What you can do to help yourself

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Being part of a team is important. Whether you’re a part of a Larry O’Brien winning team, or your championship roster is made up of family and friends, belonging matters. Connecting to something bigger than ourselves is crucial to our mental health. In order to be a good teammate, we need to look out for our own physical and emotional needs. We can’t fill up the cups of the people important to us if our own are empty. With that in mind, here are some useful daily wellness timeouts from Raptors team psychologist, Alex Auerbach.

Practice mindfulness – no, really practice it

Take five minutes to write down what you’re grateful for. It’s a wonderful way to connect those things to the bigger picture. Auerbach stresses that being specific is crucial.

“If you are feeling grateful for a meal that you're eating, think about where that food came from, how it got to you, what it means for your body. Really dig into the level of depth that you would need to feel grateful, rather than just breezing through it and jotting down three things,” he says.

Write it down

We know what it means to be mindful: existing in the moment and paying attention to ourselves within it. But mindfulness isn’t automatic to everybody. And our busy lives aren’t always conducive to the process. Mindfulness can be a 20 second breather, or a 20 minute walk. The most important thing is to build your way into the daily mindfulness break that works for you.

“You can practice mindfulness in several ways,” Auerbach explains. “

One is just paying attention to your breathing. You can notice the rise and fall of your chest, or how the breath feels coming in and out through your nose and your mouth. You can be mindful while you're washing dishes, noticing how the water feels. You can be mindful while you're playing with your kids.”

Set aside anything distracting and step away from your computer. Close your eyes if that feels best, but really engage.

Reach out

Checking in with the people we care about does wonders for our mental health. Doesn’t matter if it’s  a phone call, text or quick email. Intentionally reaching out to people we love helps us feel connected. It doesn’t have to take much time at all.

“We know that social support is one of the best predictors of overall resilience. Social support is one of the best predictors of overall health and wellbeing too. And loneliness is one of the biggest risk factors for depression, obesity and other health issues,” Auerbach says.

Make it routine

Making our mental health habits into routines increases their overall impact. Think habits like:

  • calling a loved one every day and chatting for 15 minutes
  • taking a walk at lunch
  • setting aside time before bed every night to journal.

“There's a lot you can do that supports your mental health. Making it a regular practice is really important,” Auerbach says. “We know that just 15 minutes a day of mental hygiene is enough to:

  • reduce our feelings of isolation,
  • increase our feelings of self-worth and gratitude, and
  • reduce the risk of depression.”
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