The importance of good mental wellbeing is not to be underestimated in any way. Poor mental wellbeing not only can contribute to the development of psychological or mental health issues, but it can often lead to physical health issues, affect our daily life functioning and result in overall poor quality of life. To help improve and maintain mental wellbeing, here we have provided 10 tips that are known to be quite effective for most people.
Our eating habits play a crucial role in having good mental health. It is therefore important to have a healthy and balanced diet with loads of fruits and vegetables, salads, fresh herbs, some nuts, seeds and grains, and a small amount of lean meats to ensure that we keep our mental health optimal. It is also essential to minimise processed foods including junk food, processed meats, sugary drinks to maintain a healthy diet that is optimal for mental and physical wellbeing. Some people with special nutritional needs or particular health or medical problems may need to consult a qualified doctor, nutritionist, dietician or naturopath for advice.
Certain mineral deficiencies, such as B12, calcium, magnesium, iodine, silica, zinc and iron amongst others, can worsen our mood and overall mental health as these minerals are essential for a healthy, well functioning nervous system. Eating a balanced, healthy diet can help prevent these mineral deficiencies as well as keep your gut health balanced and healthy which is also important so our gut can utilise vitamins and minerals from foods adequately.
Practicing good nutrition isn’t easy, but it is absolutely essential. The amount and quality of food that we consume determines how well our bodies will work. A poor diet can contribute to the development of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues as well as serious physical health problems from cardiovascular diseases to diabetes . Eat as many vegetables and fruits as possible, avoid overindulging in processed foods, and include some nuts, seeds and legumes like beans and lentils into your diet however being mindful to not overdo the quantity of fats including healthy fats.
Alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, illicit drug use and caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, softdrinks etc) can negatively impact mental health as these substances not only affect our physical health but also our brain health. For example, alcohol consumption affects concentration, and can induce a depressed and anxious mood as well.
Excessive drinking for lengthy periods of time can cause thiamine (B12) deficiency. Thiamine is important for our brain functions and insufficiency of it can lead to eye problems, memory loss and other memory problems, motor (coordination) problems, and confusion.
Caffeine is a stimulant on the nervous system which is common to cause feelings of jitteriness, nervousness and anxiousness.
In large quantities, the nicotine in cigarettes, also another stimulant, causes irritability and anxiety, and tar causes respiratory issues.
Many people these days are Vitamin D deficient. Sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D. This is a really important vitamin for our brains and bodies. It helps our brains to release chemicals that boost our mood, like serotonin and dopamine, as well as melatonin to promote quality sleep. Get out in the sun whenever you can, but wear sunglasses to keep your eyes safe. How much sunlight you need daily to get sufficient Vitamin D will depend on your geographic location. The colder your climate and further away from the equator you are, generally the more sunlight people need. Whilst the closer you are to the equator and thus the warmer the climate, the less sunlight is needed to get sufficient Vitamin D. Talk to your local doctor to find out how much sunlight is needed in your specific geographic location.
Lack of sufficient exposure to sunlight can also contribute to the development of a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that is common in winter due to the insufficient amount of sunlight hours. In cold regions such as the UK, the number of people suffering from SAD is staggering.
A vast number of research studies repeatedly show that physical activity positively impacts mental health.
One research study conducted by the Black Dog Institute found that 12 percent of cases of depression could have been prevented by just one hour of exercise per week.
Another study published in The Lancet carried out on 1.2 million people in America found that compared to people who reported doing no exercise, people who exercised reported 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health each month -- a reduction of 43.2% (2.0 days for people who exercised vs 3.4 days for people who did not exercise).
People who had a previous diagnosis of depression reported an even further reduction fo mental health days, where exercise was associated with 3.75 fewer days of poor mental health compared with people who did not exercise -- equivalent to a 34.5% reduction (7.1 days for people who exercised vs 10.9 days for people who did not exercise).
