Most people know what we have to do to get or stay physically well – move more and eat more wisely.
But what about your mental well-being?
Our Newspapers and magazines are full of more and more articles on addressing our emotional difficulties than was the case with previously, Mental health – psychological health is something many of us take for granted – or, worse yet, assume beyond our conscious control.
I call it the difference between working in your life and working on your life.
The emerging positive psychology movement – lead by the American Psychological Society – shows us how we can all work towards understanding and working on the skills of happiness.
Our mental health or well-being is something we all need to be concerned about. In terms of physical health, we are all aware of the importance of five portions of vegetables of fruit a day – whether we follow the recommendation or not is a different thing.
So what would be the equivalent for our mental health?
Well here’s ten simple actions we should build into our lives every day to boost our own mental and emotional well being.
1 Connect With People Around You
It’s easy to increase the amount of interaction we have with others. Even if you live on your own you are still able to talk more to the people you encounter on a daily basis. Even simply saying ‘hello’ to the person next to you in a queue. Will have an impact. Whenever you are with people remove your headphones and engage with the people around. Talk about the obvious and ask questions. A joke or two breaks the ice nicely.
Some wonder about social networking – Facebook & Twitter for example. Yes you can appear to be shut off from people but spend a week responding with chatty remarks and you’ll notice a big improvement in your mood. When we move around through our lives they are great ways of connecting and reconnecting with people who matter to you.
2 Deal With Your Stress!
OK that should have read Deal with Stress Well!
Its all too easy to resort to short term stress relieving behaviours – classics are shopping, Gambling, Smoking, Drinking, Eating, Drugs (Including Caffeine!) Most people indulge in one or two of these and to an extent they work. But they are short term and none are entirely healthy. If they are not healthy they are not really relieving your stress.
Identify your triggers. Recognise and deal with them. If it’s the job – remember its supposed to be a job – fun – interesting- rewarding and there to help you grow. If its getting on top of you perhaps it time to exercise your options.
Stress is itself not a bad thing: We need it to feel alive. It helps us perform more efficiently and achieve stuff which makes us feel good about ourselves. The right amount of the right stress is great. When it’s the wrong stress and there’s too much that’s distress. Then we can start to feel helpless. If you have difficulty winding down in a healthy way, look again at your work life balance. And consider ways to relax and de-stress Exercise, Diet, Talking, making changes, and specific activities- such as, yoga and meditation really help.
3 Get Active Stay Active!
Nothing beats it and if we are honest with ourselves we really have no choice. We have to loose weight and we have to get more active. Its not an option. It’s not for the sporty types. A healthy mind makes for a healthy body. Its easy and it will only cost you time. Run, walk, cycle, walk, spend time in the garden – whatever it is, be conscious that, in terms of mental health and mood, your body is hugely important. The mind and body are one system. And you need to learn to work them together.
4 Ask For Help
It’s soooo British. And Soooo Unhelpful – especially if you are a bloke. We are rubbish at talking about our feelings but we don’t have a choice. If you feel you cannot cope, reach out. If work is too much, request time off. If your leg was broken then you’d take time off. You’d see a doctor. You’d take steps to get it fixed and yourself well. So do the same for your mind.
Then be prepared to take it!
For example, if the demands of parenting begin to overwhelm you, get some time out! Swap with a friend or family member to look after the kids – or book a babysitter for the night. You’ve probably got a load of excuses why you cant do stuff like this but they are just excuses. If you need help get it. As the pressures of day to day life crowd in, it is easy to feel isolated, which can have a hugely negative impact on your state of mind. People usually say they’d always help someone else but can’t ask themselves. People arelike to be helpful – and will be there if you need them.
5 Notice The Here and Now
Our environments matter. You Bodies Matter and our thoughts and feelings matter. So when was the last time you simply sat and noticed what was going on for you. Take time out on a regular basis to just notice what’s around you, and what’s going on for you. Just sit quietly for a few moments and notice what you notice and you’ll surprised what you discover.
I am always struck by the number of people who will go running or walking outside and not pay attention to the environment they are in. You are missing out – ask yourself ‘what am I eating and seeing? What is going on next door to me?’ The simple act of noticing is hugely important. You have to be able to tune into your experience ‘ what am I thinking and feeling right now? How do I react to a particular situation and how would I prefer to react to the situation?’”
6 Get Your Head Down
Sleep depravation is corrosive, pernicious, and everywhere. Whatever you think about sleep you are probably wrong. You probably need much more sleep than you think you do. Your sleep of is crucial for healthy emotions. Sleep is your time to re-generate and process the stuff on your mind. You might be surprised that of Having No Sleep, No Water or No Food, No Sleep will kill you before you starve to death! If you are physically exhausted, chances are you will experience mental exhaustion too. Aim for a set routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time through the week, including weekends. Oh and by the way alcohol ruins your sleep.
7 Keep Learning
We never stop earning. Just think for a second how much the world has already changed in your lifetime. And its still changing. Engaging in learning stimulates your mind and makes you feel good about yourself. When you master something or achieve a new piece of knowledge, there is an enormous feel-good factor which continues to sustain you.
This is true through all phases of life – and applies to young people as much as to older individuals. The learning habits you pick up early in life will stand you in good stead. With the growth of the internet we tend to think we have access to all the information and sources for learning we could ever need. But its vital that you learn to be discerning about the sources you choose. Learning challenges your brain and it loves it.
8 Eat Well
Your brain requires the correct nutrients and enough calories to function optimally. A healthy balanced diet will make you feel better about yourself. Relying on processed, orange carbohydrate rich food whether its from take always or the ready meals shelf in the poshest supermarkets lack the right balance of nutrients will leave you listless and rundown – emotionally as well as physically. We know it can be difficult after a long, draining day. However, this is the point you need to plan for and make the right choices to eat healthily, in the long run it will to your physical and mental benefit.
9 Help Others
Altruism is one of the common traits of the seriously happy! This comes at all levels – the most basic acts such as letting people into the traffic or cross the road while you are diving give you an immediate boost. Do it and you’ll immediately see other drivers follow you example – it’s a little chain of humanity that’s irresistible. Getting involved with others boosts your sense of belonging. When we look out for others, the benefits to ourselves are considerable. You start to feel as if you are part of something larger than yourself.
10 Have fun!
This is all too rare these days for too many people who are tied up in busy lives. The pressures of jobs, commuting, raising a family, coping with stress, can all make us feel guilty about finding fun stuff to do. Our fun stuff to do things (Which don’t involve Drugs and alcohol) have a huge impact on us. They are not optional they are essential and you need to build them in to you life on a regular basis. When you think about it your fun stuff to do will probably deliver eight or nine of the strategies in this article. So while you are thinking about it right now work out hat fun stuff to do thing you re going to do right now – when are you going to do it? Who with? And who can you tell about it to make sure it happens?