5 Daily Habits That Improve My Mental Health

We are almost a year into living through a pandemic. I just reached a year of motherhood and I just said goodbye to my dog of 11 years. I have done an intense amount of inner work these last few months. I’ve spent a lot of time processing grief and trauma. In doing that it has given me space to identify where I can make simple but impactful changes in my life. I think it’s safe to say the last year has taken a tremendous toll on all of us, in different ways yes, but it has been challenging to say the least. At the beginning of this year, as I thought about my goals for 2021, I knew I needed to prioritize myself, because if I didn’t I would have nothing left to give.

I’ve made some very simple changes to habits and behaviors that have had a tremendous influence on my daily life. I wanted to share them with you because they were easy to make but incredibly impactful. And it wasn’t until I actually did something different that I realized how much some of my daily behaviors were negatively affecting me.

Jess Ann Kirby at Fanore Beach in Ireland | 5 Daily Habits That Improve My Mental Health

5 Daily Habits That Improve My Mental Health

…and drastically improve daily life


1. No Phone Before Bed or When I Wake Up

For as long as I can remember I sleep with my phone NEXT to my head. I am embarrassed to admit that though I am probably not alone in this. My nightly ritual before bed would be scrolling my phone. My morning wake-up routine was opening my eyes and opening Instagram. It was absolutely toxic for me and on some days felt absolutely soul sucking. So I stopped. I put my phone so it is not within reach, which means I can’t reach for it when I wake up at 1am either. I do not check my phone or get on my computer in the morning until I have had coffee and breakfast. No more scrolling my phone in bed at night. It has done wonders for my mental health. 10/10 recommend.

2. Written Lists

It used to be an ongoing joke in my family and friend circle about the number of lists I would write. My Aunt always tells the story of when she stayed with us while my parents were away in high school and I had post-it notes with lists all over the place. Somewhere along the way I stopped writing things down and started putting reminders in my phone, but it’s not the same. For me writing things down and then being able to cross them off feels incredibly satisfying. It’s simple, but it’s effective. It also makes me feel more organized and I am less forgetful.

I made fun of my brother when we were in Barcelona for my youngest brother’s birthday two years ago because he had a daily planner that he used like a journal and wrote down what he did everyday. I think he was on to something because I love the idea of being able to look back on your year with little notes from each day.

3. Get Outside No Matter What

Might seem easy for some (most?). But in the dead of winter in Vermont, it’s not always the most enticing thing, though Vermonters would argue otherwise because nothing stops people here! Craig is really good about this and always has to do activity outside, he brings Marin out at least twice a day. I get easily sucked into work mode and feeling like I need to utilize every free minute of the day to being “productive.” Well I have found that I am most productive when I have a clear mind and spending a few minutes in nature is one of the best ways to do that. The key is to be present, take deep breaths, observe my surroundings and just allow my mind to go wherever it wants for a few minutes a day.

4. No TV In Bed

Craig and I don’t actually have a TV in our bedroom, but got into the habit of watching something on an iPad or laptop. We both agree we don’t sleep well when we watch TV before bed. We fall asleep faster and feel more rested without screens in our bedroom.

5. wake up early

I have always been a morning person and Craig even more so, but after I had Marin I found it harder and harder to wake up early. Of course in those first few months it was sleep deprivation but now that she sleeps 12 hours a night I found myself just laying bed until right before she woke up (Craig is up with her every morning anyway because he’s a very early riser). I didn’t like how it was starting my day, so I decided to start getting out of bed right when I wake up usually around 6-6:15. Having 45 minutes to an hour every morning to myself is so nice. That time to sit and have a quiet breakfast, read the news, have a child-free conversation with Craig and just wake up and feel ready for the day is absolutely priceless.

Have there been any daily changes you’ve made recently that have had a positive impact? Please share in the comments for others to see as well.

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12 Comments

  1. KP wrote:

    2020-2021 was also a tough year for me excluding the pandemic with many types of loss and health issues. My changes look similar to yours….I have gone for a walk nearly every day for 11 months. I’ve done 12 minutes of yoga/meditation daily for the past four months…I’ve created boundaries. I’ve started to look at my role in how I perpetuate my anxiety and have made moves to replace those bad habits. I took an active break from unhealthy relationships and made room to create and foster uplifting ones. I started taking vitamins, with the advice from a doctor on dosage. I have a planner and a notebook for listing and a mind dump to just get those revolving thoughts out of my head. I am actually feeling more of my authentic self.

    3.4.21 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Wow this is so incredible. I love hearing about all of the ways you’ve prioritized yourself and your well being. So many great practices for mind, body and spirit, and you are inspiring me to get back into a dedicated yoga/meditation practice. Mine has been a little sporadic but I feel so amazing when I am consistent with it. I hope you feel proud of yourself, I feel proud for you!

      3.5.21 | Reply
  2. Ana Candids wrote:

    Took fb app off phone read now on book 6, ride my slim cycle not a peloton but perfect since I have 10 herniated discs so 35-45 minutes at least 5 days a week and exercise bands. Check in on my friends have shopped less sold and donated continue getting rid of stuff

    3.4.21 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Those are all such great habits. I love how many books you’ve read. I have had more time to read too and it’s such a good feeling.

      3.5.21 | Reply
  3. Ankita wrote:

    I love these! I personally have been loving guided meditation series by Headspace on Netflix. It’s a great opportunity for me to clear my head after a busy day and get familiar with the art of meditation!

    3.4.21 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      I love that you are using their series on Netflix Headspce has been an amazing tool for me.

      3.5.21 | Reply
  4. Kelly wrote:

    These are great! (As I’m reading from bed tonight 🤪) I need to work on putting the phone down before bed too and focus on my books. I’d also love to start waking up earlier but I’m NOT a morning person, but I completely agree with you that quiet time before the child wakes up are so peaceful!

    3.4.21 | Reply
  5. Karen Decker wrote:

    My sister died in 2020 and she was my best friend. Before she died, she told me to tell her kids to choose optimism. It’s not easy, but I try my best to frame my thoughts in optimism and gratitude. Her loss is excruciating but I am endlessly grateful that I got her for a sister. I won the sibling lottery. What has also helped:
    1. Forgiving myself for having no motivation or energy right now. I won’t always be like this.
    2. Meditating
    3. Going outside
    4. Talking to a gifted spiritual counselor
    5. Playing Super Mario Bros for the first time in 30 years after acing it as a kid. Trust me – I am NOT a gamer, but zoning out after everyone in my house is asleep has been an unexpected thrill

    3.5.21 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Karen I am so deeply sorry for your unfathomable loss. Your sister sounds like an absolutely remarkable person. How incredible that she left you with such kind wisdom. I’m so glad to hear you are doing things to help with your grief and loss. Please know I am holding you in my heart. I’m so sorry.

      3.5.21 | Reply
  6. Ellen wrote:

    I appreciate your content so much, and this post is no exception. A bit off topic but the jacket you’re wearing here (realize it may be older), could you possibly provide a link or brand?

    3.5.21 | Reply
  7. Katherine wrote:

    Also a Vermont transplant and have found that having a cute, sleeping bag-like coat has helped me get outside when I reallyyyy don’t want to. It’s not functional for winter activities besides walking, but I love it (mine’s a long one from girlfriend collective). I have started meditating and doing pilates almost every day which has been so good for me. I’m also always trying to reduce phone screen time.

    3.6.21 | Reply
  8. I totally agree with your thoughts on “written lists”. Not only do lists help clear your mind and get all of your to-do’s onto paper – they also give you the satisfaction of crossing things off when they are done!

    3.14.21 | Reply