitive Distortions

Your brain processes 70,000 thoughts a day! Make sure they are more positive than negative.

  • Your thoughts impact your mood. Learn to correct your thinking habits.
  • Talk to yourself like you would someone you actually care about.
  • Surround yourself with positive people and conversations.

Day 5 - Journaling

Writing down your thoughts and ideas can have a positive impact on mental health.

  • Try a mind dump at the end of the day to help with sleep.
  • Write without stopping for five minutes or until you fill a whole page. You might be surprised at the results.
  • Write a list of the good things. This will help train your brain to see more positive things around you.

Day 6 - Story Boarding

Expressing yourself in artistic ways can be a way to improve mood, set an intention and more forward.

  • Choose an area of life and set an intention: health, career, fun, family.
  • Cut out pictures and words that reflect what you want.
  • Place and glue to a poster board and put it in a location so you will see it every day.

Day 7 - Light a Scented Candle

Studies show that the olfactory sense is directly linked to the limbic system of the brain, which is connected to emotional regulation.

  • Choose a scent that you find relaxing. Try lavender or frankincense.
  • Make this a little ritual in your day with your morning tea or coffee, or at the end of your day to unwind.
  • Practice slow breathing to calm your whole body.

Week Two

Day 8 - STOP

Sometimes we just need to STOP to help reduce the fight flight response. Even one minute of this can help.

  • Stop
  • Take a breath
  • Observe
  • Proceed

Day 9 - Buddy System

Having a buddy to help keep you on track with your good intentions has been shown to increase success.

  • Ask a friend to be a walking buddy or a gym partner.
  • Join an online support group.
  • Write yourself a letter of support and be your own buddy.

Day 10 - Let It R.A.I.N.

The benefit of RAIN will help you take care of yourself, body, mind and soul.

  • R: Recognize what is happening right now.
  • A: Allow it to be what it is for the moment.
  • I: Investigate what is going on. (Are you hungry, thirsty, angry or sad?)
  • N: Nurture yourself by asking what would help right now.

Day 11 - Gratitude

Studies show that practicing gratitude is good for your mood and mental health.

  • Write down five things each day that you are grateful for.
  • Express your gratitude to someone in your life.
  • Say a grateful prayer before eating a meal.

Day 12 - Self Compassion Breaks

If you are going through a rough patch, offer yourself a compassion break. Acknowledge the difficulty instead of avoiding how you feel.

  • Notice: Where do you feel it in your body (head, neck, heart, gut)?
  • Ask: What would help right now (rest, a snack, conversation, compassion)?
  • Action: Take a small step to support yourself in this moment of difficulty.

Day 13 – Sound Bath

Loud sounds can stress the body and nervous system. Try a sound bath to sooth the mind.

  • Find a quiet place to lie down.
  • Use headphones to keep the sound equalized, otherwise place a speaker above your head.
  • Breathe slowly as you allow the sound of gongs, singing bowls, tuning forks or rhythmic drumming to bathe over your mind and body.

Day 14 – Mental Cleansing

When the mind gets cluttered with too many worries, it may be time for a mental cleansing.

  • Write down your worries, then find a quiet, private place to sit or lie down for five to 15 minutes.
  • Take slow deep breaths and picture wiping your cluttered mind clean with an eraser.
  • Picture a fresh clean slate inside to start the next part of your day and throw away your worry list.

Week Three

Day 15 - Proper Medication

Taking medication can be helpful for your mental health.

  • If you are feeling extreme anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor about medication options.
  • If you take medication for mental health, take it as prescribed and don’t stop without consulting your doctor.
  • Keep a medication journal to track your mood, symptoms, and reactions you have to the medication.

Day 16 - Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence can be developed. It can be helpful to your relationships and mental health.

  • Increase your EQ by getting to know yourself. Having a coach or counselor can help.
  • Know what triggers you and write down the situations that get you upset. This is the beginning of taking control.
  • Stay motivated to keep growing. Read inspirational stories, know your WHY.

Day 17 - Reflection Time

Looking back can be a way of gaining perspective, learning lessons, and moving forward.

  • Choose a time in your life to reflect on. Perhaps you had a hard time, some great accomplishment, or maybe a painful loss.
  • Use pictures, journaling, or sharing stories with a loved one to help you reflect and learn from your experiences.

Day 18 - SMART Goals

Being SMART about your goals will help you accomplish the things that are important to you.