Exercise reduces anxiety and stress through the release of endorphins and serotonin, chemicals that can reduce pain and enhance your mood. Exercise and activity are key to maintaining good mental health and most of the time exercise is free or inexpensive, such as going for a walk or run through the park or along the beach, or going for a bike ride on your bike or even borrow someone else's bike. Being physically active also gives you a sense of achievement which further contributes to improving your mood. It can help with anxiety, stress, and feelings of tiredness, lethargy and laziness.
It’s enough to do light exercise 20 min a day or go for a walk, however research shows that 45 minutes of exercise per day has shown to be most effective. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be intensive in order to be effective.
Self-esteem refers how much value a person places on his or her self, and is related to a person's ability to possess a favourable attitude towards one self. Research consistently shows that high self-esteem is a strong protector of mental health. Studies show that people with high self-esteem have more confidence in their abilities and in themselves. High self-esteem helps a person to hold a positive perspective in the face of challenging situations, particularly situations that may involve being evaluated by others. High self-esteem has also been associated with having higher wellbeing, better social relations, higher job satisfaction. On the other hand, low self-esteem has been associated with emotional problems, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Self-esteem does tend to fluctuate to a degree, with particular dependence on recent failings or successes.
One study of adolescence conducted over a three year period showed that high self-esteem at baseline predicted fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention problems, after controlling for other factors such as age, gender, therapy, and medication.
Whilst self-esteem can be a somewhat stable part of our personality, with persistent self-development work, we can gradually improve our self-esteem. Everyone has their down individual strong and weak points, and finding out your strengths and using those talents can increase your wellbeing. Using their strengths to give back to the community gives people a sense of meaning and purpose, but beyond that, having high self-esteem serves as a protective factor and helps them cope.
Flow is a state where you lose track of time because you’re deeply involved in an enjoyable activity. This can happen during sports, hobbies, and even work. Blessed are those of us who can say they experience flow at work. Flow usually happens when you’re optimally challenged – not under-challenged, but not overwhelmed either, or where you are in almost like a meditative state such as whilst doing a painting not realising that three hours have passed without even looking at the clock. The key is finding an activity that you thoroughly enjoy or are passionate about where it is no stress at all, and brings you a sense of inner peace and calmness.
However small, the act of giving such as making a contribution to the community is known to increase social wellbeing. A lot of people feel a sense of contribution through small acts of kindness, volunteering, or even helping a neighbour. This can also foster our sense of gratitude, and gratitude can increase our wellbeing and happiness. Most importantly, you need to do things that you really enjoy. Nice events can lead to positive emotions and limit negative feelings. To learn more about gratitude and the benefits of gratitude on wellbeing and mental health, check out our 30 Days of Gratitude course available now.
Stressful moments are unavoidable, which is why it’s essential to learn how to cope with stress and thus preserve your mental health. To find ways to deal with stress effectively, you first need to find out what’s causing it. You’d be surprised at how few people are aware of the causes of stress in their lives, let alone identifying when they are experiencing high levels of stress. Identifying stress, knowing what triggers a stress response and how to cope is essential to maintaining good mental health.
To get started, make a list of your problems and then make a schedule of how and when you can resolve each one. If you break down your problems and stresses, you’ll find they were more manageable than you thought. Tackle issues head-on: don’t bury your head in the sand.
If you find you are unable to sleep because you can’t stop thinking about all of the things that are worrying you, write them down and tell yourself that you’ll deal with them after you get a good night’s sleep. Check out our online sleep course: Restful Sleep in 7 Days for further information and strategies on improving your sleep.
Easier said than done, but…try to relax. Just let problems go. You need to unwind sometimes. Even everyday tasks can be a source of stress. Stay home, take care of yourself, watch a movie, or have a nice meal. Go somewhere in the outdoors and stop for a minute to take in the beauty of nature. There are so many beautiful places in the world! All of these things will help you relax.
If you experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or other conditions, it is also important to engage in help to overcome these challenges as this will help to improve your stress and mental wellbeing.
Read More: What is Depression? Signs & Symptoms
Read More: What is Anxiety?
