It’s important to take care of your mental health in order to live your best life. Making simple changes to how you live could vastly improve your mental health.
The current climate will undoubtedly be mentally challenging for many of us. For this reason, now might be a good time to develop some new positive habits to help us cope with difficult circumstances. Here are some of the techniques I use to help me better handle bad mental health days.
PHYSICAL HEALTH IS GOOD FOR MENTAL HEALTH
There are strong links between physical health and mental health. When we look after our body, we feel better about ourselves. Our confidence increases, we have more energy, and our mood is given a natural boost too.
Your diet can have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A healthy balanced diet includes proper hydration, lots of nutritious food, and minimal sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Foods high in antioxidants (dark chocolate and berries for example), are also said to have a mood boosting effect.
Exercise releases chemicals (known as endorphins) in your brain that make you feel good. Experts say most people should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.
GET IT OFF YOUR CHEST
Writing down or talking to someone about how you feel is a great way to put negative thoughts to rest. When you talk about how you feel a number of things happen:
- Your stress level is reduced.
- You prevent your feelings from escalating.
- You’ll create closer, more fulfilling relationships.
- Your emotions are much more controllable.
Prof Ewan Gillon suggests talking about mental health or related problems over a coffee, during a walk or even on the commute home. But if talking among friends and family isn’t enough, there are therapies centered around talking. If you are asking your GP for those you may be referred for counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
AVOID BAD HABITS
Bad habits jeopardise your health — both mentally and physically. It’s easy to fall into bad habits in times of crisis. Whether your bad habit is alcohol, smoking, or overeating remember that the effects are only temporary. You’re likely to feel far worse after the effects have worn off.
Bad habits can be hard to quit. Instead, replace that bad habit with a new healthy habit. Have a plan ahead of time for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that prompts your bad habit. Getting tempted to smoke? Go for a walk around the block instead. Another way to make it easier on yourself to break bad habits is by avoiding the things that cause them. Throw out or hide away the items that enable your bad habit.
SENSE OF COMMUNITY
We are all in this together. If you’re feeling isolated right now why not take the initiative to help someone else who could be feeling isolated. Give someone a call, drop them a note or chat online. Check in on your family and friends. Now is the time to work at relationships that make you feel loved or valued.
Try doing something charitable. Offer to fetch groceries for an elderly neighbour, raise money for a good cause, have a daily check in with a friend who is also having a hard time.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
Don’t put pressure on yourself to be productive or healthy or sociable. Starting to experience narrative thoughts? Turn them around and think about the things that make you smile. Appreciate the everyday miracles, like the small plant growing on the path or the birds flying outside.
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. Take a five-minute pause from cleaning, a long walk through a local park or a new daily routine. Try yoga or meditation, or just putting your feet up. Take a deep breath… and relax.
FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
Your mental health and what is best for it is personal to you. During lockdown I’ve found that going for a walk midday makes me feel energised and playing animal crossing for an hour in the evening helps me to relax.
Listen to your body. If you’re tired, try improving your sleep quality. If you’re hungry, consider how you could make more fulfilling meals. Feeling isolated? Give a friend a call. Sick of being indoors? Go for a walk. It might be a big effort to start doing something new but in a few days you’ll have created a new healthy habit.