How to make mental health your priority in 2019
Hello 2019! As January arrives, conversations of course turn to new year’s resolutions, with many of us pledging to focus on fitness. According to recent research we carried out, ‘getting fit’ is the most popular resolution, with fewer people aiming to improve their mental health. Yet physical fitness and mental wellbeing go hand in hand, so how about setting some goals to ensure your mood is in tip-top condition throughout the coming year?
With many of us suffering the winter blues and feeling the effects of short days and dark, rainy evenings, January is the best time to turn your attentions inwards. Here are some achievable ideas to boost your wellbeing:
- Keep a diary
Writing things down can be like voicing your innermost thoughts to a trustworthy friend. According to life coach Jackee Holder, writing for Psychologies, penning your thoughts can help take the edge off your most toxic feelings, as well as allowing you to spot patterns of behaviour. You don’t have to write reams; just jot down notes each day about what’s happened and how you feel about it. Focusing on the positives can become self-perpetuating; write down three things that you feel grateful for at the end of each day, and watch your mood soar!
- Sign up to a course
Learning or improving on a skill or hobby is a great mood-booster; it builds confidence and classes are a great way to meet like-minded friends. How about picking up a language you used to be good at in school or taking a nature photography course? Contact your council’s adult education department or local lifelong learning centre to see what’s on, or find group events in your area via websites such as Meetup.com.
- Get your 15 minutes… of fresh air
Fresh air is a great wellbeing booster, come rain or shine. The great Alfred Wainwright said there’s no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing, so pull on your wellies and step out the front door. Just walking around the block, noticing the small details you don’t see from the car, can turn a bad mood into a sense of calm. If you’re unable to get out, a trick from wellbeing expert Lynette Evans is to sit by an open window listening to the sounds outside, be they birds, rain or people walking by chatting.
- Start the day right
How often do you hit snooze for that extra 10 minutes in bed, only to find yourself rushing for the bus or to the school gates? Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier to start your day with a sense of calm. Sit with a cup of tea or coffee and map out the day ahead in your mind, or practise mindfulness in a quiet corner. You’ll soon start to see the benefits!
- Eat well
If your new year’s resolution involves the word diet, hold the weighing scales right there! The NHS confirms what we all know deep down - diets don’t work. Instead, focus on eating well, making sure fruit, vegetables, protein and carbs all form part of your daily intake and switching white bread, pasta and rice for wholegrain. According to mental health experts Mind, there’s a strong link between food and mood, so think about small changes you can introduce gradually and read our article on why drinking water is so good for you.
- Treat yourself
Planning a treat calendar can really give you something to look forward to, all year round. Plan one treat a month, from checking in to a spa to booking a day’s leave to do absolutely nothing. Write 12 ideas on the calendar or create a year planner and pin it above your desk or somewhere you’ll see it every day. The treats don’t have to cost anything; just think of your favourite things and make sure you do them!
- Be kind
Researchers at the universities of Oxford and Bournemouth found that being kind to others makes us ‘slightly’ happier, and that targeted kindness, rather than ‘random’ acts of kindness, has the greater effect. There are lots of ways to help people in your community, such as volunteering, while letting go of the small, daily things that wind us up can also allow us to feel better, such as not reacting to road rage or queue-jumpers. Assume they’re having a bad day, smile and let them past - ultimately you’ll ‘win’ by keeping calm and carrying on!
As Blue Monday approaches, did you know that more than eight out of 10 health insurance policies now include mental health cover? If you’ve tried many self-care tips and still feel like you’re struggling, help is at hand. See your GP or seek counselling through your private medical insurance - you may be surprised at the options available. And read our 10 small steps to boost your mental health for further ways to boost wellbeing.