Taking care of your mental health
Mental health is a topic that is, thankfully, being more and more widely spoken about. Taking care of your well-being is so important and there are many ways in which you can do that. Not everyone is the same, though, and what works for some may not work for you. Here are just a few ways in which you can take charge and look after your mental health.
Exercise is not just good for the body, but also the mind as well. This is because doing physical activity releases a chemical in your brain called endorphins. It can really help with anxiety and depression, as it promotes changes in the brain, including neutral growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. The release of endorphins will also boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, as well as help you sleep better. Exercise doesn’t have to be a strenuous gym session either, it could simply be a half an hour walk outside. It can simply serve as a distraction whilst also relieving stress and tension and boosting physical and mental energy.
Talking to people
Talking to someone and opening up can be a really daunting thing to do, however, communication is very important, no matter who it would be to. Talking about your feelings can be really beneficial for your mental health. It’s not a sign of weakness, in fact, it’s the opposite, as you are taking charge of your well-being and doing what you can to stay healthy. By sharing your troubles, you are going through a very healthy, adaptive coping mechanism that can protect against not only anxiety and depression but also feelings of isolation. Just having someone listen to you can help make you feel supported and less alone.
Learn a new skill
Research has shown that learning new skills can improve mental well-being in many ways. Just a few of them are:
- It boosts self-confidence and raises self-esteem
- It helps build a sense of purpose
- It helps connect with others
There are so many avenues you could go down when it comes to learning a new skill and it could be something simple like cooking or even taking on a new responsibility at work. Another option is to work on a DIY project, such as fixing something broken or maybe signing up for a course at a college. You will benefit more from trying hobbies that are challenging, however, you need to make sure you enjoy them. It’s best to find activities that you enjoy so you are able to make them a part of your life.
Spend time in nature
Nature helps produce many positive emotions, from calmness and joy to creativity and concentration. Research has shown that people who spend more time and are more connected with nature are usually happier in life and are more likely to report feeing their lives are worthwhile. There are many benefits of spending time in nature. It allows you to take time out and feel more relaxed, in course reducing any feelings of stress or anger. High quality natural spaces are better for our well-being. Being in areas with higher biodiversity (wide range of plants and wildlife) can help with that calm and quiet feeling. The amounts of ‘green’ in plants, trees and grass, plants and wildlife and serene landscapes are important in both rural and urban spaces. Developing a new relationship with the natural world by noticing nature can certainly bring benefits to your mental health.
Plan things to look forward to
Thinking about the future can make you feel better in the present. During hard times, it can be hard to muster the energy to make plans for the future. However, having things to look forward to can help us cope with hard times, especially planning activities we find fun. By doing this, you can increase your sense of hope, which is really helpful for your well-being. It doesn’t matter the size of the activity, it’s important that you plan it. You can plan anything, from small pleasures like a dance class or watching your favourite TV programme, to planning trips with family or friends, or going to see your favourite band or sports team. Decide what you’re going to do and who with, plan it and follow through with it.
Eat healthy food
Nutrition plays a key role in not only our physical health, but our mental and emotional well-being as well. Sugar and processed foods can lead to inflammation throughout the body and the brain. This can then lead to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Gut health is so important as it can reflect how you’re feeling. It can speed up or slow down if you’re stressed, so eating things like fruits, veg, beans, and probiotics can help. The link between your diet and emotions comes from the relationship between the brain and the ‘second brain’, scientifically known as the gastrointestinal tract. Your gastrointestinal tract is home to millions of bacteria that influence the production of positive chemical substances like dopamine or serotonin. That means when you eat nutritionally dense foods, it promotes the growth of ‘good’ bacteria, which then aids the production of these chemicals. If you’re unsure where to start with a balanced diet, take a look at the NHS page.
Try and get enough sleep
According to research, brain activity during sleep has a profound effect on both emotional and mental health. That’s due to the fact that sleep facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. This means a lack of sleep can be especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content as the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories. It is becoming clear that sleeping problems may be both a cause and consequence of mental health problems. Adults need between seven and nine hours sleep and a proper sleep can help us feel more energised the next day, allowing us to do more of the stuff that makes us feel better. If you’re struggling with your sleep, here are a few tips to help:
- Develop a relaxing bedtime routine to help you start winding down before eventually actually going to sleep.
- Avoid TV and mobile screens, alcohol, and caffeine before bed. This will help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoiding vigorous exercise before sleep can also help.
- Go to bed and get up around the same time every day, including weekends.
Allowing your brain time to rest means you can be mentally sharp, productive, and emotionally healthy. Being constantly busy can cause burnout which in turn can affect your mental health. By taking the time to just ‘do nothing’, like lounging on the sofa and watching your favourite comfort film, or reading a book, can give your brain time to process emotions and experiences, reinforce learning, as well as consolidate memories. Don’t feel bad about ‘wasting a day’ either, it’s so important to take out time for yourself to recharge and be ready to go again the next day.
If you are struggling, here are a few helpful organisations that could help:
- Young Minds
- Samaritans (call 116 123 for free)
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM – call 0800 58 58 58 for free)
- Shout Crisis Text Line (for support in a crisis, test Shout to 85258)
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