The 7 Steps To Mental Fitness
For Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we want to promote seven simple strategies to help you improve your mental fitness.
We all know that eating less junk food, exercising more and cutting back on smoking and drinking is good for our physical health, so how do we improve our mental health? It’s a very similar story believe it or not.
Small, simple steps can help make a real difference to our mental fitness. And it’s very much not a case of all or nothing. Simply employing one or two of the below strategies into your daily routine can have huge benefits to your overall wellbeing.
Where possible, ensure you remain connected with family, friends, colleagues and other members of your support network. Regular communication in person, by phone, post or through technology enables us to share ideas, concerns or worries, and offer or receive support. If you feel your mental health is deteriorating and you need support from health care services, let someone know. If you are concerned about someone else, encourage them to seek support. More information can be found here.
Physical activity is good for our mental health. Do this in a way that’s safe & right for you. Even the smallest amount can make a difference. Green space is also good for our mental health, particularly for reducing stress.
At challenging times, our thoughts and feelings about the unknown and what may come may overwhelm us and evoke strong emotions. It’s important for us to try and focus on being present and in the moment. Allowing time to recognise, understand and process our thoughts and feelings matters. Keeping perspective is also important and gathering information from reliable sources helps us to do this.
Mental stimulation has been shown to protect our mental health. Establishing structure and routine alongside taking up new hobbies, rediscovering old interests, or setting ourselves small goals to achieve can have a positive impact. It’s important to try to incorporate stimulating activities into our daily routine. These could include things like completing a crossword, reading a book, listening to podcasts, cooking, or working through your ‘to do’ list. There are also lots of fun brain training activities available online. These can be completed individually or as part of a group to engage a sense of community, or to get the competition going.
The smallest acts of kindness really can make a difference. Giving to others makes other people and you feel good by creating positive feelings and a sense of self-worth and value.
Appreciation and gratitude are also important as they help us to focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t have. Think about someone you know who’s done something you appreciate and let them know. Pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email or message them. If you’re not able to do this, just think about someone who’s done something nice for you, and mentally thank them. At the end of each day, no matter how hard it may feel and no matter how small they may be, think about and write down three positive things about your day.
Kindness, appreciation and gratitude give us hope and help us to limit negative thoughts which can become all-consuming. Ultimately, they enable us to feel positive emotions and increase our ability to cope with adversity.
A healthy, balanced diet can support good physical and mental health. A Mediterranean diet rich in fibre, fruit, leafy greens and omega 3 fish oils (found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel) has been shown to support positive mental health and there is evidence to suggest that vitamin D (also found in fatty fish) and selenium (found in brazil nuts) are protective. It’s also important to try to limit the intake of highly processed foods and sugary soft drinks. Healthy diet, healthy body, healthy mind!
To support positive mental and physical health, depending on our age, we all need a certain amount of sleep. The average adult requires between 7-9 hours per night.
For many of us, busy lives or health problems can lead to a poor sleep routine being established. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact our mental health. The good news is, no matter what your current sleep pattern, you can make changes by implementing a sleep hygiene routine. There’s lots of helpful information about this available online, so if you’re struggling with your sleep, make the time today to look into what you can do to improve it.