There are plenty of constructive ways to get your head straight in 2019, here are some of the best.
With one in four suffering a mental health problem in their lifetime, here are eight tips you can follow to improve your mental wellbeing.
Check your diet
We often assume that mental health problems may be triggered by relationship or work issues, but a poor diet can also be a problem. And recent research backs this up.
Researchers reviewed the dietary habits of 36,000 people across France, Australia, Spain, the US and the UK and found that those adopting a Mediterranean-style diet were less like to develop depression.
Compared with stereotypical western diets – which are typically heavy on meat, processed foods, saturated fat and sugar – those who ate more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, fish and unsaturated fats were around 33 per cent less likely to develop depression, according to the study.
By eating well and getting a balanced and nutritious diet, you will likely feel better, think clearer and enjoy increased energy levels.
For more advice on this section, the NHS has a section on its website dedicated to eating well.
If you suffer from a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression, there may be a tendency to let usual habits slip. For instance, you may stop doing household chores, or fall behind on paying bills and attending social activities.
But letting these normal routines slip can have a detrimental impact on your mental health. Instead, you should try and plan activities that give you a sense of pleasure and achievement.
You also want to consider planning activities that help maintain hygiene like having a bath or shower and getting a haircut, as well as staying on top of important things like work/school deadlines and paying household bills.
This is where a calendar or diary could help. Applications like Google Calendar, Gmail and Outlook make it relatively simple to put reminders in your calendar. Other applications, like Tomo, incentivise people to complete small tasks.
Get more sleep
Depression often interferes with sleep, and either sleeping too much or not enough can become a daily problem which makes depression worse.
If you are struggling with sleep, keep a sleep diary to work out on average how much sleep your body needs over a couple of weeks. Then try and create a regular sleep routine and stick to it, including a regular bedtime.
You should also be aware of how smartphones and other electronic gadgets can interfere with your sleeping habits, especially as such devices can overstimulate the mind and suppress melatonin production, a hormone that promotes sleep.
Mental health charity Mind has some good advice around the different mental health disorders that result of a lack of sleep.
Do some exercise
Exercise can be a good way of managing depression, especially for elevating your mood. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ author Tim Grayburn told Sylo Magazine that exercise helped him to better manage his clinical depression.
Those of you who think exercise must entail serious running or another intense workout needn’t worry — it can be as simple as a light walk.
Experts recommend that adults do between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise each week, but this can be either moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, hiking or riding a bike, or more vigorous activities like running, swimming or aerobics.
The Mental Health Foundation puts exercise into four categories:
– Daily physical exercise (walking or cycling)
– Exercise (purposeful activity)
– Play (unstructured play)
Put down the smartphone
The handheld smartphones and tablets we use on a daily basis are designed to be addictive. That’s why we use them most minutes of the day, from checking messages and emails to taking photos and watching our favourite TV shows.
Yet too much use can be a bad thing with studies showing there is a clear link between smartphones and poor mental health.
As published in the journal NeuroRegulation, Dr. Erik Peper, a professor of health education, and Dr. Richard Harvey, an associate professor of health, state that overuse of smartphones is just like any other type of substance abuse, while another recent study found that people’s smartphone addiction can cause an imbalance in the brain, leading to severe anxiety and tiredness.
Going forward, you should keep an eye on your smartphone use, and take proactive steps to use it only when necessary.
Mobile apps like Space, Mute, Siempo and Hold can also hold keep a track on your smartphone addiction.
Connecting with people is always important for our mental health, so it’s vital you keep manageable contact with friends and family. This may involve meeting with family and friends, or it could be as simple as calling or messaging someone you know and trust.
Statistics also back up the fact that having healthy, social relationships can combat depression – and lead to a longer life.
Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and author of the 2016 book “The Happiness Track,” once wrote: “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression”.
Furthermore, social events can be a good avenue to discuss your mental health issues with close friends and family in a more natural way. Mental health champion and CBE Jonny Benjamin says by ‘going to the cinema, or for a walk’ issues can be ‘dropped in more subtly’.
Understand all the options available
As Tim Grayburn says, talking often isn’t enough. It may well be that you need counselling, treatment or anti-depressants, as described by your doctor. Some may want to go down the CBT route.
“Take the advice of loved ones and professionals. If you need medication, you need medication. If you don’t need to work, don’t go to work. Your health is the most important thing,” says Grayburn in his interview with Sylo Magazine.
Write things down
By writing things down, you can better see triggers and patterns in your behaviour. Furthermore, just by writing these thoughts down you are essentially offloading your problems and potentially self-triaging them in your own head. This is where a journal can help.
This piece by Doug Drinkwater was first seen on ‘Minute Hack‘, 2 January 2019.