5 ways to improve your mental health

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.

RM1

 

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.

 

RM2RM3

 

 

 

 

 

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.

RM4

 

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.

RM5

 

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.

RM6RM7

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

What has Christmas become?

I’d like to begin by saying I am by no means a ‘Christmas scrooge’. In fact, I would go as far as saying Christmas is my favourite time of the year, what’s not to like about getting time off university and celebrating with your family with a few drinks and lots and lots of food along the way? However, nowadays Christmas is all about presents and the stress that comes with buying presents, especially for those with young children. Although I doubt there are very many people that would change the idea of exchanging gifts at Christmas, including myself.

RM14

I personally believe that Christmas has become far too commercial. Christmas is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus, although I must admit I wouldn’t say I’d be the best Christian but I would always attend church on Christmas Day. However, this is becoming less and less common as years go on, kids now grow up thinking a man named Santa is generous enough to bring them gifts if they are well behaved while missing the real meaning of Christmas. People generally get more excited about the famous Coca Cola advert than the true meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate it.

RM10

In my eyes, Christmas has become all about getting the biggest, most expensive presents and having the best Christmas decorations in your street. It has almost turned into a competition – “I have better decorations than you do” or “I got better presents for my kids than you did” it’s becoming ridiculous. I had a conversation with a member of staff in my work last week and he told me he has been working 50-55 hours a week for the past month to save up money for his kids because they have written ‘Santa letters’ worth over £500 each. I thought to myself that it’s crazy that you’re working these long overtime hours because your kids live in a generation that Christmas is all about presents, which has resulted in putting yourself through all this stress to save money to buy these presents whenever you could settle for buying you kids less and instead spend more time with them coming up to the festive period rather than being stuck in Tesco, which I can guarantee they would appreciate more in the long run.

RM11

Working in retail, I witness at first hand the mayhem that evolves around this time of the year. I see mums, dads, boyfriends and girlfriends running around in panic, spending as much money as they need to keep everyone content with their Christmas presents. People simply spend money at will without worrying how much they are spending in order to fit in with the commercial aspect of Christmas, rather than its true meaning. Having said this, I still agree that presents are a nice gesture at Christmas and they add to the celebrations, however I feel there would be a much more balanced spread between basing Christmas around presents and remembering the real meaning behind it.

RM12

Although all that I’ve mentioned above isn’t always the case, there are still a small number, in fact a very small number of people that ignore all the hype and teach their children to live by the true meaning of Christmas rather than the modern commercialised version. In the 1950’s the average child would get up on Christmas day and go to church in full Christmas spirit, knowledgeable of what Christmas really meant. He or she then would have come home and perhaps received a few presents. However, in today’s world kids get up as early as 6am and open an entire stocking worth of presents that their parents have no doubt worked very hard to purchase. After opening all the presents some kids would be forced by their parents to attend church or in some cases the family would forget about church and enjoy the rest of their day. The excitement around Christmas is buying and receiving presents rather than celebrating the birth of Jesus, therefore I can conclude than Christmas has become extremely commercialised.

RM13

 

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.