How can I improve my mental health and well-being?

Being mentally well and feeling generally well are goals we are all interested in to some extent. If we choose to be proactive we can create a type of buffer to increase our likelihood of wellness and build resilience.

Below are 10 steps that are within our control to apply!

Remember if you are not feeling okay, or coping well you don’t have to manage alone. You can reach out for support and maybe see your GP for some professional assistance.

1. MAKE A HEALTHY EATING PLAN

Eat a good meal. 

What you eat nourishes your whole body, including your brain. 

Carbohydrates (in moderate amounts) increase serotonin, a chemical that has been shown to have a calming effect on your mood. 

Protein-rich foods increase norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine, which help keep you alert. 

And vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients that feed every cell of your body, including those that affect mood-regulating brain chemicals. 

Include foods with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and flaxseed.) Research shows that these nutrients can improve mood and restore structural integrity to the brain cells necessary for cognitive function.

2. CRY – IT’S HEALTHY!

Get it out… get it allllll out!

Crying relieves stress.

This is true on a physical and an emotional level. Taking the time to just… feel your feelings is a great way to release all that stress before dusting yourself off and having another run at the world.

Crying dulls the pain.

Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, allowing those emotional tears to come releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make us feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. 

In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.

Now, when we talk about the health benefits of crying, it’s important to note that if you find yourself in tears all the time – especially over minor things – that is not a good sign. If you feel like you’re crying excessively, or feeling related symptoms of depression, you should talk to your GP or someone you trust.

3. EXERCISE

During and after you work out your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. 

To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. Exposure to sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which increases your level of serotonin in the brain. 

Plus, time in nature is a proven stress reducer.

4. GO TO BED

A large body of research has shown that sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on your mood. 

Try to go to bed at a regular time each day, and practice good habits to get better sleep. 

These include shutting down screens for at least an hour before bed, using your bed only for sleep or relaxing activities, and restricting caffeinated drinks for the morning.

5. LOVE YOURSELF MORE

It is extremely important to learn to love yourself for who you are, and to realise that not one of us is perfect.

Loving yourself leads to feeling more comfortable with who you are and who you’ve become. It also means you will genuinely feel more confident with yourself. 

Focus working on who you want to be on the inside.

6. OPEN UP TO SOMEONE

Opening up to a trusted someone builds trust and value within the realtinship.

Knowing you are valued by others is important for helping you think more positively. Plus, being more trusting can increase your emotional well-being because as you get better at finding the positive aspects in other people, you become better at recognizing your own. 

7. DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE

Doing something good for someone will bring happiness to their lives and that will result in you feeling happy. 

Doing a selfless act will make you realise that you have an impact on the lives of others. 

This will definitely make you happier and you may want to keep on doing selfless acts.

8. WRITE DOWN SOMETHING YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR 

Gratitude has been clearly linked with improved well-being and mental health, as well as happiness. 

The research tells us the best method to increase feelings of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or write a daily gratitude list. 

Generally contemplating gratitude is also effective, but you need to get regular practice to experience long-term benefits. 

Find something to be grateful for, let it fill your heart, and bask in that feeling!

“When you’re grateful for the things you have,

no matter how small they may be, you will see

those things instantly increase” – Rhonda Byrne

9. FOCUS ON ONE THING (IN THE MOMENT)

Being mindful of the present moment allows us to let go of negative or difficult emotions from past experiences that can weigh us down. 

Start by bringing awareness to routine activities, such as taking a shower, eating lunch, or walking home. 

Engaging our senses and paying attention to the physical sensations, sounds, smells, or tastes of these experiences helps you focus. 

When your mind wanders, just bring it back to what you are doing.

10. TAKE A BREAK

In those moments, that we all experience, when it all just seems like too much – step away, and do anything but whatever was stressing you out until you feel a little better. 

Sometimes the best thing to do is a simple breathing exercise: 

Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. 

For each one, count to four as you inhale, hold it for a count of four, and then exhale for another four. 

This works wonders almost immediately.

Written by:
Cheryl Gale,
Psychologist,
Proactive Health & Movement