Mental health represents your overall mental state and well-being, including both positive and negative elements. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.
Just as you look out for your physical health, your mental health also needs regular support.
Effectively supporting your mental health means that you’re better equipped to handle stress, recover more quickly from setbacks, sleep better, and physically heal quicker1.
Everyone feels stressed and overwhelmed sometimes, but there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you keep yourself mentally healthy.
Here are our top tips for maintaining a positive state of mind and supporting your mental health:
Share Your Feelings
Talking about feelings can be difficult, but regardless of the reason why you’re keeping them in, talking to a trusted, empathetic listener can have powerful psychological benefits and help you be better prepared to handle your emotions more thoughtfully in the future.
Spending quality time with friends and family, talking to someone about how you’re feeling or finding ways to help other people can all help stop you feeling lonely and improve your mental health and well-being2. Here are our thoughts on how to get the most out of sharing:
- Choose the right people to talk to: a trusted friend or family member who will support you without judgement.
- Choose the right time to talk: ask if they have the time and energy so that you can both be better equipped for the conversation. Why not combine this with a walk in nature - movement often keeps conversations flowing, and green spaces can be incredibly calming on our nervous systems.
- Don’t worry about the outcome: not all conversations have to lead to a plan of action. Give yourself space to vent and reflect on your feelings throughout the process.
- Remember the good as well as the bad: Gratitude is a bit of a buzz-word at the moment and we feel that it’s for good reason! Sharing good experiences and feelings as they come up can make it easier to break out of negative patterns.
- Offer an understanding ear to friends and family when they have problems or concerns they wish to share. Active listening and being a source of support to loved ones helps us feel valuable, and reminds us how much we all have in common.
- Journaling and writing in a private diary can also be incredibly relieving and may help you gain clarity about a situation or thought.
Regular exercise can have a hugely positive impact on depression, anxiety, and general mental health and well-being3. Physical activity also increases endorphin levels, producing feelings of happiness and euphoria, as well as reducing pain and discomfort4. Exercise can raise your self-esteem5, help you to set goals, and achieve them.
Any exercise is useful, as long as it suits you. We like the mantra “The best form of exercise is the one you want to do!”.
Tips for staying motivated:
- Build it into your routine - consistency gets results, and you’re more likely to continue with a habit if it slots easily into your standard week.
- Set a goal or train for an event - this is a great way to motivate yourself and have an endpoint in mind, whether it’s a 10k run or mastering a headstand in yoga.
- Get a friend involved - this helps with accountability, and it’s more fun!
- Create energetic playlists - for those days when you’re struggling with low energy.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new - everyone is a beginner at some point - try that dance class, rollerblading, climbing, or just a new jogging route.
Our eating habits can play a significant role in our mood regulation throughout the day.
Sticking to a healthier diet can help you to think more clearly and stay alert, and may also improve your concentration and attention span6.
One of the biggest wins when it comes to mood and energy throughout the day is keeping our blood sugar balanced. When we have very sweet or refined foods, the sugar is released into our bloodstream very quickly, leading to a short, sharp burst of energy, but then shortly afterwards we feel sluggish, tired, irritable and foggy-headed. To support a consistent energy release throughout the day, choose meals and snacks that contain:
- Healthy fats
For example, some balanced snack ideas include hummus and oatcakes, nut butter and berries, yoghurt and an apple, roasted chickpeas, carrot and pepper slices and guacamole.
More generally, make sure you’re eating7:
- A range of fruits and vegetables
- Wholegrain cereals or breads
- Good quality protein
- Nuts and seeds
- A source of omega 3 (e.g. oily fish, or if you’re vegetarian or vegan, try an omega-3 supplement like Feel Algae Omega-3)
Research has shown links between low levels of certain nutrients, such as folate, magnesium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B6, B12, and D, and worsening mood, feelings of anxiety, and risk of depression8.
Alcohol and caffeine can also adversely affect your mood and mental health in excess, so be mindful about your intake.
Get Good Sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to ensure that you get enough. This is usually between 7-9 hours a night for most people. Managing our sleep can help improve our mood, make us more productive, and improve our concentration during the day9.
To support healthy sleep:
- Take some time out to relax before bed, including a relaxing activity such as reading a book, or having a hot bath.
- Form a good bedtime routine, trying to fall asleep at the same time each night (why not include our sleep supplement 30-60 minutes before bed?).
- Make the room as restful as possible. Research has shown better sleep quantity and quality in a dark, slightly cool, quiet room.
- Try to avoid too much screen use, heavy exercise, caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime as these can all impair sleep quality.
Mindfulness in the Moment
Mindfulness has been shown to have significant benefits for health and wellbeing, with positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including brain, body, behaviour, and relationships10.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, and can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, so rather than becoming overwhelmed, you can learn to manage them. This can be thought of as meditation in the traditional sense, but it can also be a moment of consciousness in a busy situation when you are aware of yourself and your body, bringing calm.
Some beginner tips for mindfulness:
- Place and posture: Find somewhere quiet and comfortable where you won’t be interrupted.
- Timing: Decide how long you’re going to dedicate and set a timer. Initially, start with shorter periods of 5-10 minutes.
- Breathe: Pay attention to your breath, following it’s natural flow.
- Stay focused: Notice your thoughts passing through but try not to let them distract you.
- Practice as often as possible: Daily practice will reap the most benefits, but try to include this habit in your weekly routine as often as you can. Practising at the same time each day can help mindfulness become a regular habit.
Here are some resources we recommend to support yourself or someone else:
Time to Change: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-and-stigma/help-and-support
Mental Health UK: https://mentalhealth-uk.org/
Mental Health Charities: https://sandyhealthcentre.nhs.uk/practice-information/a-z-list-of-organisations-for-mental-health/