7 Ways To Improve Your Mental Health
Ever wondered how to improve your mental health? We are living in a world where 2 in 3 people experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide, and approximately 800,000 people die by suicide every year. So finding ways to improve your mental wellbeing can be incredibly beneficial.
But what is mental health? The World Health Organization (WHO) says that mental health is a state of wellbeing where you are able to:
- Realise one’s own potential.
- Cope with normal stresses of daily life.
- Can work productively.
- Can make contribution to the community.
Dr Christos Kouimtsidis, Consultant Psychiatrist here at The London Psychiatry Centre says, ‘Prevention is always better than the cure when it comes to mental health. The good news is that there are many things you can do to boost your mental wellbeing and protect against mental illness on a daily basis.’
Dr Kouimtsidis highlights seven ways to promote good mental health.
Talk about your feelings
‘I’m fine.’ It’s a phrase that’s all too common and is often used when we might not want to discuss how we are feeling with others. But talking about your feelings with someone you trust isn’t a sign of weakness; it can help you take charge of your feelings and help you work through problems or stresses that you may have otherwise been internalising and dealing with alone.
This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to have positive relationships with friends and family. Having friends who listen to you can help you to feel supported during challenging times, and can also help you to gain perspective on a situation.
Nutrition and mental health
Foods like caffeine, alcohol and sugar can have a significant effect on your mood – and can even aggravate mental health problems. Limiting caffeine and alcohol can have a beneficial effect and restricting sugar intake can help to reduce the yo-yoing mood swing effect.
A balanced diet plays a large part in not only sustaining energy levels but managing weight and, in turn, self-esteem. A good variety of food and plenty of water intake is essential for keeping your brain healthy – it’s just like all the other organs in your body.
If you are struggling with your nutrition, our naturopathic nutritionist, Tautvile Sliazaite can create a bespoke plan for you.
We hear about the positive influence exercise has on our physical health all the time. But just how beneficial is exercise to our mental wellbeing?
An international team of researchers – including King’s College London – pooled data from the UK, USA, Sweden and other countries to find out just this. The researchers discovered clear evidence that being active can lower the risk of developing depression – no matter what age you are.
Dr Kouimtsidis explains: ‘We really cannot underestimate the value that exercising has on our mental state. It’s one of the most effective natural ways to increase energy levels, manage stress and anger, improve sleep – and has been shown to boost confidence. That’s not to say you should be pounding the pavement every night, but any active hobbies you have – or simply going for a walk – can have a considerable positive impact.’
Make time for yourself
With the chaotic lives we lead it’s all too easy to overlook the importance of self care and put off taking time out for yourself. But ensuring you spend time relaxing and doing things you enjoy is essential to improving your mental wellbeing. Whether that’s taking time for a bath, playing football, painting your nails or reading. We all have own own preferred ways of relaxing.
Get lots of sunlight
Vitamin D is really important for our bodies – it helps our brains release serotonin and endorphin which improve our mood. It is recommended that 30 minutes of sunlight each day. However, in winter, when the nights draw in and there is less daylight, many suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) because they cannot get enough sunlight. Research has shown that Vitamin D can treat the symptoms of SAD, So the benefits of a winter walk are double – exercise and vitamin D.
Being mindful is about taking time to be present; that means taking some time out from digital devices, being aware of what is happening at the current moment in time.
Mindfulness has many benefits which include steadying the heart and breath and helping to deal with both anxiety and depression. Five minutes of meditation or deep breathing can have a dramatic effect on mood – it can calm your mind which in turn increases physical relaxation.
Sleep – for some it’s allusive like the snow leopard, for others, it comes considerably easier. Most people need between five and eight hours of sleep each night, although this varies between individuals, but one thing that holds true for everyone is that sleep is crucial to maintaining mental wellbeing.
A lack of sleep has been linked to depression and misuse of medication so it’s important to try to get enough sleep each night. If you’ve not been getting much sleep you may notice difficulty concentrating, low mood, low energy, and you may also find it harder to remember things.
Dr Kouimtsidis highlights that here are many small changes you can make to help improve your sleep quality. These include:
- Setting a bedtime routine: Wake and sleep at the same time each day.
- Only sleep when you are in bed: Make the bedroom a sleep (and sex) only zone; watch TV, read or eat in a different place.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise during the day can be great for helping you get more sleep but avoid doing anything strenuous right before bed as this can have the opposite effect.
- Cut back on caffeine: Tea, coffee and chocolate all contain caffeine and will stimulate your mind and body, rather than relax it.
- Avoid alcohol: Ever noticed that after a drink you keep waking up in the night? Whilst a glass of wine or a bottle of beer may help you to relax and get to sleep, it actually reduces your quality of sleep.
Practicing self care is vital to promoting mental wellbeing. If you are concerned you have a mental health problem, our team of experienced private consultant psychiatrists and psychologists are able to provide help. Call our team on 020 7580 4224 to discuss booking a consultation.