With a busy, hectic life, you probably only have time to check off the essentials on your to-do list. This might include finishing a work project or hitting the gym. Although those tasks are definitely important, it’s also essential to carve out time for your mental health.

There’s a reason so many people emphasize self-care — once you eliminate stress and focus on cultivating peace of mind, the rest comes much easier. “If you are managing your life fairly well by staying on top of priorities, being mindful, consistently practicing good self-care, and striving for a good balance between work and other responsibilities and downtime, you will be a less-stressed, healthier, and happier person,” says psychotherapist Toni Coleman.

Here are five things you can do daily to improve your mental health. Taking the time to engage in these habits can help alleviate your stress and bring more joy and clarity to your life.

Practice gratitude
“Essentially, this means to come up with one or two things each morning that you are grateful for,” says Coleman. “They can be something simple, like ‘It’s a lovely day out,’ to something bigger such as, ‘I am so lucky to be healthy.’ Then reflect on these two or three more times throughout your day. This is a great way to keep the negativity at bay.” In fact, research shows that people who practice gratitude have less negative emotions, sleep better, cultivate better relationships, and more.

Take time to connect with others
“Studies have shown the importance of friends, family, and significant others to physical and emotional well-being,” says Coleman. “No matter how crazy the day is or overbooked you may be, taking time out for a short conversation, to text, or to sit and have lunch or a drink with someone you feel at ease with is good for your health. Extra points for spending time with that person who makes you laugh and reminds you not to take anything too seriously.”

Get moving
Physical activity isn’t just good for your body — it helps your mind too. Exercising can improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. “Don’t sit for more than one hour at a time,” says Coleman. “Consider getting a standing desk and walk in place while you work. Take a break — stand up or walk up and down the stairs once or twice a day.”

Be mindful of what you eat
“Give time and preparation to eating at least one or two healthy meals per day,” says Coleman. “You really are, in part, what you eat. Eating well impacts everything: mood, thinking, energy, temperament, weight, and overall health. Make the effort to make good, healthy food choices, and take the time to do it right.”

Learn to say no
“It’s important to do this as there will always be more requests than you can handle. Set a limit when necessary — your free time will thank you,” says Coleman.

xx, The FabFitFun Team