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5 Proven Ways To Look After Your Mental Health

How are you feeling today? 

Did you bounce out of bed with a spring in your step? 

Or are you feeling a little nervous about the week to come, and whether you’re up to the challenges it brings?

Perhaps you’re worried about a difficult conversation you need to have with a friend, colleague or family member. 

Or maybe you feel generally anxious, but can’t put your finger on why. 

For lots of us, checking in on our mood gets a bit lost in the mayhem of morning routines and the busy day that follows.

But taking a minute (or even just a few seconds) to see how we feel can be the difference between having a good day or a bad one.

That’s because acknowledging and identifying our feelings means we can take steps to manage them, rather than simply reacting. 

Say you’ve had a bad night’s sleep and have woken up feeling groggy and a bit low. 

By checking in with yourself, you realise that your low mood is a result of being tired, and that it’s normal to feel that way after a night of tossing and turning. 

Even though you’re a bit shattered, you know a five-minute brisk walk in the fresh air will get your body moving, help clear your mind and get you through until lunchtime, when you can have a healthy lunch and grab another opportunity to move a little. 

But if you just react to how you’re feeling rather than taking a moment to recognise where those feelings come from, you’re more likely to reach for a quick fix (sugar and caffeine) for energy, while at the same time allowing your low mood to spiral. 

You mistake tiredness for boredom (with your job, your friends, your life) and start to catastophise every little niggle in your day. 

Why is it always you who gets stuck in traffic, or given the wrong coffee at the cafe, especially when you’re in a rush? 

And now you come to think of it, there was a definite edge to your boss’s tone in that last email – have you missed something from your to-do list? 

Before you know it, you’ve talked yourself into a frenzy of anxiety and worry, which combined with the inevitable sugar and caffeine crash, leaves your nerves jangling and mind racing. 

Of course, we all have days like this. 

And, of course, for many people, low mood and anxiety is something they live with daily, rather than after a poor night’s sleep. 

But what’s also true is that there are things you can do every day that have been scientifically proven to help protect your mental health.


This week (13 th  – 19 th  May 2024) is Mental Health Awareness Week, which makes it a great time to introduce some positive changes into your life. 

So whether you’re curious about how much better these simple steps could make you feel, or you’ve been struggling for a little while and haven’t quite known where to start, these ideas may help.

1. Move more

If you’re feeling low, simply getting out of the house for a walk around the block can feel like a Herculean task, let alone getting to a gym class or going for a swim. But moving your body, however you like to do it, helps increase blood flow and pumps oxygen around your cells and tissues, helping you to feel more energetic. It also helps mobilise stiff joints and muscles, making your body feel looser and more comfortable. And as little as 20 minutes’ activity is enough to trigger those endorphins (feel-good hormones), which do an amazing job of lifting your mood. If you need to start small, that’s fine. Jog on the spot while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, do squats at the bathroom sink while you’re brushing your teeth or simply bend and reach five or 10 times when you get out of bed in the mornings. In fact, 'moving more for our mental health' is the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2024. Start small - but do start. 

2.Eat foods that support healthy brain function

By basing your diet around foods that help your brain and body work better, you’ll feel more alert, avoid the blood sugar crashes that make you feel shaky and anxious, and have more sustained energy levels. Aim to have a combination of wholegrains (porridge oats, brown rice, rye bread), healthy fats (avocado, Greek yoghurt, nut butters, oily fish) and protein (meat, eggs and tofu) at each meal for a delicious and satisfying plate that feeds your body and your brain. Add in plenty of fruit and vegetables, and stay hydrated with water and herbals teas. Of course, no-one's saying the odd indulgence is off the table completely. If you’re eating well 80% of the time, what you do for the remaining 20% matters less – the trick is not to get too hung up about it. 

3. Get outside

Countless studies recognise how beneficial the great outdoors is for our mental health, especially green spaces like parks or woodland (your garden will do fine, too). Any time spent outside is good, and if it’s sunny so much the better (the mood-boosting effect of sunlight on the brain is well-documented). Don’t wait for the sun, though – you receive many more units of mood-boosting ‘lux’ (luminescence) by being outside even on cloudy days than you do from the strongest of lightbulbs. Wellies at the ready! 

4. Talk to a friend

Talking through a problem, either with a friend, trusted colleague, family member or mental health professional, can be enormously helpful. Sometimes, just getting the words out, rather than having them rattling around your brain, can help you sort through a jumble of feelings. You might be surprised by the different perspective your confidante puts on things, too, and discover a new way of looking at something that previously felt unmanageable. Many workplaces have an Employee Assistance Programme that provides free, anonymous and confidential mental health advice and counselling. Your people team will be able to advise. 

5. Identify your ‘mood saboteurs’

A bit of a tricky one, this, as mood ‘saboteurs’ also tend to be the very things we reach for to make us feel better when we’re low (sugary foods and alcohol being two very common culprits). The trouble is that although they mask or boost our mood temporarily, longer term, they play havoc with both our mental and physical health, and have the potential to do far more harm than good, especially if we rely on them daily. If you know your mood saboteurs, make a concerted effort to cut down. If you’re not sure, pay attention to how you feel after you’ve consumed the things you’d normally turn to to feel better. Remember, you don’t have to cut everything out completely. Just cutting down can make a huge difference to how you feel, and you can cut back a little at a time, while at the same time increasing helpful habits, like moving more.

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