Four easy ways to boost your mental health today

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Mental illness can be all-consuming. Here are four self-care tips you can try today to feel better.

Life can be stressful, and 2020 has thrown us several curveballs, with the global pandemic and lockdown. It’s no wonder many of us are finding anxiety take hold, damaging our mental health.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to the NHS, one in four adults and one in ten children experience mental illness. And the thing is, anyone can suffer from emotional problems, no matter how rosy things might appear on social media. But with more and more people opening up about mental health – including Prince Harry, Rio Ferdinand, Lady Gaga – the good news is you can, and will, feel better.

It’s World Mental Health Day this Saturday (10 October), so here are our top self-care tips to help you boost your mental health, or to help a loved one.

Go outdoors

Exercising outside, particularly in nature, can clear the cobwebs in the head as well as in the muscles. In fact a study by the University of Exeter found that spending at least two hours a week in nature can boost psychological wellbeing and health*.

What's more, even just five minutes surrounded by greenery is enough to give you a motivating boost for the day, scientists found.

Find joy in the little things

When you’re feeling low, it can feel like the whole world is against you. Rather than focusing on the big picture, turn your attention to the little things that can make you happier right now – like having a coffee with a friend who makes you laugh, taking a long bath or going for a walk in the autumn sun.

Paying attention to the present moment in a mindful way helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that, instead of being overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them.

Start the day well

A simple idea is to try a morning mantra. It can be something which makes you feel optimistic about the day to come or else, a few words which make you pause for a moment to reflect on how you’re feeling. For example, ‘Today I will ignore any negative moments and focus only on the positive’. Writing a journal can also help with this - every morning, a few notes for your ‘to do’ list which are easy to achieve can make a world of difference to your day. Simply by recognising the positives in your life, you are training your brain to be naturally honed towards noticing more of the good.

Get enough zzzs

Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep – it’s essential to our health and wellbeing, and a lack of it will slow down your thinking, and impair memory, concentration, decision-making and even learning. While the number of hours you sleep counts – 7-9 is ideal – the quality matters, too. Broken, restless nights mean your body isn’t getting the chance to do all the clever restorative housekeeping it needs to (like consolidating memories, clearing toxins and repairing cells), so eliminate anything that disrupts sleep. That means no screens an hour before bed, cut back on caffeine and alcohol, and make your bedroom a place of calm and tranquillity.

Remember, you are not alone

Looking at social media, it’s easy to (wrongly) assume that everyone has a better life. To avoid this negative thought pattern, unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, and focus on the positive ones that make you feel less alone – like author Matt Haig’s (@mattzhaig) Instagram. Matt’s uplifting and inspirational posts about mental health have been a great comfort to many during lockdown, as have artist Charlie Mackesy’s (@charliemackesy) beautiful drawings celebrating the NHS, as well as from his book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. As we said before, focusing on the positives will teach your brain to look out for more of the good in the world.

For help and advice

Visit NHS.UK and search Mental Health Help

nhs.uk

mentalhealth.org.uk

mind.org.uk

*[Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31197192/]

** [Source: https://www.medicaldaily.com/color-green-enhances-exercise-boosting-motivation-and-energy-243535]