5 small steps to improve your mental health

As for physical health, mental health constitutes an essential part of our overall wellbeing. Poor mental health can in fact influence how we think and act as well as affect our bodies. Long-lasting conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke can in fact be a direct result of poor mental health. Fortunately, there are a few evidence-based steps you can take to improve your mental health and general wellbeing.

1.   Build and maintain good relationships

Good relationships can significantly improve your mental wellbeing. Not only do they give you a sense of self-worth and belonging, but they also allow you to share positive and negative experiences. This is important particularly when you need a friendly ear and emotional support in difficult times. Providing this support to others can also be highly rewarding and give you a sense of purpose. There are a few things you can do to ensure you build and maintain positive relationships:

  • Regularly make time for your friends and family
  • Meet people face-to-face rather than talk via technology
  • Encourage interactive activities (such as playing board games) over passive activities (for instance watching TV)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or a friendly ear. Similarly, provide support to your loved ones when they need it
  • Participate in group activities, volunteering and social clubs
  • Let go of toxic relationships

2.   Stay active

Exercising undeniably supports our physical health. However, there is also significant evidence that being active can help improve your self-esteem and positively change your mood due to the associated release of endorphins. Additionally, having an exercise routine can increase your confidence when it comes to the process of setting goals and achieving them. You can consider the following to start exercising and stay active:

  • Use running apps such as couch to 5k and Strava
  • Join an exercise group such as a cycling, running or swimming group
  • Join a gym and take part in classes
  • Find a physical activity you enjoy (for instance hiking or dancing)
  • Read our guide on starting an exercise routine

3.   Learn a new skill

Continuous learning is important to improve our general wellbeing as well as keeping our brains engaged and working well. Taking the time to learn new things can in fact help our mental health by increasing our confidence levels, raising our self-esteem and building a sense of purpose. Additionally, learning new skills typically allows you to connect with others, which also does wonders on the mental health front. There are a few ways you can learn new skills:

  • Improve on a current skill – for instance, learn to cook something new
  • Take on more responsibilities at work
  • Take on courses on subjects that interest you
  • Work on a project such as crafts, gardening or a DIY project
  • Try new hobbies – for instance, learn to play an instrument
  • Do not put pressure on yourself when it comes to your learning speed. Some skills are harder to acquire than others so be patient and kind to yourself

4.   Don’t underestimate small acts of kindness

Being kind and giving can create a whole host of positive emotions. It gives us a sense of reward, purpose and self-worth, and also helps us connect with others. You can practice this by:

  • Volunteering in your local community
  • Supporting your loved ones in times of hardship
  • Openly offering your help to others
  • Practicing random acts of kindness

5.   Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a state of mind a person has when they are fully present in the moment. It is human nature to let our minds wander and be somewhat absent as we think about the past or the future. Mindfulness brings us ‘back in the room’ and allows us to fully enjoy the present moment. This state of mind involves being fully aware of your feelings, your body, your thoughts and what’s around you. You can practice mindfulness by:

  • Setting reminders to check on your state of mind (are you present in the moment?)
  • Practice mindfulness meditation
  • Make a consistent effort to be present, particularly when you are doing something you love or spend time with your loved ones

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