Prioritising things that give your mental health a boost is essential for living a more fulfilled and resilient life. Everyone is different so the best option is to try some things for a few days and make your very own mental health plan that suits your lifestyle and needs, and importantly sets goals and boundaries that you can easily follow.
Most of these are common sense, but are they common practice?
Increase movement: Being active can help with weight loss, muscle build-up, and boost energy levels, which can aid in your emotional well-being. You don’t need to run marathons or join an expensive gym, just aim to slowly increase your general movement each day. Make sure you choose something you enjoy but that challenges you, so you’re more likely to keep up with it and see results.
Get a balanced diet: It is true that your nutrition directly affects your mental health. This is a tough one, because usually when we feel down we seek comfort food but that isn’t helpful in the long term. So it is a real mindset shift that is needed. When we don’t eat a balanced diet, or drink enough water it deprives our bodies of vital nutrients. Try to get more whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts as this will leads to a healthier lifestyle and effectively fuel your brain. It doesn’t have to be a life overhaul – that rarely works – but just a few swapped meals a week, is a good place to start!
Focus on gratitude: How often do you feel that the day has been terrible, but if you went through each moment of the day, you would find that for the most part those negative elements are less than you first thought. Our brains love to grab hold of the negative, so writing down (or saying out load) just a few things every day that you’re grateful for can reframe the day and have a positive impact on your life! This can be small things such as the train was on time, the sun is shining, the taste of a favourite food, or special song you hear. Or it could be bigger milestones such as a promotion, great feedback, doing a PB in sport or completing a project. The idea is that you will build your positive mindset and remind yourself to focus on the positives.
Meditate: Meditation can be a useful tool and stress reliever that can boost your mental health. Again, find something that works for you, do a guided meditation using an app, go to a retreat, or simply reciting a calming positive mantra to start the day. Being able to switch off by making an effort to remove distractions and demands, focus on the present moment and be aware of your breath for a few minutes each day, will help you to reach a state of inner calm and peacefulness. Learning to pause and being able to transport yourself to a place of calm is essential for building resilience.
Community: It is important to not separate and isolate yourself from human connection. If you are struggling you may think no one wants to listen, or you should distance yourself socially. We all need connection so make a plan to get in touch with family or friends a few times a week. There are so many ways to connect nowadays and if you prefer online and at home, there are loads of clubs and groups that you can become a part of and join a supportive community. Connection can instil a sense of belonging and purpose showing you that you’re a part of something bigger and meaningful.
Offer help: One of the best ways to give your mood a lift is to help other people. Giving back helps to make a difference in your community, but it can also help improve your self-worth and purpose in your life. Select a task or organisation that lines up with your interests and volunteer your time. Whilst that may feel like a big step, the satisfaction you’ll experience is worth the effort. Plus you’ll meet likeminded people that will provide community too. Remember start small, volunteer for a one off time and see how you feel, then build up to something more fixed when you’re ready.
Do what you love: One of the biggest mistakes we can make when we are busy and in demand is to give up our artistry and creativity! Those things that bring us joy and peace. It could be reading, playing a musical instrument, crafting, writing, dancing, a sport or hobby. Usually it is the first thing we put aside with a promise to come back to it when we are time poor. When we take away the things we love, we are robbing ourselves of growth, presence and enjoyment. So, make sure you schedule in time for you and the things you love, add it to your calendar and make a non-negotiable commitment to yourself, you deserve it.
Switch off: With most media outlets bias towards the negative and sensational, it can be difficult to believe the world is a good place full of opportunity and beauty. Sometimes you need to switch off and get off line to stop the negative noise. Set downtimes on your devices and focus on getting outdoors in nature and spending quality time with people that make you happy. It is ok to not watch the news and scroll endlessly online. If you work in a profession that is mostly screen based, be strict about scheduling off screen time and setting limits. One of the best tips is to not have your phone in your bedroom, avoid it being the last thing you look at night and the first in the morning.
When to seek expert help: If your low mood has become the norm and nothing you have tried has helped then seek help immediately and remember you are not alone. Whether anonymous, in person or online, there are so many outlets – often for free – that can guide you and support you for what you need. Visit here https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/mental-health-services/ to find out more!