Everyone needs and deserves the basic knowledge and skills to improve their own mental health–and the events of the past two years have shown us just how important that is.
This Mental Health Week, consider taking steps to get yourself into a happier place with these 8 science-based tips from the Mental Health Foundation
1. MORE AND BETTER SLEEP
Our bodies and minds need sleep to process and recover from the day. Getting enough sleep isn’t just about quantity, it’s also about quality.
- If you’re tired during the day, try to avoid napping. Walk around, get some air or wake yourself up by doing a puzzle instead.
- If you have trouble getting to sleep or wake up during the night, avoid clockwatching, which can teach your mind that you should be awake at that time. Get up for a few minutes, have a drink and try again.
- Create a calming bedtime routine that avoids screen time, work or exercise for an hour or so before bed.
- Don’t worry too much about your sleep–learn to relax instead
- Keep a sleep diary to understand your sleep patterns.
2. UNDERSTAND AND MANAGE FEELINGS
Recognising and learning to manage difficult feelings is vital to our mental health. Mindfulness, the skill of paying attention without judgement to what’s happening in your mind and body, can help you enjoy experiences more, spot problems early and make changes when necessary.
- Explore what makes you feel calm and create some go-to ways to calm down.
- Practise mindfulness meditation.
- Talk to someone about your feelings. It isn’t a sign of weakness.
- Ask for help from friends, family, or a professional.
3. LOOK FORWARD TO SOMETHING
Studies show people who plan–and then actually do–enjoyable and relaxing activities feel happier. Plan regular moments you can look forward to and some extra special treats in times of stress.
- Set time aside every week for an activity you enjoy. Often the activities we enjoy are ones we’re good at–achieving something will boost your self-esteem.
- Try new things.
- Start small by doing something you can look forward to for just five minutes a day.
4. SPEND TIME IN GREEN SPACES
Spending time in nature, again, is about quality as well as quantity: you need to notice and take in your surroundings through your five senses.
- Again, start small with just five minutes paying attention to nature every day.
- Try different ways to experience nature and see what you enjoy most.
- Try putting your phone on silent
- Ask someone to come with you
- Use all your senses to explore your environment.
5. HAVE A HEALTHY DIET
What you eat impacts your mental health as well as your physical health. Getting a full range of nutrients and foods that provide steady energy will make you happier.
- Try to eat a wide variety of foods and get a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fat.
- Notice which foods and drinks make you feel good–and bad.
- Include gut-healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, beans and probiotics.
- Share meals with other people.
6. HELP OTHERS
Kindness means choosing to do something for others–or ourselves–motivated by genuine, warm feelings.
- Consider other people’s feelings and find ways to show kindness based on what they actually need or want.
- Pace yourself–don’t give all your energy away, and remember to be kind to yourself first so you have more energy to be kind to others.
- Again, start small.
- Show kindness in ways that you enjoy–share your skills and interests with others.#
- Think of people you could show kindness to in your family, workplace or community.
7. BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Physical activity can give you a huge mental health boost. Even 10 minutes’ brisk walking has been shown to improve mood, alertness and energy. Regular exercise can also boost our self-esteem, reduce stress, and help with recovery from mental illness.
- Make exercise part of daily life by walking more and making small active changes to your routine.
- Start small and build up gradually.
- Check out exercise apps and social networks.
- Set goals that motivate you.
8. BUILD & MAINTAIN POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships are crucial to our mental health–people with more social connections are happier, physically healthier and live longer. And again, it’s not just about quantity, but quality.
- Get to know yourself. Taking the time to appreciate yourself, get in touch with your emotions and express them healthily will make it easier to socialise.
- Put the work in. Building healthy relationships takes time, commitment and give-and-take.
- Set boundaries–and respect other people’s. Let others know what you do like as well as what you don’t.
- Don’t be afraid to talk openly about your feelings and vulnerabilities with people you trust.
- Listen to understand, not to respond.
- Remember you can only control your own reactions, not other people’s.
- Reflect on what makes your good relationships good, and try to bring those qualities into your other relationships.
If this seems like a lot, you can always start by working on just one tip at a time. Here’s that list again:
Tip 1: More and better sleep
Tip 2: Understand and manage feelings
Tip 3: Look forward to something
Tip 4: Spend time in green spaces
Tip 5: Have a healthy diet
Tip 6: Help others
Tip 7: Be physically active
Tip 8: Build and maintain positive relationships