May is Mental Health Awareness month. This is a topic that is relevant not only to those who struggle with mental health disorders but to family members and friends as well as society as a whole. The purpose of such a campaign is not merely to raise awareness around the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions but to empower people to take ownership and responsibility for their own mental wellbeing and to become ambassadors for others.
Optimising our mental health is grounded in establishing some simple yet powerful lifestyle practices.
10 Simple Habits to a Healthy Mind
- Health Eating
Establish healthy eating habits that nourish and nurture the body and mind. Restrict your intake of processed foods, fast foods and convenience foods. Eat more fresh and nutrient dense foods and ensure a variety of different foods.
- Become more Physically Active.
Exercise should not be seen as punishment. Find activities that you enjoy and make them a part of your life such as gardening, hiking, walking and dancing. Becoming more active is not only beneficial to our physical health and fitness but it aids in improving mood, building self-esteem and motivation following the release of certain neurochemicals in the brain.
- Engage Socially with Others:
Connecting with people provides a sense of belonging and self-worth. Positive relationships provide emotional support and allow you to support others. Do not rely on technology or social media alone to build relationships but make a concerted effort to meet up with people for coffee or a meal.
- Practise Mindfulness.
By practising mindfulness we can achieve greater happiness, joy and inner peace. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. It brings awareness by observing our own mind and thoughts, increases our focus to the well-being of others and brings caring and relevance into everything we do. By practising mindfulness, we can reduce anxiety and stress levels and enhance our performance.
- Embrace the Beauty of Nature.
Spending time in nature has immense healing attributes. It strengthens and reinforces our ability to practice mindfulness by engaging all the senses. Visually, we can admire the beauty of nature, we can appreciate the smell of rain, grass and flowers, the touch of the sun on our skin or wind against our face and the sounds of birds chirping or water flowing and babbling.
- Become more Giving.
Studies show that the simple act of giving creates positive feelings that improve mental wellness. Acts of kindness give people a feeling of purpose and self-worth.
- Enquire after friends, family or colleagues.
- Spend time with friends or family who need support or company
- Volunteer in your community, help out at a school, hospital or care home
- Express greater Gratitude.
As with the act of giving, expressing gratitude has also been shown to shift the brain into positive gear. This can be achieved by creating a daily gratitude journal or simply waking up every morning expressing gratitude for one or more things in your life or by saying thank you to others.
- Learn a new skill.
Learn to dance or play Chess. Other examples include: Drawing, painting, Gourmet Master-Chef style cooking, Yoga, Martial Arts. Learning a new skill can also improve your mental wellbeing by giving you a sense of purpose and boosting your self-confidence. There are multiple online short courses available from drawing to pet grooming to more advanced skills such as web design.
- Adopt a rescue or homeless cat or dog.
Pets offer companionship and alleviate loneliness. They give us a sense of purpose and reward. Grooming, stroking or playing with a pet helps relax and unwind our minds and can be very calming.
- Practise better sleep hygiene. See my blog for tips and guidance on establishing a better sleep routine.
Compiled by: Dr Corrinne Rae Giles (BScDietetics & MBBCh)