'The Next Right Thing': Kristin Bell On Mental Health And Learning To Cope

Close up photo of Kristin Bell. Her hair is parted in the middle, blonde, and cropped at the shoulder.
Getty | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

Health & Lifestyle
Tiara Winter-Schorr

Kristin Bell, star of Frozen, Frozen 2, and The Good Place, first joined the conversation on mental health and wellness in 2016 when she wrote an editorial piece for Time magazine. The New York University educated actress discussed the importance of overcoming the stigma of mental illness by speaking out; she admitted to feeling about "ten minutes of shame" the first time she spoke publicly.

Since then, she has been open about her personal struggles, her approach to wellness and what she is teaching her daughters about coping. Scroll down to learn more about Bell's mental health and how she finds balance.

Mental Health Matters

Kristin Bell in a loose fitting calf length linen jacket with a black cut out top and matching linen pants. She is wearing flip flops on her feet. Her hair is parted in the middle and blunt bobbed at her shoulders.
Getty | Leon Bennett

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, Bell is one of tens of millions Americans who live with some form of mental illness. While Bell is fortunate enough to have the resources to access treatment, less than half of these Americans don't ever receive treatment or help of any kind. If you are in need of immediate assistance in the US, you can text TALK to 741741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor.

Bell's battle with depression began around the age of 18, when she was a freshman at NYU. Although she felt content with her life at the time, she also felt a "complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming." She went on to say she "felt worthless, like...a failure." This marked the first time she undertook treatment for depression and anxiety.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed over 6 million people to date and negatively impacted countless others, left Bell feeling emotionally paralyzed and hopeless. She credits her husband, Dax Shepard, with helping her find concrete ways to fight back, which included giving blood and donating money to charities like No Kid Hungry. But more importantly, she also reached into her "toolbox," which is an array of resources and habits that she has committed to using in good times and bad times. In the next section, we'll look at her toolbox of resources and the mindset she relies on to keep herself moving forward.

Recovery And Wellness

Kristin Bell leaps though the air, wearing a long black skirt and a black and green athletic crop top. She carries a weight above her head.
Women's Health | DENNIS LEUPOLD

Bell's first step in treatment was finding the proper medication. Back in 2019, Bell sat down with a journalist from Women's Health magazine and discussed the importance of medication, therapy, meditation, physical fitness, and nutrition.

Her physical fitness journey involves a strenuous form of Pilates that incorporates cardio, Crossfit, and circuit training. She attends the grueling classes 3 times a week, and also exercises on alternate days with resistance bands, Yamuna balls, and foam rollers. It wasn't until 2018 that Bell became devoted to exercise and physical strength. Her workout routine has helped her feel "so much more centered, patient, capable."

When it comes to her eating habits, she is vegetarian and doesn't shy away from carbs. Her typical day begins with a light breakfast of matcha made with pea milk. When on-set, she usually orders egg whites with veggies and feta cheese, followed by a salted bagel with cream cheese. Before lunch she has a protein shake made with hemp milk and a salad loaded with healthy toppings. Dinner often finds her eating chickpea pasta, olive oil, and more veggies. But she is careful to point out that she doesn't restrict herself to an extreme degree. She prefers to allow herself small portions of the foods she loves, like au gratin potatoes.

She also makes use of a variety of supplements, including CBD oil and adaptogens. Everyone responds differently to supplements and exercise, so please talk to your doctor before beginning a health regimen.

Another critical component of her mental health is the mindset she adheres to and tries to pass on to her young daughters, Delta and Lincoln. In a case of art imitating life, her mindset also helped to shape her role in Frozen 2. Scroll down to find out more about the Disney star's approach to life and depression.

The Next Right Thing

Kristin Bell at the premier of Frozen II. She is wearing a long tan colored gown with a peep hole front.
Shutterstock | 673594

One of Bell's biggest lessons in therapy was learning to separate herself from her emotions. Once she understood that she was not her feelings, she was able to analyze her situation and what she wanted out of it. When her daughters find themselves upset, she often asks them if they want to find a solution for the issue at hand, or if they simply want to let the feeling pass through them. In doing so, she hopes to help them find a way to ground themselves, to make space for their feelings, and to entertain solutions.

During harder times, when Bell has found herself unable to move forward, she holds on to a simple mantra: do the next right thing. For her, the next right thing might be getting out of bed, taking a walk, taking her daughters to school, or eating something healthy. During the filming of Frozen 2, she wanted Anna to find her way out of grief and melancholy in a practical way - for both Anna and Bell, it is to remember to simply do the next right thing. Bell also imparts this wisdom to her daughters, giving them a map of how to find their way out of the dark.

The final component of Bell's toolbox is the pursuit of balance. In the next section, we'll look at what that means for her and how she compromises with herself.

Finding Balance

Kristin Bell and Dax Shepard on stage together. She talks into a microphone while he looks at her, smiling. She is wearing yellow pants, white sneakers, and a green turtleneck. He is wearing grey pants and a black shirt.
Getty | Rick Kern

Bell has made it strikingly clear that her daughters and her husband are her ultimate way forward. She finds her professional inspiration in them, as well as her personal joy. For her, finding balance means that she is available to take her daughters to school in the morning, that she does her own cooking, and that she will not take projects filmed outside of Los Angeles. While she admits that her professional options are limited by this decision, she has said that she would easily trade in her career for her family.

For the average person, the takeaway from Bell's message should be triple fold: the importance of communication, the necessity of a multi-faceted approach to mental health, and the need for a work-life balance. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health problems, please contact a crisis organization, talk to a friend, or seek treatment at a hospital. There is always hope.

If you are struggling with your mental health, here are some resources.