So here we are, at the end of lockdown - the promised utopia. With the "new normal" just around the corner, we chatted to Dr. Mike Banna about how we should approach this new world in order to keep ourselves happy and healthy...
This week marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, each year the week raises awareness of a different issue and helps to encourage more open dialogue about mental health and wellbeing.
This year the theme is Body Image, exploring how we think and feel about our bodies and how this can impact our mental health.
Whether it is positive or negative, we are all directly impacted by our body image and the ways our bodies evolve and change over time. This year’s campaign, #BeBodyKind, exists to encourage us to be kinder in the way we talk and think about our bodies, promoting self-love and inclusivity whoever you are. If you have any questions regarding the psychology and neuropsychology of body image, head over to Chartered Psychologist's Kimberley Wilson’s Instagram where she will be answering your questions throughout the week.
For now, we thought we would share some of our top tips to help you future-proof your mental health. We all have mental health, and it is important that we take care of it.
Take a break
In an age of social media, it can be difficult to switch off. For a lot of us, from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to sleep, our minds are bombarded with information, images and emojis, which make ‘me-time’ harder and harder to come by.
It is therefore essential that we make a conscious effort to take a break sometimes in order to look after our mental health and wellbeing. Sometimes this might mean going for a walk and being active; sometimes it might mean chilling on the sofa – whatever helps to destress you and allows you to switch off from the chaos of day-to-day life for a little while. Listen to your body and give yourself time to recuperate your mind in a way that works for you.
Get between 7-8 hours of sleep
Do not underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep! Our sleep quality has a direct impact on our mood and our interactions with other people. A bad night’s sleep can influence how we interpret facial expressions, solve problems and store memories.
Studies recommend that we should aim to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night. This might be easier for some than others. However, if you’re struggling to get enough sleep, you can check out some top tips and find out more about the importance of sleep here.
Exercise has been proven to help improve both your physical and mental health. A study that was conducted back in 2010 showed that people who took part in low-intensity exercise felt more content after exercise than they had done prior.
This doesn’t have to mean spending hours and hours in the gym! Whether you fancy a heavy resistance training session or just a brisk walk, taking part in regular exercise can have a positive impact on your mood and self-esteem.
Practise Mindfulness and Mediation
Practising mindfulness and meditation have been linked with a decrease in depression, anxiety, stress and an increase in happiness, productivity and mental wellbeing. Studies have shown that practising meditation for as little as 10-15 minutes every day can help you to develop a more positive outlook on life and increase your self-awareness.
Meditation is not easy, and it takes practice – just like you train your body, you need to train your mind. If you’re a newbie, we would recommend trying out guided meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm.
Keep a gratitude journal
It is easy to focus on what is going wrong. However, sometimes we can forget all of the good things that happen throughout the day that we often take for granted. Taking a few minutes out of your day to reflect on the things that have happened that you’re grateful for is a super simple way to help you develop a more positive and optimistic outlook on life.
A study published back in 2014 found that gratitude can help to improve your self-esteem and therefore your trust in others. Some days finding the positives might be harder than others. However, making time to express gratitude each and every day is a really useful way to take care of your mental health.
Talk about your mental health
Whether good or bad, talking about your feelings provides a great opportunity for you to reflect and build more self-awareness, while also nourishing your relationships. Talking about your emotions is not a sign of weakness; instead, it is a step towards looking after your mental wellbeing and understanding yourself and your emotions better.
If you struggle with talking about your feelings, you could start by writing them down in a journal as this can be a great way to work through mental challenges.
Eat well and drink enough water
There are strong links between what we put into our bodies and how we feel. Your brain is just like any other organ in your body, and therefore it requires a balanced mix of nutrients to stay healthy.
Focusing your diet around nutritious, whole foods is a great way to take care of both your physical and your mental health. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid your favourite sugary snacks altogether; it just means that they should be consumed in moderation as with everything else.
Moderate your alcohol consumption
Going out for a drink with friends is a great way to socialise and have fun. However, just as you should moderate what you eat, you should also make sure that you consume alcohol sensibly and in moderation.
While in the short-term alcohol can seem like a way to escape from the stresses of daily life, in the long-term it can have a negative impact on your brain (and the rest of your body!).
Ask for help if you need it
There is no shame in asking for help. We are all human, and we all have mental health – sometimes things go smoothly, and other times we might need a little bit of extra support. If things are getting a bit too much and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, you might benefit from getting help from your family, friends or GP.