How to improve your mental health: 5 things you can do for your wellbeing!

Taking care of your physical, emotional and mental health is fundamental to improving the overall quality of your life.

However, mental health care can easily be neglected or misinterpreted as a luxury instead of the necessity it actually is. No two people are the same and not all issues can be solved with a few self-caring practices, but implementing these changes into your daily routine can help strengthen your overall mental health. In recognition of Mental Health Week, here are the day-to-day practices you can use to improve your mental wellbeing.

1. Look after your body

Exercise is as important for mental health as it is for physical health. Whether it is a strenuous High Intensity Interval Training session at your local gym or a morning stroll around your neighbourhood, exercise promotes the release of feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. According to Beyond Blue, studies have demonstrated that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as therapy and medication. A study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that going for a 15 minute run or hour long walk daily reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Additionally, even five minutes of cardio or aerobic exercise can begin to reduce anxiety, as discovered by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Finding a sport you enjoy, inviting a friend along and incorporating it into your daily routine are achievable changes you can make to better your mental health.

2. Check in with yourself

Pay attention to your mind and body, ask yourself; do I have less energy than I used to? Or, have I lost interest in everything I used to be passionate about?

Putting time aside for yourself is an important way to keep control of your mental health. In order to change behavioural patterns and emotions, it is essential to identify negative thinking patterns. Certain apps for mindfulness such as What’s Up and IMoodJournal can help you keep track of your wellbeing, habits and moods. Even journaling can help you both express and reflect on your own state of mind. Familiarising yourself with your body and mind can help you be self-aware and susceptible to the changes in your moods and behaviour.

3. Focus on building healthy, supportive relationships

Having a healthy support network is an essential way to create a sense of wellbeing. Strong interpersonal relationships are important as they give us a sense of purpose and belonging while also reinforcing that we are not alone during difficult times. A study conducted by SANE Research conveyed that almost 90% of respondents believed social relationships to be ‘important’ or ‘very important’ in regard to the management of their mental health. Talking to friends and family is a useful way to recount what has happened throughout your day and share what is going on in your mind. Asking for help from family members and friends is a strength, not a sign of weakness. There is no shame in asking for help as being open and honest about your mental health is a great way to improve it.

4. Prioritise your sleep

Sleep is commonly regarded as one of the most important things for a person’s mental and physical health. Someone’s mood can be directly dependent on the quality of their sleep. A long and deep sleep can leave you feeling refreshed whereas a low quality sleep can cause a lack of concentration, irritability, and even increased anxiety and depression. According to Principle Research Scientist at NeuRA, Associate Professor Danny Eckert, “sleep directly impacts mental health and in the long term inadequate sleep increases the risk of developing depression, anxiety disorder, and burnt out”. The National Sleep Foundation recommends around 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night. To achieve this, a regular bedtime and waking time are paramount, along with avoiding electronic screens and stimulants, such as caffeine, before bed. A dark, cool and quiet bedroom also creates a more sleep-friendly environment.

5. Do something you love

Research indicates that those with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress and depression. Participating in a creative activity you enjoy expands your brain’s neural connections, which can release feel-good hormones such as dopamine. As neuroscientist Dr Daniel Levitin told Brit + Co, creative hobbies “are the perfect antidote to high-stress jobs of multitasking and computer-based work,” as they “hit the reset button in the brain, replenishing neurochemicals in the brain that have been depleted by a few hours of high-stress work”. Having a hobby you are passionate about can improve confidence, self-esteem, and overall wellbeing, so don’t forget to take some time out each day to do something you love.