Try This 21-Day Mental Health Plan From Therapists For Mindfulness and Self-Reflection
Sometimes the biggest form of self-care is knowing the right questions to ask yourself. It’s a complicated feat – and one you might not want to start on your own – but eight different therapists took the guesswork out for you.
Each day for 21 days, a therapist will pose a question you can contemplate, and you’ll also be tasked with an actionable way to answer that question. This practice is supposed to help your mental health and, in doing so, perhaps your physical wellbeing. You’ll find a chart of these inquiries below and, ahead, check out a full list of action items for each day of this three-week plan.
Though this is not equivalent to therapy by any means, these therapist-informed inquiries are meant to guide you toward everyday mindfulness. They are important questions that will hopefully promote more self-discovery about your hopes, intentions, and values as well as get you thinking about how you treat your body and mind. Take the challenge to invest in yourself and look within – you may be better for it in the end.
Day 1: How Can I Help Someone Else Today?
Action item: Try doing one thing for someone else today: go grocery shopping for a neighbor who can’t, send a virtual gift card, complete someone else’s chore, or deliver an encouraging message to a friend you know is struggling. Anything for someone else counts!
Day 2: What Are 3 Things I Have to Accomplish Today?
Action item: Make a list of three things you absolutely need to accomplish today, big or small. Set a few realistic goals, not a laundry list of “to-do”s that may not get done. These goals could be running a single errand, tackling two specific work tasks, or doing chores around your living space.
Day 3: What Was a Success of My Day?
This is something you’ll ask yourself at the end of the day. Licensed professional counselor Lindsay Fleming knows that “success” can be a daunting word. “We need to redefine what success is and what it looks like,” she told POPSUGAR.
Action item: Think outside of achievement to answer this question. For example, Fleming said, success might be making your bed or, perhaps, not getting mad at yourself if you woke up late.
Day 4: What Am I Grateful For?
Fleming said, “We can become so caught up in all the wants of life that we forget to focus on what we have.” She added that practicing gratitude can help us lead more fulfilling and happy lives.
Action item: Write at least three things you are grateful for, whether that’s jotting it down when you wake up, in the afternoon, or before you head off to bed. They can be anything: appreciating the roof over your head, counting your close friends, or remembering that you were able to make it through the day.
Day 6: What Are My Unmet Needs?
Licensed professional clinical counselor Shani Tran told POPSUGAR that it’s important to look within ourselves and identify unmet needs we might have.
Action item: Identify at least one need, and then seek to meet it on your own. An example is rest. Find time in your day to take a break.
Day 7: What Sensations Am I Noticing in My Body?
“For people who struggle to identify how they are feeling, paying attention to physical sensations is an easier way to ground yourself in the moment and name hard emotions,” registered psychotherapist Meghan Watson told POPSUGAR. Tran agreed with this as well, stating that emotions can manifest physically.
Action item: Get into a comfortable position, and scan your body from head to toe for discomfort and tension. Try to describe what and where you are feeling discomfort, and practice extending compassion to that area. Repeat as often as necessary.
Day 8: What Boundaries Are Most Important For Me to Uphold Today?
Boundaries prevent burnout, Watson explained. They prevent us from doing too much in too little time and help us manage being overwhelmed. “Boundaries are important for us to create the necessary space to show up unapologetically as ourselves as well as stay accountable to our needs,” she said.
Action item: Write down one to three boundaries as it relates to your time, energy, and resources. Reflect briefly on your upcoming day or week, and consider how you want to enforce these boundaries as you navigate your work, school, or home life.
Day 9: How Can I Be More Open?
Sana Powell, MA, LPC, told POPSUGAR that taking time to reflect on how we can be more open-minded is essential because “past experiences, bias, and self-limiting beliefs can limit our growth.” She added, “Directly asking ourselves what we can be more accepting of can help us identify ways we can more fully receive what life offers us, whether it’s a new perspective, opportunity, or relationship.”
Action item: Do one thing outside of your comfort zone today. Here are some examples from Powell: show vulnerability to someone you care for, try something new without worrying about whether you’re “good” at it, or practice saying “yes” to an opportunity that may foster your growth.
Day 10: What Is My Intention For Today?
Watson said that setting up your day with an intention can create a sense of purpose and is a way to keep your core values in mind during your daily routine.
Action item: Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and consider where you want to focus your energy and purpose for the day. Try not to get caught up in naming a to-do list. Instead, focus more on how you want to move through your day. Once you’ve named an intention, say it out loud or write it down somewhere you can see it as a reminder for when things feel out of balance.
Day 11: In What Ways Are My Stresses Related to Discrimination and Systemic Injustice?
Melody Li, LMFT, founder of Inclusive Therapists, told POPSUGAR that systemic oppression hurts the mental health of people who have been marginalized. This includes those who identify as BIPOC, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and those who are considered neurodiverse.
“People with marginalized identities may begin to question or minimize their own experiences,” Li said. “To take care of our mental health starts with identifying the sources of trauma: personal, relational, systemic, intergenerational, historical. This reflection empowers us to tend to ourselves and our communities more holistically and authentically.”
