World Mental Health Day
10 Sure-fire Ways To Safeguard Your Mental Health
Small, fantastic tips – all backed by research – to boost your mental wellbeing.
Today (October 10) is World Mental Health Day. Organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), this year’s theme is ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’.
We reckon that covers parents, too – because whether you’re a working mum, a stay-at-home dad, a step-parent, guardian or carer – looking after and raising children can absolutely be classified as work. Satisfying, exhausting, fun, heart-filling, frightening, mountainous, delightful, crazy-busy work.
We thought we’d mark World Mental Health Day in a positive way. We’ve recently covered the Five Ways to Wellbeing on our blog, so here are 10 small, refreshing, proven things you can do to bolster your mental health every day.
1. Eat Well
Research shows that a healthy diet rich in whole foods contributes to positive mental wellbeing and the prevention and treatment of illnesses including depression. Aim to eat a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, according to the government’s Eatwell Guide:
2. Get Creative
Many creative activities can have a positive impact on our mental health, including gardening, painting, cooking, photography, writing and playing an instrument. Not only do projects and hobbies like these act as a positive distraction from negative thoughts or emotions, they can also lead to increased feelings of happiness, confidence, enjoyment and fulfilment.
If you like being creative in a group setting, give singing a go – new research shows that being in a choir can have a positive impact on a person’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
3. Have a Chat
If you’re feeling low, it’s important to share with your GP how you’re feeling, rather than keep it bottled in. Your doctor can help you make sense of your experience and might suggest counselling, which can have an incredibly positive impact on your mental wellbeing and state of mind.
On top of all of that, being open and honest with people you trust, including other parents who might end up sharing their similar experiences, can help in finding and receiving support from family and friends around you.
If you haven’t already done so, you might also like to join the Moment Health online community and connect with likeminded parents here.
4. Enjoy Nature – Even Indoors
While getting outside and enjoying some exercise and fresh air has long been a proven way to boost a positive mindset (see Point 5!), it turns out we can benefit from nature even from the comfort of our own homes.
A recent study by BBC Earth and the University of California, Berkeley, found that watching nature programmes leads to an increase in positive emotions. So, next time the weather’s too wild to go outside, try tuning in to a David Attenborough nature documentary for a dose of feel-good.
5. Step Out
There’s no denying it – exercise releases endorphins that lead to feelings of elation, happiness and even euphoria. Getting active can also help reduce stress and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In even more good news, such benefits can be enjoyed by every kind of exerciser, whether you like to go hard at the gym or prefer to get out for a short stroll at some stage in the day. Exercise is a common prescription for mild symptoms of depression, and Scottish researchers have found that walking can be “an effective intervention for depression”. Fancy a triple-threat to alleviate symptoms?
Go for a walk (1), outdoors (2), with a friend (3).
6. Sleep (Easier Said Than Done, We Know)
An inadequate amount of quality sleep can reduce the ability to cope well with stress, and leave you more susceptible to irritability, low mood and a negative mindset. To make matters worse, people who have depression often suffer insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, making it difficult for them to get adequate, good-quality sleep – it’s a cruel cycle.
Your GP will be able to help you set a treatment plan for improved sleep, and you can also try practising various good habits for improved sleep, such as avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine; reducing screen time in the afternoons and evenings; getting some exercise throughout the day; and setting yourself a night time routine that may help your body and mind better prepare for shut-eye.
7. Set A Goal
Setting goals can help cut through the fog of early parenthood coupled with anxiety or depression. Putting something realistic in place that’s a challenge brings purpose, focus and motivation. Think of something you enjoy doing, then set a goal and map out steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve it.Goals such as taking part in a fun run with a friend, completing a short creative writing course, starting a volunteering or fundraising project, or committing to 10 minutes of meditation every day for a month are great, just remember to set goals that are (a) achievable, and (b) so specific that you’ll be able to ‘tick’ them off, in order to benefit from a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end. Once one goal is ticked off, get busy setting another.
8. Put Yourself First
Even more than the point made about getting good-quality sleep, we know as parents – particularly of babies and small children – how hard it can be to prioritise yourself in the midst of all the hectic-ness that general daily life entails. However, it’s important to value yourself and treat yourself as you would a best friend – with kindness, patience and respect.
You might not have much time to put yourself first throughout the day, so think of one or two super-quick things you can do for yourself and keep them up your sleeve for those precious moments you suddenly realise you have a few minutes to yourself – a two-minute face mask, a five-minute crossword, a hot cuppa and a sit down… they’ll likely benefit you more than you realise.
9. Spend Time With a Pet
Or just borrow, walk, or cuddle a pal’s four-legged friend. A key factor in positive mental health is having a sense of purpose, and looking after an animal is a fantastically effective way to achieve that.
If you can’t commit to a pet long-term, fostering an animal is another great option, and on top of the sense of purpose, you’ll also benefit from a pet’s companionship; their calming effect; and getting out for some regular exercise if you opt for a dog that needs walking every day.
10. Ask For Help
Sometimes, we all need outside help. Never be afraid to ask for assistance and reach out to others when you need it. About 65 per cent of people in the UK have experienced a mental health problem at some point in their lives, so you are not alone.
Here are some numbers you can use:
Anxiety UK 08444 775 774
Mind Infoline 0300 123 3393 or Text 86463
OCD Action 0845 390 6232
Samaritans 116 123
Sane 0300 304 7000
A bit about Moment Health…
Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.
Download our App today