Common lifestyle habits such as Netflix all-nighters and alcohol consumption can leave many of us bumbling along at a level below our best level of mental health. This can make daily functioning, let alone coping with curve balls and adversities, more difficult. As a knock-on effect of low or erratic mood, withdrawal or irritability, relationships suffer, leaving us less supported, which further fuels a chain reaction that can undermine mental health and even lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression.
To mark the start of Mental Health Week, our psychologists put together some simple but often-overlooked lifestyle upgrades that are scientifically proven to promote mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
1. Sleep well. If you tend to sit up watching TV until all hours (maybe dozing and waking), set an alarm for bedtime and stick to it. Good, consistent sleep hygiene can help to promote good quality and adequate sleep, which is critical for regulating brain chemicals that determine mood as well as states such as focus and alertness.
2. Skip the drink. Especially during lockdown, it can be tempting to ease anxiety or boredom with a wine. However, alcohol is actually a depressant and, after the initial feelgood effect, may have the opposite effect. What’s more, alcohol messes with sleep quality, which may further fuel fatigue and low mood the day after.
3. Get moving. Exercise is a natural mental health medicine. As well as promoting the release of feelgood endorphins (hence the term ‘runners’ high’), exercising has been shown to improve body image even if it doesn’t lead to weight loss or body shape changes. No wonder studies show that regular exercise has beneficial effects for symptoms of anxiety and depression.
What mental health practices do you swear by or plan to start? Your ideas may help others to harness their best mental health. Let us know in comments! #keepsoaring