Good mental heath habits can be literal lifesavers.
To mark World Mental Health Day on October 10th, we’ve brought together a set of 5 good mental health habits we can use to help us manage the stresses and anxieties that can threaten us with overwhelm.
The causes of mental health problems, and people’s varying experience of them, mean that there is no one-size-fits all solution to men’s mental health issues. But there are positive mental health habits we can all use to support mental wellness – steps that are proven to elevate mood and relieve the tensions that can build up over time.
Even if you start slowly and take just one these good habits into consideration every day, you will be making progress towards a happier and healthier you!
1. Get active
Incorporating activity into your daily routine can be a powerful step towards easing stress and anxiety, so why not take the dog for a stroll (if you have one!), kick a ball around with friends, or take a short walk before you start your day to refresh your mind and connect with the world around you?
When you make time to be active, you’re making time to look after yourself, and you should soon start to see benefits in terms of improved physical and mental health.
2. Try more strenuous exercise
Regular exercise helps with physical fitness, but it can also relieve stress, improve sleep, and decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
There is mounting evidence to suggest that exercise is an effective treatment method for people suffering from acute and chronic mental illness. In fact, some studies suggest that exercise is just as effective, if not more effective, than pharmacological intervention in alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Of course, when you’re feeling low, it can be difficult to commit to exercise, so it’s best to set yourself realistic targets, however small, and build from there over time.
- It can be a good idea to sign up for a physical activity you can add to your diary.
- Use a fitness tracker to remind you to make regular exercise part of your daily routine (there are free options online including Couch to 5k apps).
- Even one workout a week that you enjoy can deliver great benefits.
Exercise can make a big difference in mood and needs to be a fundamental part of mental health treatment. It can also counteract the side effects of some medications such as reducing the risk of falling by strengthening muscles and helping control body weight and blood pressure.
3. Limit screen time, especially social media
According to figures from Deloitte Ireland’s research into digital consumer trends, Irish people check their phones 58 times a day on average, and most phone users (87%) check their phone within the first hour of waking up. Do many of us make it through that whole hour without checking our notifications?
Social media can connect us with people who care about us and bring us laughs and a sense of community, but it can also expose us to content which elevates stress, anxiety and isolation, so it makes sense to keep an eye on how it’s affecting your mood.
Monitoring and then reducing your social media use and screen time can ease the stresses social media can cause and create time for more rest or relaxing activities. If you’re turning your phone on later, maybe you can use that time for a walk!
Changes you make to your phone use at the start and end of each day can really help you to clear your mind and approach the day with a healthier mindset.
4. Watch what you eat
When we’re feeling down or anxious, it can be easy to snack and fill meals with heavily processed comfort food which help us feel better in the short term. But eating healthily is your best bet for feeling stronger both mentally and physically over the long term.
What we eat influences our brains and how we function. Research has shown that diets high in fruits and vegetables, fish and unprocessed grains help regulate the levels of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin helps regulate things like our sleep schedules and moods. This improved regulation results in better physical and mental health.
5. Take time to be mindful
Mindfulness is a common technique to help maintain mental health, and it has become more popular in recent years.
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally paying attention to present-moment experience without judgment, elaboration or reactivity. Cultivation of mindfulness improves mental wellness through reduced stress, anxiety, depression and enhanced ability to enjoy life.
Mindfulness may also help manage symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental illness and lead to healthier decisions around substance use, food or exercise.
You may find that mindfulness improves your body awareness, including awareness of physical sensations and emotions too, which helps to create a sense of groundedness that can be particularly helpful during crisis.
Mindfulness is also one of the core principles of meditation and yoga.
Yoga and meditation resources can be easily found on the internet. The popular Youtube channel “Yoga with Adriene” is a great place to start, and meditation apps like Calm and Headspace include relaxing routines that range in length from one minute to an hour.
Choose to be more mentally aware this World Mental Health Day and take some time to mind your own mind or reach out for support!
Talk to a doctor about your mental health concerns
If stress and anxiety, or other mental health concerns, are affecting your life, it can help to talk to a doctor about how you’re feeling.
You can book a confidential, face-to-face online doctor consultation through Manly to get the advice and support you’re looking for.