5 Essentials for Your Mental Health Toolkit
5 Essentials for Your Mental Health Toolkit
There are many effective coping mechanisms that we can all use to improve the quality of our lives. I’m going to talk about 5 of these practical tools and strategies, which can help you increase your personal resilience and manage stress or your mental health.
Because practicing meditation helps you to slow your breath, quieten your mind, and find peace, it can be beneficial physically, mentally, and emotionally. Meditation is now commonly used to treat mental health disorders, addiction, and everyday stress, as well as heal physical ailments and promote better sleep.
Meditation is a simple technique that, if practiced for as little as 10 minutes each day, can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation.
If you want to overcome anxiety without medication, meditation is a proven way to reduce anxiety and stress and improve your overall wellbeing.
SAWT PRO TIP: The ‘Headspace’ app is a brilliant meditation / mindfulness app. It takes you through meditations, from just a few minutes of guided meditation right through to hour-long unguided sessions. There are even meditations for kids!
Headspace have meditations to listen to whilst you’re walking, cooking and commuting, as well as meditations that focus on sleep, sport, fear of flying, health and relationships, to name but a few. Your first 10 sessions are free. What are you waiting for? See Headspace.com
A great deal of research has documented physical health benefits of mindfulness, such as an improved immune system, lower blood pressure, and better sleep. Mindfulness has also been linked to mental health benefits, such as reduced stress and anxiety, improved concentration and focus, and less emotional reactivity.
Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings. It is becoming widely used in a range of contexts.
Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing, and yoga. Training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they are better able to manage them.
Practising mindfulness can give more insight into emotions, boost attention and concentration, and improve relationships. (Source: Mental Health Org)
Anyone can practice mindfulness, from children to adults. You can attend a group course, or learn and practice online at home.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. When you exercise, your body releases feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. These neurotransmitters, namely serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine reduce stress, relieve pain and boost your mood. That’s what people are talking about when they say they’re on a “runner’s high”.
Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on anxiety, depression, ADHD, and more. It also improves memory and enhances sleep.
Current recommendations are that the average adult should do between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise a week. This can be any activity that gets your heart rate up and causes you to breathe faster. A brisk walk, a game of tennis, swimming, riding a bike – whatever interests you! (Source: UK Government – exercise)
Exercise needn’t be a chore. You could get off the bus or tube a stop early and walk the rest of the way or walk up escalators at train stations. It’s not all about organised sport.
Getting into the mindset that exercise is a reward is essential. It makes you feel better, reduces stress and improves our self-esteem.
So, who wants to go for a walk?!
Recent evidence suggests that good nutrition is essential for our mental health and that a number of mental health conditions may be influenced by dietary factors.
One of the most obvious, yet under-recognised factors in the development of major trends in mental health is the role of nutrition. The body of evidence linking diet and mental health is growing at a rapid pace.
As well as its impact on short and long-term mental health, the evidence indicates that food plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease. (Source: Mental Health Org)
A few nutrition tips
- Getting your 5 A Day is key. Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards this
- Make food from scratch wherever possible. It’s much better for you to be eating whole foods rather than processed foods, which tend to be high in sugar and unhealthy fats. A great healthy recipe site is BBC Good Food
- Eating well at work is essential. If you eat something too high in sugar at lunch, in the afternoon you’re likely to experience a glucose slump, which decreases your focus and attention, and makes you feel lethargic
5. Positive psychology
Positive psychology is the science of happiness, wellbeing and human strengths. It advocates approaching change not from the perspective of difficulty, but rather from the perspective of capitalising on what we have, using our strengths and activating positive experiences.
It uses well-researched interventions associated with flourishing and wellbeing. (Source: Positive Psychology)
This is about focusing on our strengths, rather than our weaknesses; thinking about what works in our lives rather than focusing on what doesn’t. Then we start to do more of the things that work, fewer of the things that don’t, and overall we become happier, and improve our wellbeing.
Thinking positively can impact how we behave. When we focus on what brings us joy, satisfaction and high levels of wellbeing, we push ourselves to experience more of those things. It’s about our state of mind.
This is one of the newer fields of psychology, and in our opinion, is arguably the way forward. If you’d like to read any more on the subject, or take questionnaires that can help you become more positive, see the work of Dr Martin Seligman, on his Authentic Happiness website.