Struggling with Depression? Try our online course: Overcoming Depression
Marc Aurelius said that neither the past nor the future belongs to us, only the present. And he was right. Learn and practice the skill of dwelling on the past or contemplate possible future events. Instead, learn to focus on the present moment, the Now. This will help you enjoy things that you’d otherwise miss. We can’t change the past, and even the most prudent of planners can’t be certain what the future holds. If uncertainty of the future causes a great deal of stress and worry, this can be associated with anxiety or an anxiety condition such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Our online course: Letting Go of Worry is for those who have trouble with this anxiety.
I mentioned this briefly earlier, but it merits a great deal more detail. Lack of sleep can lead to emotional and psychological problems, ultimately impacting your mental health very adversely. There’s no exact set number of hours people need to sleep because different people need different amounts of sleep, however the general rule for adults of recommended sleep is on average 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night. Try going to bed at a reasonable time and going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. There shouldn’t be more than an hour of difference in your sleep schedule on weekdays and weekends, as going to bed and waking up at different times is equivalent to jetlag without the exciting overseas trip.
Sleep problems won’t improve instantly, but keep persisting and over the nights and weeks sleep should start to improve with better sleep hygiene. Eventually, your body will adapt to the cycle. Get up if you don't fall asleep within twenty minutes of turning in – it’s meaningless to just lie there and this will only make your mind think and worry more keeping you awake even longer. Do something relaxing, like listening to soft music, and try going to sleep again after a while.
Need more help? If you are still struggling with poor quality sleep or not enough hours of sleep, check out our online sleep course: Restful Sleep in 7 Days for further information and strategies on improving your sleep.
This often means quiet, cool, and dark. Being exposed to light can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Don’t use your phone or watch too much TV right before bedtime. Try using room-darkening shades and taking a warm bath before you turn in.
Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. Of course, you need to sleep if you slept really, really badly the night before, but limit daytime naps to 20 minutes and don’t sleep later than early in the afternoon.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with those around you is very beneficial to mental health; much research consistently shows that poor social relationships is linked with poor mental health. Make effort to build good relationships with people around you, be it at work, at home, or in your community. These relationships will enrich your life and provide much-needed support in times of trouble. Loneliness itself affects mental health negatively. Make an effort to build and sustain good relationships and communicate with people whenever you get the chance. It’s important to have good friends, and not only for your self-esteem, but also as support when you're feeling bad. Studies have shown that talking to another person for just a few minutes can improve mood and memory!
Your work-life balance may be disrupted if you find yourself spending too much time in one area of your life and too little in another. Make an effort to reconcile them. The best approach to achieve this balance varies depending on the person, so just try different things and see what works best. Focusing too much on work might lead to isolation, which in turn causes depression and other health problems, but neglecting professional development causes your self-esteem to drop, hence needing a balance. Try to find time for friends, socializing, exercise, and fun activities even if you feel your job and family life are draining you.
Human beings are social by nature. It is embedded in our psyche. We need the joys of companionship, acceptance, and a sense of belonging.
Taking the time to have fun and laugh can contribute to better mental health a great deal. Laughter and humour can give you a sense of well-being and help minimise perceived stress. There are always ways and reasons to laugh. If all else fails, read jokes online, read comic books, or watch a comedy. Laugh at your friends’ jokes even if you don’t find them funny. It’s been proven that forcing yourself to laugh is not only perceived as genuine laughter by the brain, but leads to it. Make time to do things you enjoy. If you like a certain show, drawing, or going for walks, make the time for it. People get miserable and irritable when they don't spend time doing things they like.
It is always helpful to set up a getaway. It could be holiday abroad or going to the beach with friends. The process of planning a holiday and having something to look forward to can improve your mental health over the long term.
If you are constantly feeling down, having trouble coping with everyday life, or struggling to find meaning and feel connected to others, check out our range of online mind wellbeing courses to help with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, as well as courses on happiness. Around 1 in 2 people will experience anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or another common mental health issue at some time in their life, and this doesn’t even include people that don’t necessarily have a mental health issue, but are just struggling with stress or coping day to day, or struggling to find happiness and peace in life. Anyone can need help at some point, and it’s okay to seek it. That takes courage, but it could really change things for the better.