Seven simple strategies for maintaining good mental health

Are you really looking after yourself? Are you sure?

Most people will, at some point in their lives, struggle with mental health. Depression is one of the most common disorders in the world, the third leading cause of disability, affecting three percent of the UK population. Despite its prominence, a minimal awareness and understanding of this illness exists.

We have all felt low, tired and stressed at points in our lives. But when you felt blue, did you look after yourself and take it easy until you felt better? I doubt it. When it comes to “being in good health”, most people automatically think about physical health such as being fit or losing some weight. But in order to be healthy, one needs to focus equally on both physical and mental health. Seven simple changes to habits can help improve your emotional wellbeing and keep you happy.

Making time for yourself
Ever wanted to take up a hobby and been defeated by the usual “lack of time”?

Taking a step back from your hectic life and focusing on yourself is as challenging as it is beneficial. Whether “me-time” involves piano lessons, watching a boxset on TV or curling up with a book, time-for-yourself will keep you happy, make you more productive doing less enjoyable tasks, and help keep you relaxed in our busy world.

Stop multi-tasking and take things one step at a time
Rather than helping you complete more tasks in less time, multi-tasking has the contrary effect. It reduces attentiveness and impairs your ability to function at your finest. Finishing tasks one-thing-at-a-time will help you reduce stress, allow you to work to a higher standard on individual tasks and instill calm into your life.

Reflecting on positives
Gratitude is a skill which needs cultivating, nurturing and developing. Experiencing genuine appreciation for what you have, rather than always striving for more improves emotional wellbeing by promoting optimism and helping develop a positive outlook on life. Taking just a minute a day to list ten things you are grateful for, allows you to magnify positive emotions and celebrate the present moment.

Sleep is essential for physical and mental health. People who suffer from sleep problems, such as insomnia or chronic oversleeping are at higher risk of depression. No magic number exists, but experts agree you should get between seven to nine hours sleep per night. To improve sleep, get into a routine of sleeping and waking around the same time every day; avoid food and alcohol at least two hours before bedtime; establish a wind-down sleep routine.

Anyone who has run 5K or successfully lifted weights can relate to the immediate endorphin-induced euphoria after exercising. While it may seem transient, physical exercise is an effective way to combat depression. You cannot ignore the scientists: it is a physiological fact that physical activity fights depression.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, releases endorphins which are the body’s own natural antidepressant and releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which help lift mood. 140 minutes a week of moderate exercise is recommended; equivalent to 20 minutes of speed-walking each day.

Don’t isolate yourself
Simply putting yourself in a social atmosphere can lift your spirits. Try going to a place where people share interests with you, like a museum or park, or a friend’s house for tea. Humans are by nature social creatures; we need other humans to survive, to help develop our social cognitions, and social interactions allow us to express feelings and share any problems.

Get help when you need it
Asking for help is a strength not a weakness.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that you find daily life harder than before; you are having mood swings, feeling worried or spending a disproportionate amount of time feeling blue. While online forums, family and friends provide a fantastic support network, these are not always sustainable. In Oundle there are mental health professionals. You just need to ask for help.

Every year, the Oundle Chronicle donates money to a local charity. This year, our chosen charity is Dovedale Mental Health Support, a charity that provides a variety of day services for anyone who is struggling. From group activities to one-to-one work, this professional service offers support for a range of mental illnesses in a safe and confidential environment.

Lily Wolfson
December 2018