10 months ago · Andy · Comments Off on 7 Habits that Encourage Good Mental Health
By Andy – Arch Care Services
A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body, but sometimes we can forget just how important it is to form habits that ensure that you are happy, confident and secure. We all understand that we should eat well and get plenty of exercise, but what can we do to make sure that we are emotionally strong, resilient and content, as well as physically healthy?
1. Get some rest!
We spend around a third of our lives in bed, and sleep is just as vital as eating, drinking and breathing, and going just a couple of days without a good nights sleep can have a huge impact on your emotions, memory and critical thinking abilities. A common misunderstanding of people with mental health concerns is that they should just ‘pull themselves together’, or ‘get up and do something!’, but in reality it’s probably more important that these issues are addressed and understood, as they can often be both a contributing factor and a side effect of a mental illness.
Make sure that you have an established sleep schedule and stick to it. Go to bed at a set time, and this means no television or mobile phones! In fact, it’s probably best to keep screens out of the room altogether if possible, and only go to bed when you intend to sleep. Your brain is fantastic at making connections, and it’s important that your brain connects your bedroom with sleeping. Make sure the room is comfortable and free of distractions, and if you can’t sleep pick up a book and read for a while rather than scrolling through Facebook!
2. Think positive thoughts!
Sometimes when we feel low, positivity can feel like an impossible task, but there’s loads of evidence that says that positive thinking can have a major impact on your mood, which makes you feel more positive, which increases your mood even further! It’s a fantastic, happy cycle, and we should do everything we can to get ourselves into that cycle.
Start small. Every morning, tell yourself out loud that today is going to be a good day. When something good happens, notice it! We are all excellent at remembering the bad and forgetting the good, try to pay special attention to the good things in your life, even if they’re small. A random encounter with a stranger that made you smile, a particularly delicious sandwich, even something as small as doing the washing up, pay attention to them and remind yourself that they exist.
3. Exercise and eat well
I know it sounds cliché, but the saying ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ is absolutely true! We are biological machines, and if we use the wrong type of fuel or allow our joints to rust then everything else will be impacted. You don’t need to enter a triathalon, or eat only protein shakes and broccoli, you’re not entering the Olympics! Start by getting outside and moving around, even if it’s only for 10 minutes a day. Just a small amount of exercise and fresh air can have a huge impact. Try to make sure that you eat something green with every meal, avoid junk food, cut down on the carbs and sugar, maybe consider brushing up on your cooking skills! You’ll be amazed at the difference that these small changes will make to your mood. And it’s a great excuse to brush up on your cooking skills while you’re at it!
4. Give yourself a break!
We live in a high pressure, fast paced world. Social media and the internet mean that we get our information quickly, we’re always on the go, absorbing information and responding emotionally. In some ways this is great, we’re more connected than ever before, we can communicate with friends and family wherever we are, and we have new support networks available to us that we wouldn’t have been able to access 20 years ago. But it can also cause stress, anxiety, a feeling of being overwhelmed and huge pressure to be available at all times. Go easy on yourself! Practise some self care, and make sure you put aside some time for yourself. Go out into nature and spend some time away from your screens, try to reduce the time you spend on social media, and if you’re a news junkie like me, maybe consider reducing the amount of time you spend reading about current affairs! It’s alright to have some downtime and focus on things that relax you and make you feel happy, whatever those things may be.
5. Pick up a hobby!
One of the best ways to maintain a healthy mind is to keep your brain active and occupied. If you have a hobby already, try to make sure that you keep it up. One of the first things that we tend to do when we feel low is stop doing things that previously made us happy, and it’s important that you avoid that if possible. If you have lost track of your hobbies, don’t worry! Just try to take some small steps to pick it up again and get back into it. Or maybe consider something entirely new! It could be anything, from sewing to fishing to whittling to collecting stamps, anything that interests you and gives you something to focus on in a positive way. The internet is an incredible resource for picking up information about possible new hobbies that are cheap or free and can be started almost immediately. Some of them may even have local organisations or clubs that you could attend, which has the added bonus of encouraging you to meet other people with similar interests. Don’t worry if this doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of hobbies that you can do on your own if that’s more your style.
6. Be mindful!
Mindfulness is a technique that teaches you to try and focus on how you are feeling in the moment and paying attention to physical sensations and emotional reactions. There is a mountain of evidence that suggests that practising mindfulness regularly encourages us to let go of negative encounters from the past and anxieties about the future and pay attention to our experience of life as it occurs. Try to pay attention to the physical sensations, sounds, smells, or tastes of your day to day routine, notice how things make you feel and how your body and mind react to them. Don’t try to deny emotions or run away from them, just notice them, understand them and move on. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work immediately, mindfulness is a technique that takes practise and needs time to develop, but if you stick with it then it will help enormously.
7. Open up!
Despite all our best efforts, it can sometimes still feel difficult to be honest about your struggles with mental health. We don’t always know how people are going to react, and that can be scary. But being honest with yourself, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and asking for help is a really important part of staying mentally healthy. We’re not made of stone, everyone struggles sometimes, and the best thing we can do for ourselves, and for everyone else, is to be honest and open. That could be something as small as calling a friend and asking to talk, or going online and finding an anonymous support network if that’s easier, or it could be something bigger like calling a doctor and asking for help or attending a local support group. Whatever route is best for you, talking to other people and asking for advice, support and guidance can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the person that someone turns to when they need help or advice, and you’ll be able to offer them the same help that you received when you needed it the most.
It can be easy to forget just how important it is to look after our mental health, but if you take steps to embed healthy habits now, they will pay off in the future. The steps above are a great place to start!