Written by: Anne-Marie Gawen
– Mental Health & Wellbeing Trainer and Consultant
Many people struggle to think about what they can do for good mental health. Ask them about how to care for their physical health and you will get plenty of responses.
So for this World Mental Health Day let’s consider what we CAN do to remain mentally fit & healthy.
5 Ways to Wellbeing
These were identified by the New Economics Foundation in 2008 and are 5 actions we can do to keep us in balance. The 5 Ways are:
- Connect – We are social animals – we need to connect with others. Preferably in person, but we can also connect digitally, (as many of us have had to do through the Covid pandemic) or even by reminiscing with photographs and reliving memories. Make sure you have a good support network of people. Our friends will often support us in different ways – but make sure you have at least one person you can be truly authentic with and someone you can talk to in confidence, that you can unburden yourself to. As well as people you can have fun with, go on holiday with, share your interests and hobbies. Read how connecting can increase your heart health.
- Keep Learning – think of this as “Lifelong Curiosity” rather than going back to school (which you may have hated). Keep interested in the world around you – how does that work? Who invented the television? When should I plant spring bulbs? Which countries flag is that? How do you say “Hello” in Japanese etc, etc, etc. The world and everything in it is fascinating – there is SO much to learn – and it is beneficial for your wellbeing.
- Be Active – we know that physical exercise is great for our mental health and wellbeing – it helps us to produce lots of positive hormones, at the same time flushing out the more harmful stress hormones. But you do need to find an exercise that you enjoy – so be curious about something you have never tried. Quidditch? Wheelbarrow Racing? Footvolley? Nordic Walking? Chair Yoga? Read how to easily exercise for 30 minutes per day.
- Notice – we spend an awful lot of time on autopilot not really being present in this moment. We also like to go time travelling forwards or backwards – worrying about things in the future or things we did in the past. We will benefit from spending more time in the here and now and noticing our surroundings, using our senses – what can we see? Hear? Smell? Etc. We can learn Mindfulness skills to calm our often-troubled minds. We can notice other people and really see and listen to them. We can notice our thinking and question it – is my thinking harmful or helpful? Smell the coffee/roses, admire the rainbow.
- Give – it could be a monetary contribution to a cause or someone in need. But it could also be a smile, a compliment, your time. It could be volunteering for a charity or helping a family/friend, using your skills and strengths. It could be a Random Act of Kindness. Whatever it is, we may be giving to help someone else, but we will also benefit. Doing good does YOU good too. With every Kinetik purchase, we donate a percentage to St John Ambulance. You can also donate here.
Looking at the above – are you “in balance”?
Maybe you are doing one (or more) to excess? Maybe you spend all your time exercising so are avoiding or neglecting connecting with others? Too much of anything can affect us negatively.
Other “Back to Basics” to maintain our positive mental health?
- Reducing Stress
- Moderate Alcohol/Drugs
- Sleep – getting a good night’s restorative sleep is extremely closely related to good mental health and wellbeing. When we don’t sleep well it can be as mild as feeling like we aren’t working on a full battery or as serious as it being a risk to both our physical and mental health. Prioritising your sleep is essential and there are many things that you CAN do. The first is noticing that you need to sleep better – coming off auto-pilot and realising we need to make changes.
- Diet – it turns out that your brain and your gut have a wonderful connection, so a healthy gut will help you to have a healthy brain. See this video for a great overview. Minimise caffeine and sugars, eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, eat fibre rich foods and reduce highly processed foods
- Work – this could be paid work, full time, part time, voluntary work, a caring role or studying. Something that gives meaning and purpose to our lives – a reason to leap out of bed every morning. “Find a job you love and you never do a days work in your life”. Ideally your work should play to your strengths and align with your beliefs and values if possible.
- Reduce Stress – find all the ways you can to relax – whether in the heat of the moment or at home. Those “helpful coping strategies”, such as exercise, hobbies, talking things through with family and friends, music, meditation, mindfulness, prioritising, delegating – even writing a list can help!
- Moderate Alcohol/Drugs – they might seem like a good idea at the time, but they can, if used to excess, become a dependence. The maximum number of units per week for a man or woman is 14. This isn’t a target! There is no such thing as a safe drinking limit – and your body needs several drink free days a week.
The good news is there are things that you CAN do for positive mental health and wellbeing – YOU can take charge of your life by making tweaks or even major changes.
What will YOU do?