It’s World Mental Health Day. Mental health problems affect one in four people every year. Just as we take care of our bodies, so too we need to take care of our minds. It is a process. There are no quick fixes and no shortcuts. You can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly be free of depression or anxiety. However, there are steps that you can take to help yourself.
Making simple changes to how you live needn’t cost a fortune, or mean that you have to sacrifice hours of your time. Below are ten ways that you can improve your mental health today. Don’t feel like you have to try them all at once. Start with one and see how you get on.
1. Talk About Your Feelings
It may sound like a cliché, but a problem shared really is a problem halved. Talking about the things that worry us is the first step towards finding a solution. All too often we think that telling someone we’re having a hard time or that we’re struggling to cope will be seen as a sign of weakness. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t and it won’t. Saying how you feel takes so much more strength than bottling up your emotions and taking the time to express yourself will do wonders for your mental health.
2. Keep Active
Another cliché perhaps but physical exercise really does have a positive effect on your mental health. As someone who has suffered from depression I know firsthand just how challenging it can be to find the motivation to do any form of physical exercise. I also know that physical exercise has managed to lift my dark cloud every single time. Exercise releases endorphins which are scientifically proven to improve your mood. Get moving and notice the difference immediately.
3. Eat Well
It goes without saying that eating well has a positive effect on your body but that same balanced diet filled with nutrients will also have a notable effect on your mental health. It may be tempting to just comfort eat junk food but a regular intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrain cereals and bread, dairy products, oily fish and plenty of water will seriously improve your energy levels, as well as giving you healthy hair and nails and glowing skin.
4. Drink Sensibly
Raise your hand if you’ve ever used alcohol to give yourself more confidence or to deal with fear or loneliness. I have and almost every single time I woke up the next day with a hangover and a sickening feeling of dread and regret. That feeling was quite often worse than whatever it was I was trying to forget in the first place and often simply added itself to the mix. Advice from the NHS states that men and women should not exceed more than 14 units of alcohol per week spread over a minimum of 3 days if consumed on a regular basis. Whilst alcohol in moderation is perfectly healthy for most people, there are healthier ways of coping with tough times and difficult emotions.
5. Manage Your Social Media Habits
Social media can be a powerful tool for good. I have made some wonderful friendships with people I’ve met online and thanks to social media I now work for ADDICTED. Unfortunately as we all know social media also has a dark side. A few things you could try to manage your social media habits are:
- Don’t reach for your phone immediately on waking. Wait for at least one hour.
- Limit your screen time to once or twice a day. Resist mindlessly refreshing your feeds.
- Unfollow any accounts that make you feel inadequate.
- Resist engaging with trolls and use the mute and block functions.
6. Ask For Help
If you’re anything like me, asking for help is the hardest thing to do when you have a problem. I tend to convince myself that I have to be the one to find the solution on my own. I’m slowly learning that this is neither helpful nor necessary. I am not superhuman and I do not have to do everything alone and neither do you. As well as talking to friends and family you can speak to your GP who will be able to offer you advice on the best course of action. I went to my GP when I was suffering from depression and was referred to a counsellor for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
7. Take A Break
It is important for your mental health to take even just a single moment every day for yourself. Whether you simply sit and take a few deep breaths for 60 seconds or you decide to get away from it all for a weekend, taking a break from the stresses of daily life will make a world of difference to your wellbeing. Try a meditation app – there are plenty to choose from and I really found they helped me to focus when I first started to meditate. I now meditate for 5 minutes every morning and doing so clears my head and leaves me better prepared to deal with anything the day might throw at me. Think you don’t have the time? Think again. Do what I do and meditate while the kettle boils. You can thank me later.
8. Do Something You Enjoy
Take time to do something that you enjoy, simply because you enjoy doing it. Don’t seek to justify it to yourself or to other people. From simple pleasures like reading a book or watching a film to karaoke or learning how to play an instrument; give yourself permission to relax and have fun. As adults, we rarely do anything for the sheer joy of it, and yet this is one of the simplest ways to improve your mental health.
9. Accept Who You Are
You are unique and there is no one quite like you in the world so why waste your time trying to be like someone else when they already exist? It’s far healthier to focus on being the best version of yourself. Recognise and accept the things that you might not be good at but focus on the things that you can do well. March to beat of your own drum and don’t worry what other people think. Trust me when I say there is nothing more attractive than a person who is comfortable and confident in their own skin.
10. Be Kind To Yourself
Consider the language you use when you talk about and to yourself. We tend to be hypercritical of ourselves, placing unrealistic expectations of who we should be and what we should achieve. Ask yourself ‘would I say this to a friend?’ when criticising yourself. Chances are you wouldn’t. We need to show ourselves more love. Start by allowing yourself to accept a compliment. This is something I struggled with for many years until I was told that all you need to say in response is ‘thank you’. That blew my mind and completely changed my relationship with compliments. Once I learned how to accept a compliment, I started to believe them and now I am able to give them to myself without the need for external validation.
Don’t wait until you have a mental health problem to start taking care of your mental health. This list is by no means exhaustive and some of what works for me might not work for you. It’s also worth noting that I am not a trained therapist and nothing I write here should replace the advice of a professional. That being said, I hope you find even one of the above suggestions useful. Let me know in the comments below.