Whether you suffer from mental health issues, know someone who does, or don’t think you can relate to it all, we think today, World Mental Health Day, is a great time to take 5-minutes, stop, and think about your well-being. Maybe you’re ok. Maybe you’re not. Or maybe you’re not even sure. However you feel, the great thing is the stigma around mental health is lifting. Don’t get me wrong we still have a long way to go, but what matters is that slowly we’re moving forward and opening up about mental health.
Although social media can have its downfalls, one great thing to come out of this modern world is the power of the internet. All you have to do is search #WorldMentalHealthDay on Instagram and you’ll find millions of other people talking, listening and sharing their personal experiences on mental health. Mental health is different for everyone, whether you like to talk about your thoughts or keep them to yourself, but either way it’s nice to know that other people are in the same (or at least very similar) boat. Have a quick scroll on whatever social media platform you use and today, especially on World Mental Health Day, you’ll probably realise that mental health affects more people that you’d expect, whether directly or through a friend or family member.
There are many organisations and charities in the UK set up to help with all kinds of problems, worries and personal experiences relating to mental health, some of which we can point you in the direction of today. But if you don’t quite feel like you need to speak with someone, you can start by following our everyday tips to promoting a healthy lifestyle. As basic as these may seem, some of these recommendations can actually be difficult for someone suffering with mental health problems. If this is the case, you might just want to choose one at a time to focus on. If you really do feel like these suggestions are a struggle, speak to someone who is experienced and can offer professional advice by calling the number at the bottom of this page or check out the web links we’ve provided.
- 1. Get a good night’s sleep - Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. It helps your brain work properly. Without even realising it whilst you’re asleep, your brain is preparing for the next day. It helps with memory, the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels, your immune system, and many other things needed for a good quality of life. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, the recommended amount for adults aged 18+ is 7-8 hours a day.Naps may provide a short-term boost in alertness and performance; however, napping doesn't provide all of the other benefits of night-time sleep. Therefore, it is not only important to get enough sleep, but it is important to get into a good routine, sleeping and waking up at the same time every night/morning.
- 2. Exercise - Physical activity and exercise can have immediate and long-term health benefits including reducing depression. Not only does it distract you from negative worries but it changes the levels of serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones, lifting your mood and improving your sleep pattern. Exercising with others provides an opportunity for increased social contact and helps you get out of the house. The recommended amount of exercise is 30 minutes a day, but even a small increase in physical activity can make a difference, so do whatever you can.
- 3. Spend more time outside – Research suggests that spending time outdoors is beneficial to human health, especially today when a lot of us spend our working days indoors staring at a computer screen. Even on days when it isn’t that sunny, the increased level of Vitamin D from sunlight can have a massive impact on how we feel. Not only does it lift our mood but it helps fight conditions from depression to heart attacks. Studies have also found that it helps you sleep, which is number one on our list!
- 4. Healthy eating - Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health. Not only does it provide the energy you need for the day but it gives you the nutrients needed for growth and repair. Therefore, eating the right foods is important. Eating too much fatty, sugary and unhealthy foods can have a negative effect on your health, and increasing your intake of fruit and veg and eating a balanced diet can improve it. Why not start by simply adding a banana to your breakfast every day?
- 5. Meditation and Yoga – Not only are these exercises for beginners that can be done from home by anyone, but they both have a long list of physical and psychological health benefits. From increasing blood flow to your brain to causing muscle relaxation, both are strongly linked to improving anxiety and depression. Whether you join a class or just practice from home with a YouTube tutorial, just one session a week can have positive effects.
- 6. Music and dancing - Music can lift the spirits, but science has now shown it has a physical effect on our bodies too. As we listen, music works on the autonomic nervous system which is responsible for controlling blood pressure and heartbeat, as well as the limbic system which is responsible for feelings and emotions. Your brain also releases dopamine, a chemical involved in both motivation and addiction. So, grab your earphones, find an upbeat playlist on Spotify and get your dance on. It has to be one of the easiest things we can do!
- 7. Animals - Whether it’s comfort, cuddles, laughter or physical activity, having a pet leads to a release in calming endorphins – oxytocin. Increased calmness can also be associated with simple activities such as watching the smooth nature of a swimming fish.Studies have shown that between friends, spouses & pets, people were least stressed while doing difficult tasks when a pet was with them, rather than a friend or spouse. It’s now easier than ever to spend time with animals if you don’t want a pet, by visiting cat cafes, or signing up to be a dog walker.
Helpful phone numbers and websites
Mind helpline – Open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays). Whether you want to chat for 3 minutes or 3 hours, they are always happy to help.
0300 123 3393
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/helplines-listening-services/#.XZ8TKEZKiUl – Not sure if you should call? This page tells you everything you need to know about the help lines available.
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/ - Did you know there are over 200 types of mental health problems? This website lists some of the most common and has a dedicated section for each one.
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016 - A great downloadable PDF which contains information and statistics on mental health in the UK.
https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/your-mind-plan-quiz/?WT.tsrc=Search&WT.mc_id=MentalHealthGeneric&&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4a7O98aR5QIVzUPTCh3kYQOGEAAYASAAEgJlVvD_BwE – An interactive quiz to help decide on how you feel.
https://www.samaritans.org/support-us/volunteer/ - If you’d like to volunteer for a charity, The Samaritans would be a great place to help.