Has your mental health been taking a beating lately? Whether it’s the long days at work wearing you down, or worrying about the long drawn out pandemic, there are ways to boost your mental health.
Here are eight different ways to improve your mental health in Singapore:
Get enough sleep
A lack of sleep can adversely affect your mental health, from a deteriorating mood , to reduced mental alertness, it can even take a toll on your physical health over prolonged periods.
What is enough sleep? To get enough restful sleep, you should aim to get about 7–9 hours of quality sleep every night. It is also important that you give your brain time to unwind and relax at the end of a busy day. Try to avoid stimulating activities 2 hours before going to bed like working, watching TV or using your phone or laptop. Instead, calm your mind and prepare for sleep by taking a relaxing shower, reading a book or meditating.
Incorporate a more balanced, healthier diet
You might not realise how much your diet could be affecting your mental health until you’ve made a drastic change in your eating habits. Unhealthy diets that contain a lot of trans fat, sugars, refined carbs and caffeine all have the potential to adversely affect your mood and mental health. These foods can weaken your immune system, make you feel sluggish and even disrupt your sleep cycle.
As you might react differently to certain foods due to genetics and other factors, try experimenting with the food you exclude and include in your diet depending on how they make you feel. A good place to start is by cutting foods with high levels of trans fats, chemical preservatives and sugars. A healthy, balanced diet that includes leafy greens (like kale and spinach) and foods that contain ‘good fats’ (like omega-3 rich fish, nuts and beans) can boost your energy levels, improve your mood and allow you to get better quality sleep.
Speaking to a professional
While those methods are great self-help steps to improve your emotional and mental well-being, especially if done consistently, you might find seeking professional help to improve your mental health to be incredibly useful.
But where do you start in your search for a professional to speak to?
At Zoey, a digital clinic for women in Singapore, you’ll be able to speak to a licensed psychologist at affordable prices from the comfort of your home. As individual therapy sessions Zoey offers are conducted online, you’ll feel more at ease speaking to a therapist in a space you’re most comfortable in and won’t need to spend time travelling to a physical clinic. You’ll also be able to schedule sessions at your convenience, which allows the freedom to reach out when you need it.
It may not be surprising to learn that both your physical health and mental health are linked. When you work to improve your physical health by keeping active, you will also experience improvements with your mental well-being. This is due to the release of endorphins – the ‘feel-good’ chemicals that get released during physical activity which acts as a happiness booster and an energy booster. Regular exercise plays a big role in improving your mental health as it can relieve stress, improve your memory and can even help you sleep better.
But what if you hate to exercise and can’t bear to be in a gym? Don’t let that stop you from reaping the benefits of keeping more active. Even activities like playing with your dog in the park, dancing along to the songs on the radio and walking around the mall while window shopping has the potential to boost your mood and make a big difference to your mental health. Try and aim for at least 30 minutes of activity per day, even breaking it down to three 10-minute sessions will do you much good and make you feel good too.
Managing your stress
Being under a lot of stress can take its toll on your mental and emotional health. While you might not be able to avoid all sources of stress in your life, you can incorporate stress management strategies to help prevent things from spiralling out of control.
One way of managing stress is to speak to a friend who cares about you. This helps to calm your nerves about the stressful situation and also stops the ‘fight or flight’ response which can be damaging to your mental health. Talking to a friend can also help to release hormones that alleviate stress, which will make you feel better and improve your mood even if you’re not able to change the stressful situation you’re in.
Another way of managing stress is to ground yourself by appealing to your senses. Do you have a favourite song that makes you feel at peace when you listen to it? Or have a favourite candle that when you smell it, you feel calm? By experimenting with how your nervous system responds to different sensory inputs, you’ll be able to find one (or several ways) to help you to ground and calm yourself whenever a stressful situation happens.
There might be moments in your life where you find yourself completely overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, unable to do anything else. In moments like these, it might be helpful to practise mindfulness, a type of meditation that has you fully focus on the ‘now’ and turns down the volume of your mind by being aware of your body and thoughts.
You can practise mindfulness by setting aside some time to be alone. You should focus on breathing deeply, being aware of the air rushing in and out of your body as you breathe in and out. As you carry on deep breathing, notice your thoughts as they come up. Don’t try to push them aside or ignore them. Instead, note these thoughts down, stay calm and continue your deep breathing as an anchor.
Audiobook and podcast therapy
Audiobook therapy can be a powerful catalyst for healing and growth for anybody who is open to learning how audiobooks and podcasts affect us and to listening to certain audiobooks with conscious awareness. Audiobook therapy allows us to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in audiobooks on our psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change.
Talking to a friend can be a great way to alleviate stress. But that shouldn’t be the only reason why you should meet and speak to your friends. As social creatures, we aren’t meant to be alone and instead crave companionship in order to function at our best.
Spending quality time with your friends and other people can help boost your mood. The key to this is to find someone you consider to be a ‘good listener’, someone who is able to listen to you without imposing any judgement. You will be able to speak freely about your struggles and feelings without the fear of interruption or judgement when speaking to a good listener.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.