PRACTICAL TIPS FOR OUR MENTAL HEALTH
I had initially thought I would skip writing something for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, because it’s been a year, you know? And then completely had a change of heart and considered my usual florally style post, in fact I started a poem but I’m just not happy with it yet - it’s a little too depressing.
So instead I have created a few things below that science and research has shown us can help - grounded within things we can do each and every day.
I know there really isn’t an answer, and that on hard days half of the things I’m going to note below feel impossible because even brushing your teeth feels like a hurdle you aren’t sure you want to climb over. But mainly I think it comes down to something Nicola Hobbs said to me a long time ago, ‘we love the things we care for’, our selves and our lives included.
The way we eat HAS been shown to impact our mental health (SMILES trail, 2027), with a diet rich in healthy fats, fruits, veggies, legumes, whole-grains linked with reductions in depression. I have a whole post dedicated to easy options (I’ll link it in my stories). But it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul, overly complex or ‘perfect’. For example, could you swap white bread for wholemeal? Or add some frozen veggies or chickpeas to your pasta?
Exercise appears to act as buffer against chronic stress and help us manage the stress we are facing better. It can reduce inflammation, increase neural plasticity, and increase the happy hormone, serotonin.
The SMILE trail showed us that it might be as effective as anti-depressants.
And p.s. again, this is not about starting some hardcore gym routine. It is about finding a way or moving that you enjoy, whatever that looks like for you.
A lack of sleep has been associated with increased feelings of depression and anxiety. And whilst mental health conditions can make sleeping feel impossible at times, there are some things that you can do that positionally may help:
Magnesium, a good bedtime routine (not just for children), get enough daylight during waking hours, put your phone away for an hour before bed, sleep with a cool room temperature, keep TV, work, eating out of your bedroom where possible.
Poor gut health is another factor thought to impact mental health. As with all of these things, if you need more guidance please consult a registered dietician or professional, but a few lifestyle things that can help:
Reduce artificial sweeteners, chew your food and slow down when you eat, choose cooked veggies over raw, take a few deep breaths before eating (being stressed can impact digestion), work on stress management and sleep optimisation, perform regular exercise, create a regular eating pattern, drink enough water.
Nature has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, help you be more active… This doesn’t just mean going for a walk, it could also be other things like gardening, growing veggies, fruit picking, eating meals outside, taking exercise outdoors, meeting friends…