Looking after your mental health is essential and it’s something that most of us are constantly working on. As its Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to share with you, the ways that I look after my mind. They won’t cost you any money to do, either.
I know that sometimes there can be a disconnect between knowing what you need to do and actually looking after your mental health. Too many times, I’ve been sat on the sofa, or lay in bed, knowing what steps I need to take. However, actually doing those thing feels like climbing Everest. I certainly don’t get it right every day. But I do believe that incorporating little things into your daily routine can make a huge difference.
1) Go outside
I remember hearing a piece of parenting advice that recommended that you took your child outside, or put them in water, to help to calm them down when they’re upset or angry. And it seems to work. Almost every time. But I’ve found that it works for me too.
Being outside and taking in our surroundings can really help to boost your mood. It can remind us that there’s something bigger than us in this world and by moving our bodies, whilst breathing in fresh air, we can channel our stress. You don’t need to travel for miles to experience it either. Just step outside of your house.
2) Get into water
I’m referencing that piece of parenting advice again. I find that putting my son in the bath, or in the swimming pool really boosts his mood and I’m just the same. It could be a hot bath, it might be a hot shower, or maybe it’s the sea, or a river. It doesn’t actually matter what water you choose, but getting in it could help to boost your mood. Try it!
If you decide to venture into the sea or a river though, then do your research first. Wild swimming has become increasingly popular of late, but not all bodies of water are safe to climb into.
Being ‘mindful’ means different things to different people. Some claim to dedicate hours to it and swear by certain apps, but it doesn’t have to feature in your life in that way. It’s easy to forget what is going on around us and to live exclusively in our own heads, but mindfulness makes us aware of what is going on around us.
A simple way of being mindful could be walking down the street and looking at the trees and flowers that line the street, whilst listening to the sounds around you and paying attention to the wind on your face. Taking a moment each day to be mindful of your surroundings is a great thing to add your mental wellness strategy.
For some of us, listening to music can be a real mood booster. If you select the right music, that is. I wouldn’t suggest you whack on Adele if you’re after a mood boost! But putting on some tunes you love and having a dance around can really help to improve your mood.
Singing can also help. This could be in the shower (whilst nobody is listening), or as part of an organised choir. There are lots of different singing groups in operation and many of them are free to join. There is just something about taking your stress and converting it into the notes of a song.
Moving your body is a great way of working through stress and tiring your body out physically can aid sleep. You don’t have to invest in a pricey gym membership to do it either. You literally just have to step out of your front door. Walk, skip, jump, run, do whatever.
6) Seek out a connection
It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert, an ambivert, or an omnivert, most of us need some level of connection and it’s important to seek it out regularly. It could be something simple, like messaging a friend about a television show you both like, or chatting to your neighbour when you bump into them outside the house. But regularly connecting with others, even if it’s just on the surface, is important for your mental wellbeing. So if you find that you haven’t actually had a conversation with another adult in a couple of days, make sure that you seek one out.
7) Have a digital detox
Social media, it’s great isn’t it? In enables us to connect with people all over the world and for many of us, it was a saviour during the pandemic when we were unable to see friends and family. But it can also have a damaging impact on our mental health. Endlessly scrolling, filling our brains with irrelevant information and looking at peoples’ polished lives can be damaging. It can be hard to remember that Instagram and Facebook aren’t real life and sometimes you just need to close the apps, take away from the gloss and the filters and give your mind a break.
8) Keep an eye on your diet
When it comes to looking after your mental health, addressing your diet is essential. We have all been guilty of having one too many packets of crisps, or one of two too many glasses of vino, but actually, these things can impact more than our waistlines. Although it’s positive to have a little bit of what you fancy, if you’re feeling low, or you suffer with low mood, it is worth looking at your diet to ensure that you’re consuming plenty of water and fresh, nutritious foods. If you don’t feel you have the time to cook and you do have cash to spare, then look into using a company that makes meal preparation easy, like The Good Prep.
It doesn’t matter if you’re into massively into novels, autobiographies, classic literature, or Heat Magazine, reading can help us all to switch off.
If you’re a natural book worm, then this is probably something you already find the time for, but if you’re not, then consider trying to work it into your routine. Reading helps you to take your mind off your everyday stresses, it can provide a distraction and it also gives us a break from our smartphone. If you’re looking for something new to read, then get down to your local library.
10) Cut toxicity
Some people are not good for us. That can include friends, family and colleagues. If somebody drains your mental health, or you don’t feel that they have your best interests at heart, then it is ok to reduce the time you spend with them. Think about who makes you feel good and spend time with those people. Life is too short to do anything else.
I always bang on about how money and the mind are interlinked and when you’re feeling down or low, it is easy to throw your budget out of the window. Who wants to think about money and affordability when they’re not in a good headspace? But actually, having your finances in hand can really boost your mental health. Nothing beats knowing that you have a plan and that all of your bills will be covered. If you’re unsure about where to start with this, then my free budget planner should help. If you’re focussed on looking after your mental health, then you can’t ignore your finances!
12) Make time for an interest
Life is busy and many of us are juggling multiple responsibilities and commitments. Family, work, friends, housework. It can feel never ending. Although it’s natural to put yourself and your interests at the bottom of that list, you shouldn’t. If you’re interested in something, then find a way of perusing it.
Some people find writing a form of therapy. It’s fair to say that I probably fall into that category. Check out how to start a lifestyle blog if you think you’d benefit from starting your own website like I did.
If writing isn’t something that usually benefits you, you may still find it useful to have a note pad to write your thoughts down. I find this especially useful in the night, when lots of things fly into my mind. Penning those thoughts down means that I allow myself to forget them until the morning.
14) Make a calm box
I’m a big advocate of calm boxes, which is a collection of items that you store together, which you can turn to if you’re having a bad day.
You should make your calm box when you’re in high spirits, so that it’s at hand if you need it. It should contain items that tap into your senses, so things that bring you comfort to look at, to feel, to touch, to smell, or to hear. I’d recommend buying some LSW Mind Cards to go in it. You can make a calm box for free though; I’ve previously written about how you can create your emergency calm box with things you already have.
I couldn’t write an article about looking after your mental health and not include the thing that improves virtually every situation; sleep. Going to bed early means that we have more strength to face the day ahead. It can also help to regulate our mood and our emotions. So if you don’t regularly make time for an early night, start now. Here are some tips for getting a better night’s sleep if that’s something that you struggle with. If your bed isn’t particularly comfortable, then try to change it. I have written a guide to buying a bed for less.
Is it worth it?
You could be excused if you’ve just read this list and thought: “well that’s obvious, I do all of those things and none of them truly help me”. But do you really? When was the last time you went for a long walk? When was your last digital detox? Have you read a chapter of your book lately? Looking after your mental health is paramount and there are plenty of free things we can do to help us boost our mental health. We might think it’s small, or inconsequential, but small things add up and these actions might help us to keep feelings that can be damaging, such as loneliness, at bay.