  • Specific: Get clear about what you want.
  • Measurable: Make sure you can measure your progress.
  • Achievable: Be honest and realistic about your goals.
  • Relevant: Make sure it matters to you.
  • Timely: Set a time limit for your goals.

Day 19 - Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice of physical, mental and spiritual awareness designed to help reduce stress levels.

  • Reduce stress and learn about yourself with mental and spiritual yoga practice.
  • Try chair yoga for an easy introduction.
  • Listen to your body and check with your doctor to be sure yoga is right for you.

Day 20 - Mood Music

Studies show that music can have a positive impact on mood, blood pressure and heart rate.

  • Explore classical music and see how it improves your mood.
  • If you are feeling down or fatigued, try listening to upbeat and lively music to boost your mood and energy.
  • Jazz can be used to reduce stress and improve your focus.
  • Experiment with new and different music to see how your mood responds.

Day 21 - Box Breathing

Tracing an image of a box in your mind, along with breath, can help sooth your mood and lower stress.

  • Picture a box in your mind and repeat the following four times, then see how you feel.
  • Breathe out along the bottom of the box.
  • Hold the out breath for four seconds as you picture going up the right side of the box.
  • Breathe in as you picture going across the top of the box.
  • Hold for four seconds as you picture going down the left side of the box.

Week Four

Day 22 - Body Scan

Scan your body to get in touch with how you are feeling in the moment.

  • Sit or lie down quietly for five to 10 minutes.
  • Bring your attention to your feet.
  • Scan up your legs, torso, hands and arms, shoulders, neck and head.
  • Widen your awareness of your whole body.
  • Notice any sensations of tingling, pulsing, tension.
  • When you are done, take a final deep breath and notice how you feel.

Day 23 - Writing as Narrative Medicine

Writing helps us to understand what we are thinking. It can be a creative outlet as well.

  • Try using some writing prompts to get going.
  • What was your first home like as a child?
  • What was it like when you got your first job?
  • Look at a picture of yourself as a child and write a letter to him/her.

Day 24 - Affirmations

Using positive affirmations can support your sense of self-worth and value. Read your positive affirmations every morning.

  • Write your affirmations down and bring them with you. Say them periodically during the day and see how it impacts your mood.
  • I am lovable, valuable, powerful, and equal.
  • I won’t always feel this way, this too shall pass.
  • Today I will listen to what I truly need — both physically and emotionally.
  • I love myself and will find ways to prioritize my happiness.

Day 25 - Breathe and Repeat

Learn a relaxing three-part breathing technique that works the belly, diaphragm and lungs.

  • Breathe into the belly, then the diaphragm, then the lungs.
  • Practice the in-breath to expand the belly, the out breath to deflate the lungs, diaphragm, and belly.
  • Alternate nostril breathing — close your left nostril with your thumb and breath through the right, then switch.

Day 26 - Mantras

Mantras are soothing words that can calm us during difficult times. Choose words or phrases that you associate with a calm and soothing mood.

  • I am safe.
  • Calm washes over me.
  • Or try repeating the classic “Om” for five minutes.

May 27 - Metta Meditation

Metta means “loving kindness” and can be a healing and powerful practice. Offer these loving phrases to yourself or someone else.

  • May I be safe.
  • May I be free from pain.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be at ease in my life.

Day 28 - Jin Shin Jyutsu

Jin Shin Jyutsu is the art of releasing tensions in the body.

  • Hold your thumb if you feel worry.
  • Hold your index finger when you feel fear.
  • Hold your middle finger for anger.
  • Hold your ring finger for grief.
  • Hold your pinky for trying too hard.

Day 29 - Stop Hitting the Snooze Button

When we hit the snooze button, we condition our body to procrastinate.

  • Work toward being honest with yourself about when to get up.
  • Practice this routine until it becomes second nature.
  • Open your blinds to let in the light right away. A little sunshine goes a long way to improve your mood.

Day 30 - Nature

Grow your mental health by being in nature.

  • Getting outside in nature is an important part of good mental health.
  • Take a walk and notice the sky, trees, budding flowers or falling snow.
  • Get your hands in the dirt; plant a garden, potted herbs, or window tomato plants.
  • Lie down in the grass, lean against a tree, sit by a rushing river or near the ocean.

Day 31 - Singing

You don’t have to have a good voice to sing your favorite songs. Let your voice be heard because you are a wonderful human being.

  • Sing with a recording.
  • Sing with a choir.
  • Sing in the shower.
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