Before I begin I would like to say I am no export when it comes to mental health, however I have carried out a lot of research surrounding this topic as well as previously doing a presentation on one of the biggest mental health charities, MIND. In addition to this, I have had a small number of friends and relatives that suffered quite seriously with their mental health but thankfully all of which have taken a turn in the right direction. In 2017, 6213 successfully committed suicide in the UK and Ireland with Northern Ireland’s rates being the highest by population. Pretty scary numbers, right? I honestly feel that I see posts on social media about people committing suicide every other week, it’s horrific. So, I thought I’d write this blog describing 5 ways that we can improve our mental health before it becomes too late.
1. Look after your body
You may not realise it but staying active and looking after your body is excellent for reducing depression and anxiety. According to studies, exercising releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy with yourself and who doesn’t want to feel happy… Experts recommend you do 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week. If you read that last sentence and you’re thinking you don’t do anywhere near that amount of exercise, don’t worry now is a perfect time to start. Also, drinking plenty of water and controlling the amount of alcohol consumed would also be beneficial. Of course, a few drinks with your friends is absolutely fine but in moderation. Probably the most important factor within this category is the amount of sleep you get, rest is essential! Experts believe that a lack of sleep results in high rates of depression and stress, especially in younger people. In other words, DON’T LEAVE YOUR ASSIGNMENTS TO THE NIGHT BEFORE.
2. Try something new
If you’re not happy then you’ve got to try something different. A good example of this is from one of my friends who suffered from mental health problems for a little over 18 months and decided to take up fly fishing. He started off going once a week with his dad and basically fell in love, he now simply can’t get enough of it. He always said it was somewhere he could go and get away from everything for a few hours and relax. There’s no harm in trying new things, if you begin to enjoy it, it’s probably because you’re good at it and being good at something will boost your self-confidence. It’s a win-win situation.
3. Surround yourself with good, positive people
You don’t want to be associating with people who put you down and think they’re better than you. They are the worst kind of people. Individuals that have strong relationships with family and friends are going to healthier than those that lack that kind of support and togetherness. It’s definitely healthy to meet up or at least keep in contact with your friends as much as possible to maintain a strong bond. It is also important that you try and meet new people through perhaps joining a new sports club for example.
4. Have a balanced diet
The food we consume can very much change how we feel. For example, have you ever ordered a Dominoes and at first thought it was a great idea then after eating it you think to yourself ‘I really didn’t need that?’ No? Maybe it’s just me… Food can have a lasting effect on your mental health as it is essential that your brain gets key nutrients to function properly. From a personal point of view, I always find that when I’m eating clean (which isn’t very often I must admit) I tend to feel a lot better about myself and feel that I have more energy. However, the odd McDonald’s breakfast never hurt anyone.
5. Get help when required
I am leaving the most important factor to the end. If you ever feel like you’re going through a hard time, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Expressing your feelings when you’re feeling low is seen by many as a strength rather than a weakness. There are so many different people and charities out there that would be willing to listen and offer advice. If that is too much for some people a short conversation between a family member or friend may be enough. There are far too many people that ‘bottle up’ their feelings and that is never healthy.
IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY.
Rory McAllister is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: @R_McAllister14 on Twitter.