We’re coming to the end of Mental Health Week 2017, perhaps you’ve heard it discussed on the radio or have participated in some events and activities designed to improve our community’s awareness of mental health and well-being. I was fortunate to participate in one such event today. In fact, I was fortunate to teach a yoga class at the event, a practice I love to share and a practice that a lot of people report to be very beneficial to their mental and emotional (and physical!) well-being. I also found myself reflecting on all the things that contribute to wellness, and thought I would take a few moments now to explore this topic.
Yoga combines a number of strategies that are known to improve mental health, including: controlled breathing, physical activity (it is an activity that may cultivate a sense of enjoyment and/or achievement), ‘mindful movement’ and an awareness of bodily sensations. Getting into the physical body can be a very helpful experience for some individuals. Of course, if you are thinking that it might be something you’d like to explore, it might be wise to check with your doctor before jumping on the mat. One other consideration is that if you have a history of trauma you might like to find a trauma sensitive yoga teacher, or chat with the teacher of the class to help them understand how to keep you safe (e.g., you might like a lot of personal space and might not like any adjustments of your postures). Of course, in addition to exploring yoga there are a number of things you can do to help you in developing/staying mentally healthy, so I thought I would compile a few tips and link to some websites that I find really helpful:
Get moving: be it walking, gardening, or other forms of physical activity that are accessible for you. Exercise has been found to help decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as improving overall mood. It’s even more effective if you can get outside in the morning sunlight (no sunglasses!) as it will help regulate your sleeping patterns too.
Practice good sleep hygiene: get in the habit of going to bed at a regular time and getting up at the same time. A good sleep makes all the difference in how we feel each day. If you are having trouble with your sleep you might like to check out this information sheet from CCI.
Develop healthy relationships: be it your family, friends, work or schoolmates. If you are feeling like this is an area that you would like to work on you might see if there are any groups you might be interested in joining, or if this is an area you struggle in you could talk to someone (a trusted person or a psychologist) about developing the skills to build relationships.
Explore your strengths: you certainly do have strengths! However, sometimes these strengths are forgotten about and other areas are focused upon. Have a look at the authentic happiness website and do their strengths questionnaire – it’s always empowering to explore your talents further!
Slow down and relax: be it listening to music, slow stretching or yoga, curling up and reading a book, or a more formal relaxation or meditation activity. Here is a link to some great relaxation exercises and audio files so you can listen to them. Smiling Mind is also a great meditation app which you can download for free.
Gratitude and generosity: Take time each to write down three things you are grateful for (be it a nice cup of tea, a smile from a stranger, or your physical health). It’s also helpful to find a way to contribute to your community, be it volunteering, offering a helping hand to a friend, neighbour or a stranger. It has been found that when other people experience positive emotions, our ‘mirror neurons’ elicit the same emotions in us (talk about a win-win!).
Ask for help: if you do find you’re struggling to cope with your everyday life it can take a lot of strength to ask for help, but it is really important! You might talk to a trusted friend or family member, but it is also really important to see your doctor or a mental health clinician. Remember about 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness this year – it is very common!*
* If you are in a crisis situation please call Mental Health Emergency Triage (131 465), Lifeline (131 114,) Emergency Service Triple Zero (000) or go to a hospital emergency department.
I hope these tips help! Please let me know if you have any questions. And remember, Mind your Health - Mind your Mind!