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How do I improve my mental health?

Your mental health affects every area of your life.  People who are mentally healthy are happy with their life, look forward to the future, enjoy relationships, are able to adapt to change and have the ability to bounce back from challenging situations.   So, while physically healthy people are able to recover quicker after illness or injury, mentally healthy people are more resilient and can cope with any stress, adversity or challenges that they meet.  Resilience gives you the coping strategies to enable you to remain focused, flexible, and productive and maintain a positive outlook through good times and bad.

However, anyone can suffer from mental or emotional health problems and this year, roughly one in five of us will be diagnosed with some form of mental health disorder.  This does not account for the many that remain silent and suffer alone.  They bottle up their feelings, pretend everything is alright, struggle through their life and hope nobody notices and that somehow things will get better.  Read on to find some strategies that may help you to improve your mental health.

Accept who you are

Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid self criticism.  You are special and unique so do not compare yourself to other people.  Focus on things you like about yourself or something you are good at.  After years of self doubt this can sometimes be difficult, but ask a friend or a family member and they will be able to tell you lots of lovely things about yourself.  Make yourself a priority and schedule time to do the things you enjoy.  Do not feel guilty about this time, as this is time you need to take for your health and well-being.

Exercise

Staying active is not only good for your physical health but will also your mental health.  Physical activity releases endorphins, powerful chemicals, that lifts your mood and increases your energy levels.  It can also improve your memory, relieves stress and can help you sleep better.  You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to improve your mental health.  Take a walk in the park, throw a Frisbee for your dog, cycle, dance to your favourite music or go for a swim.  Any and all activity is going to help you feel better and more positive.

Social connection

Humans are not meant to live in isolation and although phone calls and social networks are helpful, face-to-face time is essential to feel and function at your best and to build solid, quality relationships.  Find someone who is a ‘good listener’, who you trust to support you and not judge or criticize you.  Try to build up a support network, and you will probably find people are keen to help you.  Smile at people you meet, make small talk with neighbours or try joining groups with a common interest to you.  Making a connection is beneficial to your mental health and may well lead on to making lasting friendships.

Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet can improve your energy and sleep, strengthen your immune system, boost your mood and see your life more optimistically.  Choose fatty fish rich in Omega-3, nuts, avocados, beans, leafy greens and fresh fruit and vegetables.  Cut down alcohol, caffeine, fried and sugary foods as well as refined carbs and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives.

Sleep

Good quality sleep is essential to developing good mental health.  Adults should aim for 7-9 hours a night and it is best to stick to the same routine every night, and get up at the same time each morning, even at the weekend.  This will help your body set it’s internal clock.  Try to wind down and calm the mind, and prepare for bed by switching off the television, tablet, computer and your phone at least two hours before bed.  Make sure your bedroom is not too hot and ensure that it is dark and quiet.  Take a warm bath, listen to soft music, or try some relaxation techniques.  Sleep is a necessity not a luxury.

Contemplation and appreciation

Learn to live in the moment.  Think of things that you appreciate in your life right now.  Spend time enjoying the sunset, or listening the wind in the trees.  Play with your children, clap the dog, look at old photographs, all simple things but they can make you laugh and feel happy.  Meditate, pray or take a few minutes to pay attention to all the beautiful things around you.  Take part in activities that you enjoy and make you feel good.  Challenge yourself with new hobbies or going places you were too nervous to attend.  Understanding and accepting your emotions, even the negative ones can make a difference to your ability to manage stress and to balance your moods.

Find purpose in your life

People see this is different ways.  It may be through paid work, helping others through volunteering for charity work, or spending time with your friends and family.  It may be starting a new hobby, or working towards a new career path but be excited about your future.

Writing it down

Finally, if you are unable to improve your mental health, and are unable to function in your daily life, whether at work, home or in your relationships please seek professional health.  Seeking help is a sign of strength – not weakness, and people who receive appropriate care can recover and lead a full and rewarding life.

 

Research has shown that Pilates is an excellent way to good mental health.  It can enhance wellbeing as it brings about a sense of better self-confidence, self control and the ability to rise to a challenge.  Pilates looks at your body holistically and therefore helps you not just physically but also mentally.  The deep breathing used in Pilates focuses the mind, reduces stress and anxiety and will teach you to relax and help your sleep pattern.

 

Pilates Scotland on demand are currently offering a 14 day free trial. There are a wide variety of classes for all levels of fitness.  You can take part in them anytime, anywhere and you have a choice of motivational and experienced instructors to choose from.  Start now to take steps to improve your mental health by clicking here.

It is really helpful to keep a diary of your day to day experiences.  Include what you eat, any exercise, how you feel, if people have upset you, what you’ve achieved.  In fact, anything that helps you pin point what affects your mood.  Set yourself achievable goals that you have broken down into smaller steps.  When you meet these goals you will feel a sense of self worth and this will encourage you to aim even higher.

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