It makes sense that when we reduce stress, anxiety and begin taking better care of ourselves, we are more able to live our lives to the fullest.
Here, Lucy provides ways to start the New Year off as you mean to go on.
1. Be active
It might seem impossible to find the time, but if you can, physical activity can work as an antidepressant, especially if it’s enjoyable. Doing regular exercise can be very effective in lifting your mood and increasing your energy levels, and is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.
It doesn’t have to be very strenuous or sporty to be effective – to start with, you could try gentle exercise like going for a short walk, yoga or swimming, which can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions, as well as providing some level of exercise. The important thing is to pick something you enjoy doing, so you’re more likely to stick with it.
Join Mind’s Get Set to Go Programme, which can help you find the physical activity that is right for you, and help you stick at it for long enough, so you can feel the physical, social and mental benefits of being active.
Here are a few fun ideas to get you started:
- Take the stairs, not the lift
- Walk faster than you normally would with the pushchair
- Dance to the radio at home
- Go for a walk at lunchtime
- Walk into work – perhaps with a colleague – so you can connect as well
- Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey
- Organise a sporting activity with friends, family or colleagues
- Have a kick-about in a local park
- Do some ‘easy exercise’ like stretching before you leave the house in the morning
It can help you to feel valued and confident about yourself, and can give you a different perspective on things. It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing, and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.
If you can, try to spend more time with your friends and family – even a phone call can make a difference. If you don’t have supportive friends and family around you and are feeling isolated, there are other ways you can make connections. For example, you could try joining a group, like a book club or local community group, to meet new people.
With this in mind, try to do something different today and make a connection:
- n Talk to someone instead of sending an email
- n Speak to someone new
- Ask how someone’s weekend was and really listen when they tell you
- Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is
- Give a colleague a lift to work or share the journey home with them
Technology can be great for helping you feel connected, but if you’re using it a lot, it can also contribute to making you feel anxious and stressed. Electrical devices like TVs and smartphones also stimulate the brain, making it harder to sleep. Try switching off your devices before bed and creating a calm space.
You may also find that a relaxation routine can help you prepare for sleep. There are several things you can try to help you relax, including listening to soothing music, having a bath, doing some breathing exercises or muscle relaxation – consciously tense and relax your muscles, one after the other, starting with your toes and working up your body until you reach the top of your head.
The best way to set up your own Crafternoon is to sign up at mind.org.uk/crafternoon to get your free pack. Invite your friends or family around and get crafting.
Connecting with nature in this way can have lots of positive health benefits. For example, ecotherapy can help you manage an existing mental health problem, and could help prevent future periods of ill health, such as an episode of depression.
Ecotherapy can take place in both rural and urban settings, such as parks, gardens, farms and woodlands. It can include activities that focus on working in nature, such as a conservation project, gardening or farming, as well as experiencing nature, such as enjoying the views on a walk or cycling through some woodland.
You can join a formal ecotherapy programme, or do it yourself. Here’s a few ideas for ecotherapy beginners:
- Bring nature into your home environment. That can be bringing bark, leaves and small potted plants inside, or even just setting photos of your favourite outdoor places as your phone background
- Try horticulture at home. If you don’t have a garden yourself, you could offer to help a neighbour with theirs, or go fruit picking in the countryside
- Get close to animals. Go for walks in the countryside by rivers, fields and trees, looking out for wildlife, or offer to be a pet sitter in your local neighbourhood
- Do your bit for the environment. Go on a litter picking walk, or plant flowers for the bees and berry bushes for the birds in your garden
- Do more activities outdoors. Build a 10-minute walk into your daily routine, or sit under a tree in silence for a while, lean back against it and feel it supporting you. If you are feeling creative, enjoy an outdoor picnic and include anything you can from your own herb, vegetable or fruit garden