We get our five-a-day and exercise to keep our bodies healthy. We get dental check-ups. We go to the doctor’s when our body starts doing something out of the ordinary. But we are nowhere near that vigilant with our mental health. 1 in 4 of us will suffer mental health problems at some point in our lives. Here are some tips for keeping your mental health in tip-top shape.
Talk about your problems
You wouldn’t hesitate to complain about a headache, but the social stigma attached (pointlessly) to mental health means that people are reluctant to tell others that they’re feeling down. Don’t suffer in silence. If you’re feeling sad or stressed about something, get it off your chest before it festers, and before secrecy becomes your habitual method of dealing with problems. Just have a good old rant to a friend or family member, or whoever you feel comfortable talking to. You don’t necessarily need solutions – just the process of talking about something will lift some of the weight.
Both your brain and your body like food that’s good for you. Extreme dieting is no good for your mental health – not getting enough energy from your food leaves you tired and irritable. But you should avoid too many sugary foods and instead eat food that has mood-boosting properties.
We all know that exercise is great for releasing endorphins. But what exercise also does is take you out of your own head for a while and allow you to focus on your body. It has a meditative effect, which leaves your mind slightly less cluttered than it was when you started.
Even if you’ve had a long day at work, try to find the time to do something you love. Whether that’s meeting a friend, doing some sketching or heading to an exhibition, it doesn’t matter. Just do something you’ll enjoy. You’ll feel much more positive the next day.
If there is something in your life that leaves you emotionally drained – whether it’s a job you hate or a relationship that has become toxic – then remove it from your life as soon as you can, or reframe it in a way that makes it easier to manage. The longer you leave it to niggle at you, the more likely you are to develop depression.
Set achievable goals
We all have goals and ambitions, but sometimes we’re a bit tough on ourselves. The goals we set are remote, and very difficult to achieve. So set yourself manageable goals on route to the big one, ideally goals that you can achieve yourself without any outside interference or an element of luck. The sense of achievement will really boost your mood and self-worth.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Comparing yourself to someone who you imagine is better than you, or holding yourself to a ridiculously high standard isn’t going to do you any favours. Acknowledge your qualities and try to improve yourself where you can, in areas that are important to you.
This article first appeared Metro, 8 February 2015.