What do we know about mental wellness, though?
Just as physical health is more than the mere absence of illness, not having a diagnosis of a mental health condition does not mean we are mentally well. Mental wellness is something we can - and should - all work towards, every day. We may not call it that; we may just have certain things we know we need to do in order to keep from becoming overwhelmed or too stressed. But mental wellness is something everyone needs.
We believe it’s not enough to just trundle along through life; each and every one of us deserves to thrive, to be happy, to feel joy. With that in mind, here are our tips for promoting mental wellness; a list of little things we can all do to help us move closer to a ten on the happiness scale.
- Maintain connections with others. Even the most introverted of people still needs to see and speak to others from time to time. Feeling that human connection is something that can improve both mental and physical health and remains one of the deciding factors in everything from happiness to heart disease.
- Maintain a connection with yourself! It’s easy to get so caught up in life’s day to day obligations and requirements that we forget what we actually want to do, what we really like and who we really are. Spending time getting to know ourselves is equally as important as spending time in the company of others. The exact balance of the two will often come down to personal preference, but everyone needs that little bit of time alone with their thoughts in order to stay connected to who they are.
- Meditate. We’ve written about meditation and mindfulness before, and with good reason. You don’t need to spend 2 hours in the lotus position every day in order to feel the benefits of meditation; just ten minutes each morning can make a big difference to your mental wellbeing, especially if you can make it a part of your daily routine.
- Exercise. We all know by now that exercise is arguably as good for our mental health as our physical health. Any form of movement that gets the heart pumping can work wonders for the mood, but also helps with long-term resilience and stability. Even if you only go for a walk around the block, try to get yourself moving at least once a day.
- Digital detox. Check out last week’s blog for some hints and tips for digital detox. There’s another bank holiday coming up at the end of this month, and that could be the perfect time to try out a digital detox. Even if you begin by just making the rule that the laptop stays closed on Sundays, we’re sure you’ll feel the benefits. An always-on society is great if you need to nip to the shop for emergency paracetamol at midnight, but everyone needs that time to just close the door on the world from time to time.
- Work-life balance. We all know the saying that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” Even if you’re super busy at work or with home life, it’s still important to find time to have fun. It’s also worth mentioning here that maintaining a work-life balance is a lot like standing on one leg: you do it; you wobble; you fall over; you start again. It’s not a switch that you flick and suddenly, you have a balance. Everyone wobbles from time to time.
- Self care. It can feel incredibly decadent to have a bath in the evening, or to just sit and read a book. There are always a million other things that you could or should be doing, after all. But practising good self care is a brilliant way to promote mental wellness and feel good. If you don’t enjoy reading a book, fine; do something else that gives you that calm, relaxed feeling.
- Sleep. Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for mental wellness. Remember though that it’s not just about the amount of time you spend in bed; good sleep is about quality rather than quantity. Prioritising your sleep routine can have a dramatic impact on both your mental and physical health. Check out our blog on sleep hygiene for some tips to help you to sleep like a baby tonight.
- Move towards your goals. Even small steps are a sign of progress, and something you can look back on with a sense of pride. You don’t need to set massive, scary goals focused on taking over the world; things like a daily step goal or reading each night are great things to keep track of and help you to feel positive. Of course, if you want to set big goals then go right ahead - but ensure you do something each day to keep yourself moving forwards towards them. After all, a goal without action is just a dream.
- Step out of your comfort zone. This one might sound counterintuitive; after all, a comfort zone is by definition comfortable. The thing is that a comfort zone can also shrink over time, and the only way to stretch it is to step outside of it. Again, you don’t need to book in a skydive or take up base jumping. Making a regular effort to do small things that make you uncomfortable or a little nervous can be brilliant for bolstering your self esteem, resilience and ultimately your mental wellness. Look for things like the opportunity to strike up a conversation with a stranger, to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, or go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. And yes, occasionally it can be beneficial to do something very far outside your comfort zone like abseiling or sky diving.
- Practise gratitude. Gratitude is a fantastic tool for promoting happiness and wellbeing. There is a saying that if you are depressed you are living in the past, and if you are anxious you are living in the future. Thinking of things for which you are grateful helps to bring the mind into the present moment. Over time, if we get into a daily gratitude practice we can actually train the mind to search out the positives in any given situation, rather than the negatives. A positive outlook is absolutely something we can learn, and gratitude is a great place to start.
- Laugh. We all know of that urban myth about how children laugh 400 times per day but adults only laugh 17 times. There is apparently no scientific fact to back that up, but it does still ring true that children laugh and smile a lot more than adults. Book tickets to a comedy show, or find one to watch on Netflix, and laugh your socks off. The effects of laughter remain long after we’ve wiped the tears from our eyes.
- Smile. Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on body language has been viewed over 40 million times. Although a lot of the examples she uses in her talk are to do with confidence in particular situations, this can be adapted for life in general. Have you ever tried smiling in the middle of a particularly gruelling workout? It makes it easier to deal with. Smiling can make a lot of things easier to deal with, and it is definitely worth making a habit of plastering a smile on our faces from time to time. That doesn’t mean we should pretend to feel fantastic if we’re really not, but so often we all walk around wearing a mask of indifference, without really realising that we actually look quite grumpy. Try making a conscious effort to smile, and see how it affects your day.
- Accept compliments. When someone gives you a compliment, it is a gift; when you brush it off with “oh, this old thing?” or “oh, I don’t feel pretty today!” it’s tantamount to shoving that gift back in their face. It also reinforces the idea that we’re not worthy of that compliment. The next time someone says you look nice today, or your hair looks good, respond with a smile and a “thank you.” It feels good, doesn’t it? So many of us have difficulty accepting kindness from others, but if you weren’t fishing for a compliment and it came to you any way, accept it graciously.
- Help others. Helping others is actually incredibly good for our mental wellbeing. Simple things like offering to bring a friend’s child to football practice or holding a door open for someone give us that little boost of confidence that we’re a good person and we’ve done a good thing. You might decide to donate to charity, to help a neighbour with their shopping or even to tend someone’s garden for them. Anything you do that helps someone else will actually help you too. Become familiar with that warm, fuzzy feeling of having done a good deed.
Of course, if you are experiencing mental health problems you should always consult with a doctor or mental health professional. Mental illness can be an awful, torturous experience and something that is better prevented than cured. Remember to be kind to yourself, and to preserve and boost your mental wellness wherever and whenever you are able.
If you are struggling with mental health right now, please call the Samaritans’ free 24-hour helpline on 116 123.