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8 Steps to Improve Your Mental Health

Aug 29, 2023
The Importance of Mental Wellness

In our fast-paced, always-connected world, mental health often takes a backseat. The consequences of neglecting this crucial aspect of wellbeing can be severe, affecting not just our emotional state but also our physical health, relationships, and even career success. This blog aims to shed light on the importance of mental wellness and offers a comprehensive guide to improving it. With eight science-backed, actionable steps, you can start your journey towards better mental health today.

 

1. Stand Tall: The Power of Good Posture

Why It Matters

Good posture isn't just about looking confident; it's a cornerstone of mental wellness. Studies in the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry have shown that maintaining an upright posture can reduce fatigue and even alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression. 

The Science Behind It

The study suggests that maintaining an upright posture increases positive affect, reduces fatigue, and decreases self-focus in people suffering from mild to moderate depression. This is because posture affects the cortisol levels in your body, which in turn impacts your stress levels.

Quick Tip

How are you sitting right now? Next time you find yourself slouching over your computer or phone, straighten up! Make it a habit to check your posture throughout the day. Whether you're at your desk, on your phone, or even walking, a quick posture check can make a world of difference.

 

2. Nature Walks: A Breath of Fresh Air

Why It Matters

The great outdoors offers more than just scenic beauty; it's a haven for mental rejuvenation. Research in the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates that even brief contact with nature can significantly improve your emotional wellbeing.

The Science Behind It

Nature walks have been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase feelings of happiness and relaxation. The natural light, fresh air, and tranquil scenery work in tandem to boost your mental health.

Quick Tip

Take a 5-minute walk in a nearby park. Aim for at least one nature walk per week. If you can't get to a park, even a few minutes in a garden can offer mental health benefits. Try and get outside within the first hour of waking, this will help your bodies circadian rhythm, which dictates many of our bodily processes such as alertness, sleepiness, appetite and body temperature.

 

3. The Art of Positive Thinking

Why It Matters

The power of the mind is immense. Negative thoughts can create a cycle of emotional suffering. On the flip side, positive thinking can be a transformative force for good. Psychologists like Patricia Harteneck emphasise the impact of positive self-talk on mental wellness.

The Science Behind It

When you engage in positive thinking, you activate brain regions associated with problem-solving and emotional regulation. This not only improves your mood but also equips you to handle stress more effectively.

Quick Tip

Replace negative statements like "I was horrible at my math test" with empowering ones like "I'll study harder and ace the next test." Challenge yourself to replace one negative thought with a positive one every day. Over time, this will become a habit, and your overall outlook will improve.

 

4. The Healing Power of Hugs

Why It Matters

Physical touch is a fundamental human need. A simple hug can offer emotional security, reduce stress, and even improve your outlook on life. Studies have shown that oxytocin, often referred to as the "cuddle hormone," is released during hugging, which is linked to increased levels of happiness.

The Science Behind It

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in social bonding, stress regulation, and even mental wellbeing. A study by UCLA found that oxytocin's receptor gene is linked to optimism and self-esteem.

Quick Tip

If you're feeling down, don't hesitate to ask for a hug from a loved one. No-one around? Try wrapping your arms around yourself or getting under a duvet and squeezing it. It may not be physical touch by another person but will give some release of the "cuddle hormone".

 

5. Furry Friends: More Than Just Pets

Why It Matters

Pets offer unconditional love and companionship, making them perfect emotional support companions. Research has shown that spending time with pets can significantly reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.

The Science Behind it

A study involving college students revealed that just 10 minutes of petting a dog or cat led to a noticeable reduction in cortisol levels. This suggests that pets can offer immediate stress relief.

Quick Tip

If you don't own a pet, consider spending time at an animal shelter or even pet-sitting for a friend. The emotional benefits are well worth it!

 

6. Exercise Your Way to Happiness

Why It Matters

Exercise is not just for physical health; it's a vital component of mental wellness. Endorphins released during exercise can naturally elevate your mood.

The Science Behind It

According to Mayo Clinic, exercise releases endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that enhance your sense of wellbeing. It also takes your mind off worries and helps you get better sleep, which is crucial for mental health.

Quick Tip

Incorporate at least 10 minutes of exercise into your daily routine. A walk, a stretch, a run it doesn't matter just move your body!

 

7. Sleep: The Underrated Wellness Tool

Why It Matters

Lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on your mental health. Insomnia is often linked with depression and other mental health issues. Sleep is not just a period of physical rest; it's crucial for mental restoration. 

The Science Behind It

During sleep, your brain goes through a process of cleansing and restoration. This is essential for emotional regulation, cognitive function, and even stress management.

Quick Tip

Research states 7-8 hours is what is needed however become aware of your own rhythm. Some of us need 5 hours others will need 9, try and get what your body needs each night to recharge yourself.

 

8. Gratitude Journal: Count Your Blessings

Why It Matters

Keeping a gratitude journal is a simple yet effective self-help tool. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can significantly improve your mental health. It shifts your focus from what you lack to what you have, thereby improving your overall outlook on life.

The Science Behind It

Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to increased happiness, reduced depression, and improved social relationships.

Quick Tip

Every morning, jot down something you're grateful for. Repeat the process before bed.

 

Your Journey to Mental Wellness

Improving your mental health is a continuous journey that requires conscious effort. Start with these eight self-help steps and make mental wellness a part of your daily routine. Your future self will thank you.

 

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