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You may be looking for ways in which you can improve your mental health in the year ahead. Whether you have a diagnosis of a mental health condition or not, it is important to look after your mental health and well-being.
I interviewed mental health and well-being experts for their top tips on how we can focus on our psychological
Here are 12 tips for you to consider – Why not try each of them for the next 12 months?
Tip 1: Slow down
Louise Hallam from Still Calm offers this tip: The more stressed out you get, the faster you try and do things. And guess what? Your body and mind start to think you are in danger which makes you more stressed.
So slow down; you can achieve this through a range of activities such as walking, talking, and breathing exercises. You’ll start to feel much calmer and able to cope and think straight, quickly.
Tip 2: Accept imperfections
Practise accepting the imperfection that the world brings. Life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect, you are not perfect and neither am I, says Darren Yap of Wimble Wellness. By learning to accept ourselves and others, warts and all, we can begin to find inner calm.
So let’s start with something simple: Look at the palm of your hand and notice all the imperfect lines, crooked and broken, just observe them without judging them, not liking any of the lines but also not disliking any of the lines. Practise accepting the imperfect design of the lines in the palm of your hand – perfectly imperfect.
Tip 3: Restructure how you interpret information
Another excellent tip is to follow an exercise that can help to restructure how you negatively interpret information and focus your mind on an alternate train of thought. Try to identify three things a day you are grateful for, advises Steven Crumblehulme of Reflexology in Cheltenham.
Initially, this may be a challenge, but it gets much easier each day. They can never be the same things but can be anything as simple as seeing a blue sky, hearing the birds, seeing a friend for lunch, etc.
Essentially, you’re training your brain to think differently and, just like going to the gym to tone up and lose weight, it won’t happen overnight.
Tip 4: Spend more time with people
Hannah-Beth from The Little Surprise Company found that spending time with people that you love being around is the best thing for her mental health as saying no to things that you don’t really want to go to.
It sounds fairly simple and maybe a little obvious but Hannah thinks that we are often so caught up in what we ‘should do’ that we often forget to reflect on what actually brings us joy. Spending quality time with our families strengthens our bond with them and creates memories.
Tip 5: Create meaningful interactions
Loneliness is chronic stress which can affect all areas of our life including work productivity, sickness records and effectiveness, explains Nigel Farmer who manages Loughborough Counselling. There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk of premature mortality.
What is missing for lonely people is not just social interaction but meaningful interaction. We need bonds that come from being authentic. To find these bonds we need communal places for our paths to cross while ensuring our health is being cared for.
Walking, exercising, eating, and being creative in a non-threatening safe environment – can all make a difference.
Tip 6: Make the most of your strengths
According to research, people who use their strengths most are more likely to flourish in their lives. Although it can be good for our confidence and well-being to focus on our best qualities, it’s very easy to overlook them or take them for granted.
The start of a new year is a great opportunity to take some time to reflect on your strengths. To help, Martin Galpin and his colleagues at At My Best created a free online tool that can help you get clearer about when you’re at your best. If you prefer something tactile, you might want to try their Strengths Cards, which are great for stimulating discussion about times when you (and others) have been at your best.
Tip 7: Don’t suffer in silence
Renee Clarke, director of Work Well Hub who specialises in improving well-being, performance and retention within the workplace, highlights the importance of not suffering in silence, especially in the workplace. If you feel that your job is either causing or adding to poor mental health don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out.
Organisations have a legal and moral duty to protect their mental well-being while at work but often lack the resources or skills to do so.
If you feel the pressures of work are too much and are affecting your mental well-being please raise your concerns with your manager and start the conversation. It is only when mental health is spoken about will the stigma is broken.
Tip 8: Let it go
Geraldine Oxenham of Hypnos Wellbeing emphasised the importance of letting go. So often we hold onto heavy, unhelpful anger and frustrations towards others or ourselves. Hand in hand with this can be guilt about the past and/or anxiety about the future. The key to lightening the load is to do it in a safe way.
Some things to consider include: Go somewhere where no one can hear you and speak/shout as much as you want about all those things that are frustrating you. You have the right to speak your truth. Another is to write a letter to the person you’re angry at and then destroy it. This is about you getting out your hurt and anger not hurting them in turn (even if they deserve it).
You can also scribble down all your worries and annoying thoughts every night before bed or first thing in the morning. You don’t need to carry them around with you. Seeing things in black and white can really help you to see things in a more realistic light.
Tip 9: Get moving
Jay Unwin, a well-being coach for teachers, says that it is important to get moving. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress and depression by up to 40%. Aim for a minimum of 20 minutes for maximum benefit, and make sure you’re working up a sweat and getting out of breath.
For an added bonus, get outdoors. The fresh air and natural light will add even more of a stress release, as well as leave you feeling refreshed and energised.
Tip 10: Time to be your own best friend
That inner voice that can be your biggest critic? Make friends with them, says Claire Goodwin-Fee of The Therapy Couch.
You can do this by gently tuning in and listening to what that voice is saying. Are you being accepting and kind to yourself or overly harsh and scolding? If it’s the latter, this can have a huge impact on your emotional well-being and confidence. Start to challenge that voice and seek positive statements.
So if your inner voice says: “You’re so stupid,’ when you drop something? Instead of shrinking in shame, say: ‘I made a mistake and that’s OK. I’m human and will show myself kindness.” Be your own best friend and see how that starts to change how you feel.
Tip 11: Try deep journalling
Rachel Harington of Well & Calm Studios shares that when one is able to go deep into themselves and get it all out on paper it is an act of catharsis. The more you are able to really be honest with yourself about your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies the easier it will be to create what you want.
This is a big year for all of us. As this new decade begins it is great to reflect on what went well, what you accomplished, what you could improve, and let go of from this past year and also the past ten years. Think in terms of both professional and personal when journalling.
Tip 12: Spend time with nature
Paula Ralph, a women’s health and surgery coach says that being out in nature will improve your mood. Humans are wired for nature (biophilia) and being among trees and around water is a great way to feel better.
If you are not able to get out, even looking out a window at trees will help. Failing that pot plants or pictures of trees is going to help more than you realise.
The New Year is a time when many look back at the past. The New Year is also an opportunity to accept ourselves for who we are and find ways to improve ourselves. Hopefully, you’ll find these useful as you continue your journey towards having improved mental health and well-being.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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