Cultivating healthy habits is essential for mental health. Whether it’s exercising regularly or taking up new hobbies, expats should prioritize activities that nurture their well-being.

It’s also important to maintain close connections with family and friends back home. Regular video calls or emails can ease feelings of homesickness and loneliness.

1. Get Moving

If you’ve lived in the same place for a long time, it’s easy to get into a rut. You go to the same bars, see the same people, and do the same things each day – all of which can lead to boredom and negatively impact your mental health.

Getting out and about can help with this, especially if you’re able to immerse yourself in your new community. Whether that means learning the local language, joining a group or club, or simply wandering the streets of your neighborhood – all of these can be great for your mental health.

Regular exercise has also been shown to be incredibly beneficial for mental health, so try to incorporate this into your daily routine. This could be as simple as going for a walk or getting some light cardio, or it might be a more involved activity like yoga or Pilates. It’s important to find a form of physical activity that will work for you and your lifestyle.

2. Make Time for Fun

Many expats who work and live abroad feel like they are constantly on the go. Their responsibilities and commitments make it easy to put fun on the back burner, especially if they have an Iceberg Belief in place (a deeply held belief that is difficult or impossible to change).

Taking time for fun and leisure activities can help to combat stress, depression, fatigue, and burn out. Make sure to build fun and relaxation into your schedule every day. Whether it’s stargazing during your lunch break, dancing to your favorite song on the radio, or making faces at the drivers in front of you, incorporating small bits of pleasure can reduce stress and increase happiness.

Hobbies are great for reducing stress, as are group-based activities. Try exercising with a friend, playing an activity-based video game together, or going for a hike, bike ride, or dance class. Studies show that engaging in rhythmic activities, such as jogging, swimming, dancing, yoga, and tai chi are particularly effective at lowering stress.

3. Get Connected

In addition to getting enough sleep, expats should also make time for meaningful social interactions with friends and family back home. Maintaining these connections can reduce stress and provide support during difficult times.

Another helpful habit is journaling. This can help expats gain clarity on their feelings and emotions, as well as foster a sense of self-awareness. It is also a great way to reflect on new experiences and learn from them.

Expats should also take advantage of local community groups and activities, such as joining a sports team or book club. Getting involved in the local community can help them build routine and become familiar with their new city.

For many people, establishing healthy habits is the key to a happy and healthy life. With dedication and some creative thinking, these daily habits can significantly improve mental health. In addition, international healthcare coverage often includes mental health services, ensuring you can get the care and support you need.

4. Take Care of Yourself

The benefits of expat life can be immense, but they also come with unique challenges that can impact mental health. Incorporating regular self-care and setting boundaries can help expats maintain a healthy outlook while living abroad.

Take some time each day to reflect on your mental well-being. This may include meditating or engaging in mindfulness exercises to soothe the mind and body. It’s also a good idea to focus on your physical health by prioritizing sleep and eating well.

Having a strong support system and staying connected to loved ones is essential for maintaining good mental health. Expats should also try to be open about their feelings and emotions with others. Talking through challenges can be a great way to let go of stress and feel more in control. Setting achievable goals, both short and long-term, can also provide a sense of purpose and boost motivation. Lastly, it’s important to remember that downs will happen in expat life, but they are often followed by ups.

5. Set Goals

There’s a reason coaches and motivators preach the importance of setting goals. It gives you something to strive for, redirects your attention away from the negative obstacles, and reconnects you with your innermost desires.

The best goals are intrinsically motivated, meaning they’re based on your personal values and interests rather than extrinsic ones like money or social status. Having intrinsically-motivated goals will make you feel more confident, safe, and strong.

It also helps to prioritize your daily tasks so you can make sure the only activities you do are those that move you closer to your goal. Having a clear destination to work toward reduces stress, overwhelm and allows you to get more time back for things that matter most. Remember the popular saying, “Aim for the moon and you’ll land among the stars”. So, set those goals! And don’t stop until you achieve them. You can do it! Your new home will eventually start to feel like yours.

6. Disconnect from Technology

For many of us, life revolves around our electronic devices. We wake up to check email notifications and respond, use a traffic app to navigate, and listen to our favorite music or podcast on the way to work. Once at the office, we check social media and respond to texts, then spend time working on projects or researching.

Disconnecting from technology provides mental health benefits, such as improving your attention span and increasing self-awareness. It also allows you to focus on your work without distractions, enhancing productivity. It can be challenging to disconnect from technology, especially when working remotely.

However, it is important to set realistic boundaries around your usage of electronic devices. Try setting aside specific hours each day to avoid screen time, and designate rooms like the bedroom or dining room as tech-free zones. This can encourage family connections and face-to-face interactions, as well as fostering healthier habits. Practice mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep breathing to help you unwind and relax when spending time disconnected from technology.

7. Practice Meditation or Deep Breathing

Meditation is a form of mind-body complementary medicine that can be practiced to relax and lower stress. It can be done sitting in a chair, lying down or loosely cross-legged, and you can do it for a few minutes to a few hours at a time.

Deep breathing practices like sighing, chanting and a focused attention on the breath (either in your body or in your mind) can help reduce stress and anxiety. They can also reverse the fight-or-flight response by changing the biochemistry of your brain, explains Winston.

Other activities such as art and running can produce a meditative state, but they aren’t considered meditation in and of themselves. She says the most important thing is to make time to get enough quality sleep, and that consistent meditation helps support better mental health over the long term. Practicing mindfulness and taking moments to appreciate the present is another good habit.

8. Make Time for Self-Reflection

Reflection helps you zoom out and see the big picture. This is why people often say, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” Self-reflection can prevent you from going down the road of rumination, self-criticism, negative self-talk, and constant comparison to others.

You may also find that a regular self-reflection practice helps you better articulate your emotions. That can help you improve your communication skills and reduce the cognitive dissonance that comes when your words and actions don’t align with your core values, Wilson says.

During a time of reflection, try to focus on major events and emotions that have occurred in your life recently. This can help you process them and determine what steps you might take in the future. You can also journal your thoughts and feelings and look back on past experiences. Some people enjoy reflecting upon waking or prior to going to sleep as these times are typically quiet and worry-free.

9. Seek Help

Although it’s normal to feel homesick from time to time, if the symptoms last for weeks or are interfering with your daily life, seek help. Seek support from friends and family, or an expat therapist who understands the unique stresses of international living.

You can find expat therapists through online search platforms, and often they will have experience living abroad themselves. Check with your embassy or consulate for information on local support networks as well.

Prioritizing expat mental health requires a conscious effort to foster resilience and build connections, but the rewards are many. Staying active, embracing the local culture, staying connected, practicing self-care, and seeking help when you need it are essential strategies for balancing the joys and challenges of international living. Want to learn more about how to prioritize your expat mental health? Click here for a free expat depression guide.