One in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem each year. To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (11 – 17 May), we spoke to the charity Mind to find out the best ways to stay happy, calm and stress-free.
1. Be mindful
‘Mindfulness’ is the art of paying attention to the here and now, where we become more aware of what’s going on in our thoughts, bodies and emotions. Start with a ‘mindful’ walk. Instead of dashing around on auto-pilot, slow down for ten minutes and pay attention to the physical sensations of walking. Feel your feet on the ground and the breeze on your body. Go to bemindful.co.uk to take a free, online mindfulness course by leading experts Ed Halliwell and Tessa Watt. You can also download the free Headspace app featuring 10 simple meditations (Apple iOS and Android).
2. Choose good mood foods
Pack your diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, which are proven to lift your mood. Stimulants like sugar, caffeine and alcohol can make anxiety worse, so try to cut back. Never skip breakfast. Choose a bowl of wholegrain cereal with sliced banana and a glass of fruit juice. Drink plenty of water too. We need to drink about 1.2 litres of fluid a day. Even mild dehydration can make you feel lethargic.
3. Take positive action
Accept the things you can’t change in life and address the things you can. Whether it’s man trouble, money worries or a difficult colleague, take practical action to address the problem.
4. Find a work/life balance
A recent survey by Mind found that we’re experiencing record levels of stress at work. Over half of those surveyed (54 per cent) said they found work very or fairly stressful, an increase from 34 per cent in 2013. Try to make working overtime the exception, not the norm. Check your to-do list before you leave the office to help you leave your work behind. Then avoid checking your work email once you’re home.
5. Stock up on sleep
TVs, laptops and smartphones stimulate our brains, making it harder to sleep, try switching off at least an hour before bed, to create a calm space. If you’re anxious about something, jot down your worries before bed to help clear your mind.
6. Release your inner artist
Arts and crafts can be great mood-boosters, helping you to switch off from day-to-day pressures. Why not try a colouring-in book for grown-ups? We like ‘The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress Art Therapy For Busy People’ by Emma Farrarons (£7.99. Boxtree).
7. Write a joy list
Write down everything you like about your life and yourself, however small. Take your time and aim for 50 different things. If you ever feel down or worried, go back to this list and remind yourself of the positive.
8. Get physical
Regular exercise is proven to be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression. Find a sport that suits you, whether that’s pilates, yoga, swimming, running or a team game like netball.
9. Get your greenery fix
Research from the University of Essex shows that getting into the big outdoors can improve mental health and boost self-esteem. If you live in a city, it can be as simple as heading to the park at lunchtime or sitting on a bench with a sandwich and enjoying the sun on your face. Why not use lazy Sundays for a brisk stroll in the countryside too?
Evidence shows that feeling close to friends and family helps us guard against depression. Ring that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with and accept that invite out tonight, after all.
Visit Mind for more information.