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Some of what we talk about in the mental health and substance use space is often misinterpreted as suggestions for folks in early recovery, but we’ve discovered that our tools for happy, healthy and meaningful living can benefit everyone.  At Surfside, we constantly emphasize that action is the most important catalyst for change – everything else is just information. To kick off 2021, we’ve compiled a list of 5 ultra simple actions that can produce instant and meaningful change in our lives & improve mental health.  We challenge our readers to commit to doing these 5 things every day for 1 week! A simple task that we are confident will improve your mental health and overall quality of life.

  1. Daily reflection & Goal Setting. Some might refer to this as meditation. Others may think of it as 5 minutes of quiet reflection before bed or with our morning coffee.  The task is simple: take a few minutes to set goals for the day ahead and reflect on what you accomplished the day before. Our goals can be short-term (“Call Mom just to say hello,” or “Read a book for 20 minutes”) or they can be longer-term (“Review and rewrite my monthly budget,” or “begin the process of applying to a master’s program”).  If we reflect on yesterday and find we were engaged in behaviors that don’t bring us joy (like gossip), we can set a goal that just for today, we will pause and ask ourselves if what we’re about to say is kind.

  2. Call a friend. In 1971, Labi Siffre released a song called, “Bless the Telephone.” It’s half a love song, but he sings “Strange how a phone call can change your day/ Take you away from the feeling of being alone/ Bless the telephone.” And it’s true. Calling someone else to ask about their day brings so much joy to the person on the other end of the phone, whether it’s our grandmother or a dear friend.  With all the stress and uncertainty we’ve endured lately, this quick check-in with another person can ease the emotional burden that our friends are carrying, if only for a moment.  We often hang up the phone call feeling more connected to the folks around us, even if we haven’t seen them in months.

  3. Get outside. Commit to breathing in the fresh air. For over a decade, Harvard Health has been releasing easy to understand studies encouraging people to spend time outdoors, because the health benefits are endless.  Most indoor activity is sedentary, while being outdoors nearly always forces us to be more active (even if we’re gardening or talking a walk).  We have 24 hours in a day, so we can all find a quick 15 minutes to take a stroll around the block, weed our garden, or ride a bicycle.  And in a COVID-19 world, this time spent outdoors in the light has a major impact on our mental health.

  4. Random & Anonymous Acts of Kindness. This one is simple and we don’t have to spend any money to do it.  Do something kind of another person.  If anyone finds out about it, it doesn’t count. Altruism is defined as “Selfless concern for the welfare of others.” We’re doing something thoughtful simply because it will bring joy to another person, and not because we want credit for the deed.  Give a compliment, hold the door for someone, shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk, make a small donation… and keep it to yourself!

  5. Stretch. Stretching every day has nearly as many health benefits as exercise!  Whether you commit to 5 minutes of stretching or a full yoga flow, this simple activity improves our mobility, balance, flexibility, and straight up feels good. And just like exercise, the health benefits increase the more frequently we do it.

We hope that you’ll commit to adding these 5 simple tasks to your day for a minimum of one week, just to see if you feel an overall improvement in happiness and a boost in your mental health.  If you want to learn more about the daily tasks we incorporate into the lives of guys in our program, check out our website www.surfside.org