06 May 5 ways to improve mental wellbeing
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from Monday 10 May to Sunday 16 May 2021.
During this pandemic, millions of us have experienced a mental health problem or seen a loved one struggle.
Mental health awareness is the recognition that our psychological well-being is an important part of our own health, productivity, and happiness, as well as the well-being of our communities. Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act and also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behaviour could be affected. In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it. Most people know someone who has experienced a mental health problem. They can happen to all kinds of people from all walks of life. And it’s likely that, when you find a combination of self-care, treatment and support that works for you, you will get better.
Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you’re frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.
Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Experiencing a mental health problem is often upsetting, confusing and frightening – particularly at first. If you become unwell, you may feel that it’s a sign of weakness, or that you are ‘losing your mind’.
These fears are often reinforced by the negative (and often unrealistic) way that people experiencing mental health problems are portrayed in the media. This may stop you from talking about your problems, or seeking help. This, in turn, is likely to increase your distress and sense of isolation. However, mental health problems are a common human experience.
Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. The World Health Organisation constitution states: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. It’s fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.
5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing Recommended by the NHS
Evidence suggests there are 5 steps you can take to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Trying these things could help you feel more positive and able to get the most out of life.
1. Connect with Other People
Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. They can:
- Help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth
- Give you an opportunity to share positive experiences
- Provide emotional support and allow you to support others
There are lots of things you could try to help build stronger and closer relationships:
- If possible, take time each day to be with your family, for example, try arranging a fixed time to eat dinner together
- Arrange a day out with friends you have not seen for a while
- Try switching off the TV to talk or play a game with your children, friends or family
- Have lunch with a colleague
- Visit a friend or family member who needs support or company
- Volunteer at a local school, hospital or community group. Find out how to volunteer on the GOV.UK website
- Make the most of technology to stay in touch with friends and family. Video-chat apps like Skype and FaceTime are useful, especially if you live far apart
- Rely on technology or social media alone to build relationships. It’s easy to get into the habit of only ever texting, messaging or emailing people
2. Be Physically Active
Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. Evidence also shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing by:
- Raising your self-esteem
- Helping you to set goals or challenges and achieve them
- Causing chemical changes in your brain which can help to positively change your mood
- Find free activities to help you get fit
- If you have a disability or long-term health condition, find out about getting active with a disability
- Start running with the NHS couch to 5k podcasts
- Find out how to start swimming, cycling or dancing
- Find out about getting started with exercise
- Feel that you have to spend hours in a gym. It’s best to find activities you enjoy and make them a part of your life
3. Learn New Skills
Research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing by:
- Boosting self-confidence and raising self-esteem
- Helping you to build a sense of purpose
- Helping you to connect with others
Even if you feel like you do not have enough time, or you may not need to learn new things, there are lots of different ways to bring learning into your life.
Some of the things you could try include:
- Try learning to cook something new.
- Try taking on a new responsibility at work, such as mentoring a junior staff member or improving your presentation skills
- Work on a DIY project, such as fixing a broken bike, garden gate or something bigger. There are lots of free video tutorials online
- Consider signing up for a course at a local college. You could try learning a new language or a practical skill such as plumbing
- Try new hobbies that challenge you, such as writing a blog, taking up a new sport or learning to paint
- Feel you have to learn new qualifications or sit exams if this does not interest you. It’s best to find activities you enjoy and make them a part of your life
4. Give to Others
Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by:
- Creating positive feelings and a sense of reward
- Giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth
- Helping you connect with other people
It could be small acts of kindness towards other people or larger ones like volunteering in your local community.
Some examples of the things you could try include:
- Saying thank you to someone for something they have done for you
- Asking friends, family or colleagues how they are and really listening to their answer
- Spending time with friends or relatives who need support or company
- Offering to help someone you know with DIY or a work project
- Volunteering in your community, such as helping at a school, hospital or care home
5. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.
Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.
- Pay more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you
This can improve your mental wellbeing.
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