This week is Mental Health Awareness Week so a timely reminder to check in with your mental state and to be aware of how others around you are faring. Here we share our team’s top 16 tips for staying balanced.
Like many of us, sheep prefer not to be isolated, opting instead to stay with their flock. Of course, that’s not possible for everyone currently so, if you’re struggling with your emotions or feeling alone, try some of these:
1. Walk, run or stretch – do whichever best suits you for a quick way to reduce stress hormones and connect with nature
2. Get in water – water is immensely calming (our most natural state) so dip in – or just visit – the river, sea or bath to induce a meditative effect on your brain
3. Walk on grass / earth – walking barefoot on a natural surface has various physiological benefits, not least in calming you and decreasing muscle tension
4. Forest bathing – spend a little time amongst trees to boost your mental and physical health, increasing happiness and immunity and reducing stress and blood pressure
5. Breathe – take time for a few simple deep-breathing exercises throughout the day to help relax you, calm nerves and reduce anxiety
6. Practice gratitude – jot down three things (however small) you are grateful for as gratitude has been clearly linked to higher levels of happiness
7. Be kind – this week’s theme is kindness so pay it forward; not only will the recipient benefit (and is more likely to do the same for someone else), but you will too from producing heart-calming oxytocin
8. Yoga or pilates – try an online class or, better still, make this form of mindful exercise a regular practice to help ensure a less anxious, stronger and happier state generally
9. Nutrition – consider what you eat to balance the right amount of serotonin-releasing carbohydrates, dopamine-releasing protein and nutrient-rich fruit and vegetables, along with omega-3s to improve mood and cognitive function
10. Animal therapy – if you have a dog or cat, you’ll be aware that stroking them can lower blood pressure and release oxytocin. Also consider equine therapy, or mindfully watching animals wherever you live – birds in flight, swans, cows
11. Talk – it’s an old adage and a truism but it absolutely is ‘good to talk’ – in fact, it’s essential if you’re struggling, whether you chat to a friend or professional, or even just note your feelings as a means of releasing stress and gaining clarity
12. Listen – pop on some favourite songs (or a thought-provoking podcast) as a great diversion and for music’s calming and happiness-boosting effects
13. Sing – whether on your own or with an online choir, enjoy a song or few as research has shown how it can help people recover from mental health troubles
14. Read – focus on a great book so you have a regular – and easily accessible – form of escape to lower stress and depression and boost self esteem
15. Old photos – a look through happy times will help reinforce that this too shall pass and that happier moments will return
16. Digital detox – take some time off from your phone, particularly before bed to avoid brain overload and ensure restorative sleep
Most importantly, if you are concerned about how you are feeling, always reach out for help – whether it’s from a friend / relative or one of the many excellent organisations who will talk through how you are feeling and discuss ways to cope. Try Mind, Samaritans or, for younger people, YoungMinds. Happiful also have a free app, including free copies of their Happiful magazine.
Sending you all kind thoughts and wishing you a peaceful, calm and connected week.