Action item: Find a caring community with similar experiences. Share your story, and hold space for others. “Collective care is a powerful way to tend to the pains caused by systemic oppression,” Li said. It helps to find validation elsewhere. And, if you don’t find an answer to this question because you come from a place of privilege, do research on how to be a better ally. Read the stories of others. Learn and listen.
Day 12: What Parts of Myself Have I Been Neglecting?
“Self-care encompasses different domains of ourselves such as the psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical, social, and academic or professional realms of life,” Powell said. “Many of us tend to focus on certain areas of our lives while neglecting others, resulting in an imbalance of self-care that places stress on our mental health.”
Action item: Make a balanced self-care plan for yourself. Jot down ideas for how you can care for yourself in each of the following areas of your life: psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical, social, and professional. You might find overlap in your ideas, or you may notice that brainstorming ideas for self-care is easier for some areas and harder for others. Plan to nurture parts of yourself that you tend to overlook.
Day 13: What Self-Limiting Beliefs Are Holding Me Back?
This is the opposite of identifying self-affirmations. “The negative messages we consciously and subconsciously tell ourselves can deteriorate our self-confidence and lead to self-doubt,” Powell said. “Checking in with ourselves about what self-limiting beliefs we hold and where they might have originated from can help us maintain our mental health and achieve our potential.”
Action item: Tap into your inner-critic to identify doubts you have about yourself. Ask yourself if your inner-critic resembles the voice of someone in your life or a person from your past. Then, write down your reflections. This, Powell said, may help provide insight on your negative self-talk and how it might hold you back.
Day 14: How Can I Invest in a Relationship That Matters to Me Today?
Therese Mascardo, PsyD, told POPSUGAR that healthy relationships are an important building block of sustained mental health, though it can be difficult during our daily lives to prioritize those relationships. “Asking this question daily can help us make sure that we are prioritizing what will support our wellbeing in the long run,” she said.
Action item: Write down the name of one person who matters to you. Next to their name, write down one thing you can do to invest in that relationship. For example, “Sarah: send over a text to see how her mom is doing.”
Day 15: How Do I Want to Feel at the End of Today?
Dr. Mascardo said that focusing on how we want to feel can help us follow through with goals for the day.
Action item: Complete the following sentences on paper:
- “At the end of today, I want to feel . . . “
- “Two things I can do to help me feel that way are . . .”
Day 16: What Can I Let Go Of?
Powell said that it can be easy to hold on to things we’re comfortable with even though they may affect our health in a negative way. “Asking ourselves what we can let go of challenges us to consider the beliefs and behaviors that we no longer need,” she explained. “Maintaining our mental health is a process that requires decluttering what we’ve outgrown and making space for new ways of being.”
Action item: Focus on how you spend your time. Identify things you spend time on solely out of habit even if they don’t align with what your goals and values are. Chose something else you’d like to make time for instead.
Day 17: What Growth Have I Experienced?
Powell said that looking backwards in order to see how far you’ve come is important. “While it can be easy to ignore your growth and solely focus on what you have not accomplished, take time to reflect on your journey, what you’ve learned, and how you’ve evolved,” she noted. “Acknowledging and affirming your growth can help build your self-esteem and sustain your motivation to achieve your goals.”
Action item: Free-write a reflection of different parts of your life. This can be your mental health, physical health, social life, or anything else. See how you’ve evolved over time.
Day 18: Am I Fawning?
Tasha Bailey, MBACP, a trauma and creative counselor, told POPSUGAR that the fawn response is a reaction to stress or trauma, and it’s “pretending that everything is fine or people-pleasing in order to be liked and to avoid further stress.”
Action item: Today, when you enter spaces or conversations, decide whether you feel safe enough to not wear that mask. Ask yourself what stands in your way of taking that mask off. Or, more generally, you can reflect on what people you tend to have your guard up with.
Day 19: What's 1 Small Step That Can Help Me Move Toward My Goal?
Dr. Mascardo said that we tend to focus on large, intimidating goals that cause us to feel discouraged, and this can “sabotage any hint of progress.” Breaking these goals down into small steps makes them easier to grasp.
Action item: “Take a big goal, and identify one laughably small step to move you forward,” Dr. Mascardo suggested.
Day 20: Am I Honoring My Body?
“In society, we are often told what bodies are acceptable or unacceptable,” Bailey said. She noted that it leads to body-shaming “whether it be because of body shape, skin color, or disability. All bodies are beautiful and deserve to be appreciated.”
Action item: Bailey suggested purchasing, renting, or borrowing books like The Body Is Not an Apology and Fattily Ever After. Diversify your social media feed so that you are seeing more bodies that look like yours rather than society’s expectations of what beauty is.
Bonus action item: Dr. Mascardo suggested identifying one thing you can do to support your body. It can be:
Day 21: What's the Most Beautiful Thing I Saw Today?
Dr. Mascardo said, “Appreciating beauty is immensely valuable for our well-being,” and that asking this question can help us connect with gratitude. It also can make us more mindful of beauty on a regular basis.
Action item: At the end of your day, write down something that you felt was beautiful. It can be a person, situation, feeling, object, or whatever else you want to identify. Beauty should be boundless.