Home Mental Health & Well-Being 10 Top Tips for Mental Wellness: Global Wellness Day with Mental Health Expert Noel Mcdermott

10 Top Tips for Mental Wellness: Global Wellness Day with Mental Health Expert Noel Mcdermott

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Mental and physical health go together and the approach we take to fitness in terms of regular activities which promote activity and health is the same approach to mental wellness. Here, mental health expert Noel McDermott looks at how Global Wellness Day (8th June) is encouraging people to live a healthier and better life and how you can invest in your mental wellness every day.

Noel comments: “We all know that being fit does not mean waiting until you can’t move due to being a couch potato and then suddenly going for a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. The same is true for our mental health. Don’t be a slouch and wait until you feel anxious or depressed; start investing in your mental wellness on a daily basis. The evidence is clear both for physical and mental wellness: regular investment in activities that promote health reduces the risk of illness and ameliorates any illness that does come along due to circumstance.”

There are lots of things you can do to promote mental wellness and the top tip of the top ten tips is regular exercise. In fact, there are many specific uses of exercise as treatment for mental illness as well as a preventative strategy.

Here are the top 10 tips to help you improve your mental health along with your physical fitness:

  • Exercise and an active lifestyle: Get active and use your body more; at a minimum, aim for 3 to 20 minutes of exercise or activity per week. Exercise has been shown again and again to be one of, if not the most effective, methods for reducing and treating mental illness.
  • Reframing and cognitive restructuring: Catching out our unhelpful thinking styles that distort and impede our mental wellness is a core skill from cognitive behavioural therapy and they include polarised thinking, overgeneralisation, should statements, discounting the positive, mind reading, personalisation, and emotional reasoning. Learning to spot these and the others in the top ten and mitigate them is hugely beneficial. For example, we know that when we are depressed, we have depressed thoughts about socialising – that we are a burden, that it won’t be fun to go, etc. – which stop us from socialising (emotional reasoning.) This isolation increases the depression symptoms. While socialising won’t cure the depression as such, it will help stop it from getting unnecessarily worse.
  • Connect with others: Having good support networks and good broader social networks hugely improves mental fitness and resilience. Joining groups for exercise, for example, gives you more bang for your buck in terms of improving social connections and promoting exercise. Loneliness causes distress on its own and is a major cause of illness and death. Social capital, as it is called, significantly improves health outcomes, especially mental health outcomes. The more isolated someone is, the more at risk they are of becoming ill.
  • Join peer support groups for mental illness if you have depression, addiction, etc: Peer support groups have become a mainstay for help in all areas of health and well-being, from losing weight to stopping smoking to managing mental illness or staying sober. We learn best from our peers and from people we feel have been through it like us (identification). We can reduce our psychological defensiveness if we feel the people we are learning the lessons from are ‘one of us’. As well as getting long-term emotional support to prevent relapse.
  • Stop drinking, smoking, and eating junk food: It should be obvious by now to everyone that all three of these are a disaster for mental and physical health and should be stopped now. But maybe you didn’t know just how bad alcohol was for you. It’s now clarified, and a tier-one carcinogen is just the same as smoking. From 2026 on, Ireland will be labelling alcohol products along the same lines as smoking ones are currently.
  • Good sleep hygiene: Sleep is central to psychological health, as REM sleep cycles literally serve the psychological function of ensuring the brain is working. Sleep also allows memories to be formed from the day’s activities, and a lack of sleep significantly impairs psychological health. Good sleep hygiene includes a regular sleep routine, reducing stimulants, including blue screen use at night, regular exercise, avoiding eating late, etc. Great advice from the NHS can be found here.
  • Get out in nature: We have an inbuilt response to nature called biophilia that improves our sense of wellbeing and connectedness. We don’t need to wild camp on Everest to get it; a walk around our local park is good enough. We kept the parks open during the lockdowns for these reasons.
  • Live in the present: Learn to appreciate the now through mindful practices. For what is a simple breathing exercise, it is astonishing how few people use mindful breathing. The benefits of mindfulness and being in the present in general for mental health are impossible to overstate. Meditation is a mainstream mental health treatment and usually a first-level prophylactic offering.
  • Volunteerism: Helping others reinforces our pro-social nature of helping ourselves and helping others at the same time. We get significant hormonal rewards for doing good work, which improves our sense of well-being. It improves our psychological health, gives us purpose and meaning, and increases social capital.
  • Stress management: Stress is implicated in every major lifestyle illness and in every mental illness. Managing stress (relaxation) is crucial to mental health and resilience to lifestyle problems. It is one of the four corners of lifestyle medicine, an evidence-based approach to health. Meditation will help reduce stress, as will exercise, sleep, and, crucially, learning relaxation techniques. Avoid using alcohol to manage stress, as it will have the opposite effect.
  • Be nice to yourself: What are your personal treats? A spa, cuddles, or meal with the gang? Whatever it is, do it a lot!

Mental health expert Noel McDermott is a psychotherapist and dramatherapist with over 30 years’ work within the health, social care, education, and criminal justice fields. His company, Mental Health Works, provides unique mental health services for the public and other organisations.

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