Your 5 a day for good mental health
We do a lot to maintain a good level of physical health; we shower, we brush our teeth twice a day, we do our hair, we put face cream on… but we often forget to do things to look after our mental health.
The idea behind this ‘5 a day’ is to have a daily practice that helps improve your mental health, if you can do all 5 every day that would be fantastic, but that’s the ultimate goal. Throughout this, remember self-compassion; there’s no beating yourself up if you can’t do all 5.
These steps help if you’re feeling down, or you’ve lost your way a little bit. They help to identify areas that you can concentrate on, help to change your mind set, and help you feel happier in your life. Let’s approach mental health in a positive way; hopefully these practices will also help increase your self-confidence, and your self-esteem, it certainly helps you feel more in control of your life.
- Throughout your day
Gratitude is very simple and you can do it as you’re going through your day, it doesn’t have to be a full on big thing.
For example, when you’re having a shower, you can be grateful for the water, that feeling of being cleansed, the warmth of the water, that you don’t have to think about getting water from a well.
If you’re feeling particularly low and you don’t feel like doing anything, just sitting there and finding what you’re grateful for in your surroundings can help bring yourself out of your head and help you get on with your day.
So one way to practise gratitude is to do it as you’re going throughout your daily life.
- At the end of the day
Another way to practise gratitude is to do it at the end of the day.
It’s very easy to look back and think about what you should’ve done, or what you messed up on. By practising gratitude at the end of the day it can help change your mind set so that you’re less predisposed to focus on the negatives
This doesn’t mean you should look back on the day and lie to yourself that everything was perfect, but looking back and identifying what you’re grateful for will help you appreciate what you do have in your life.
Some people have a gratitude journal that they fill in every day, and it’s elaborate and beautiful. You might not have time for that, but if you do then fantastic; it can be great to be able to look back at what you have been grateful for when you’re feeling really low.
- What were the best moments?
Our minds are strange and tend to focus on the things that have gone wrong. This isn’t great when you’re already feeling bad and your brain is just bringing up all the negatives and no positives.
So even when you feel like you’ve had a horrendous day, look back and identify the good moments of the day. These don’t necessarily have to be big things, they could just be something small like a dog came up to say hi, or you managed to make time for a nice tea break.
A good time to do this is as you’re falling asleep, as you’ll be ending the day on a high, and you won’t be worrying over the negatives – which might actually help you fall asleep easier too.
- Look for the highs every day
If you make some time each day to look back over the highs you’ll slowly start to train your brain to focus on the positives rather than automatically going to the negatives.
This practice will also help you see that perhaps your life isn’t as bad as you thought it was, that there are good, happy moments in it.
- Who have you connected with?
Who have you talked to? Who has helped you?
The people around us play a massive role in how we feel about ourselves. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, because if someone has their own agenda they can make you feel bad, even if you haven’t done anything.
So figuring out who you’ve connected with, and how they’ve made you feel is important as it can help you make changes to improve your mental health.
- Are the people you connect with in your support network?
Having a support network is very important, and it’s important to know who plays what role in that network.
So who can you turn to for a cry, or general support? These don’t have to be people that you regularly connect with, and you’re support network doesn’t have to be fully human either – it can include your pets!
- Figure out if you want to keep a connection
If you connect with someone and you come away feeling energised and happy, then of course you’ll want to keep that connection in your life, maybe even want to find more time to spend with that connection, or figure out if they have a place in your support network.
However if you come away from a connection with someone feeling really negative about yourself and drained, then you need to have a think about if you want to keep that connection in your life, or if you need to put some boundaries in place with that person so that they don’t make you feel negative.
- At the end of the day look back at your achievements
Instead of focusing on the ‘failures’ of the day, make time in the evening to look back at what you’ve achieved. These achievements can be as big or as small as you like.
Some days getting out of bed is an achievement, or washing the dishes. Making a meal might be on your list of achievements for the day.
It’s easy to play it down at the end of the day and say that you’ve not achieved anything, but if you stop and think about what you’ve done you’ll find that you’ve actually achieved a lot more than you might have thought.
- Celebrate these achievements
No matter how big or small your achievements of the day have been, take the time to celebrate them. This could be something like having some chocolate, or taking time to do something you like. Or your celebration could be you acknowledging that you have achieved stuff, and giving yourself a pat on the back.
Celebrating your achievements will not only give you some happiness in the short run, but will also help show you that you are achieving things and will increase your confidence and self-esteem in the long run.
- What can you do just for you?
As adults we seem to do lots of things that we have to do, only focusing on the obligation side of life. This means we often forget to make time for the things that we like to do just for fun.
So have a think about what you enjoy doing, or if there’s a hobby that you’ve been wanting to start for a while. This can be a great opportunity to not only try new things, but learn about the different things that you can do.
- Make the time for playing
After a hard day of work, or an emotionally hard day, it is so easy to just mindlessly sit in front of the TV or scroll through your phone, but this isn’t always what you need. Sometimes actively engaging in an activity that you enjoy is what you need to have that breather.
So even though it will be hard at the beginning, make the time for your hobbies.
Hopefully these ‘5 a day’ will help you in your journey to better mental health. Even if you can’t do everything each day, doing them on a regular basis will let you see a positive change.