Nurturing Happiness: A Therapist’s Guide to Cultivating Positive Mental and Emotional Health By Dr. Lorena Salas, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Nurturing Happiness: A Therapist’s Guide to Cultivating Positive Mental and Emotional Health By Dr. Lorena Salas, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Are you looking to improve your mood, mindset, and overall mental and emotional well-being? The following 6 simple yet meaningful and life-changing steps for cultivating positive and emotional health can provide a guide to your wellness journey.

  1. Explore meaning and purpose. When we have meaning and purpose in our lives, we have a sense of direction and a sense of value toward our impact during our time here. Research shows having meaning, and purpose helps to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress, and improves resiliency.
  2. Be kind to yourself. Research indicates that self-compassion is associated with mental well-being, and increased feelings of happiness, optimism, curiosity, and connectedness (Neff, 2009). Being kind and compassionate towards oneself can involve improving self-talk, challenging negative thoughts and self-criticism, and empathy. Ask yourself if you would speak to a friend, parent, or loved one in the ways you speak to yourself in times of distress. This can be a helpful technique to reframe your thoughts. Look into thinking mistakes so you are aware of the types of thoughts you are having from day to day as these thoughts can be automatic.
  3. Practice gratitude. “Gratitude empowers us to take charge of our emotional lives and, as a consequence, our bodies reap the benefits.” - Robert Emmons, The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a life of happiness and wellbeing by giving thanks. Keep a gratitude journal, this can be done in the morning to set the right tone for your day, or as a nighttime activity to practice reflection on what you are grateful for throughout your day. This is a practice that does not take too much time and can easily be included in your morning or nighttime routine. For those of you who are not interested in journaling or writing, there are plenty of apps or you can use a notes app on your phone. You can make this a fun family activity during dinner or any other time you are spending time with family or friends.
  4. Play and connect. The act of playing improves the ability to manage stress, improves overall life satisfaction, and boosts creativity and well-being. Playing outside adds another benefit of getting Vitamin D which is also associated with improved mood. Find a balance on what works for you between “me time” and social time. We all feel good with different levels of socialization but be sure you are not isolating and making meaningful connections with others.
  5. Move your body. I cannot emphasize this enough- not everybody needs to go to a gym. Find something you truly enjoy. There are plenty of free or inexpensive options- dancing, walking, jump roping, yoga, etc.
  6. Practice good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene allows us to cope with stress and adversities and improves energy and focus. Although there is a recommended guide of 7-9 hours, we all need a different amount of sleep, and this is very individualistic to the person. Routine is vital- going to bed and waking up around the same time daily (yes including weekends)- as much as possible. I recommend looking into Andrew Huberman’s Toolkit for Sleep. Alternative activities to screen time can include reading, writing, listening to music, guided meditations, or podcasts, crafts, art activities, and other mindfulness activities.

Whether your goal is to manage a particular mental health challenge, enhance emotional regulation and stability, or seek a boost in positivity and vitality, numerous strategies are available for seizing control of your mental well-being and overall happiness.

Start small and do not become overwhelmed with all the research, keep it simple. Do not feel like the above-discussed techniques need to be implemented all at once. Create specific and achievable goals for yourself to not become overwhelmed. And most importantly, enjoy the journey. 

You can find Dr. Lorena Salas on 


Neff K. D. (2009). The Role of Self-Compassion in Development: A Healthier Way to Relate to Oneself. Human development52(4), 211–214.

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