Good mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. It takes some effort to cultivate, which isn’t always easy – but it’s always worth it. And while it’s important to work on keeping yourself mentally well all year, it’s something you should be particularly aware of today. That’s because it’s World Mental Health Day, marked each year on October 10 as an occasion to bring awareness to and reduce the stigma around mental illness.
Experts say 1 in 5 Australians will experience mental illness in any given year – and the problem is growing. And the fact that it’s often a taboo topic means a lot of people go without getting help.
So what are some strategies that can boost mental health?
To coincide with World Mental Health Day, here’s some simple, practical tips that don’t cost a fortune or take heaps of time:
1. Go outside
According to a number of studies, spending time in nature can boost your mood by lowering your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Another study shows that spending just five minutes in a green space can boost your wellbeing and self-esteem – so make some time to go outside every day, even if it’s just a walk around the block after work or eating your lunch in a local park.
2. Build relationships
How often do you socialise with friends and family in person, as opposed to online or on the phone?
Research shows that limited face-to-face social contact can double your risk of depression, while loneliness has even been linked to early mortality. So put down that smartphone and organise to catch-up with your loved ones in person instead.
3. Exercise and eat well
Regular exercise boosts your mood, reduces stress and improves sleep. It’s so beneficial, it’s even been shown to reduce symptoms of serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and PTSD – and it can help you feel better even if you already feel good.
Eating healthily is also part of the wellness equation. Whole foods like fruit and vegetables should form the bulk of your diet, while you should aim to limit your intake of alcohol and junk food.
But fear not: treating yourself is also important! Coffee consumption has been linked to lower rates of depression, and chocolate – especially the dark stuff – has also shown to improve alertness and mental skills.
4. Practice gratitude
Sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important and ruminate over what can seem like huge problems. But it’s important to keep things in perspective, and practicing gratitude can help.
A great way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down three things you’re grateful for. This helps to reduce any toxic emotions, enhances empathy and reduces aggression – all of which ultimately boost your mental health.
It might look like you’re doing nothing, but meditation is in fact a very powerful practice that can improve your mental wellbeing over time.
A recent study shows that, in people with depression and anxiety, meditation can help shift thoughts away from harmful patterns. It also improves concentration, increases self-awareness and slows ageing!
6. Be generous
Giving to others, even just a little bit, is a proven way of boosting your mental wellbeing.
And that’s not just financially – being generous with your time, like volunteering at a community organisation or visiting your elderly grandmother at her nursing home – can also have a huge impact on your mental wellness. The added bonus is that being generous also help others, so it’s a win-win.
Are you interested in helping people struggling with their mental health? We offer a range of courses in the field, including Certificate III in Community Services, Certificate IV in Mental Health, Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) and Diploma of Mental Health. Get in touch with us to find out more.