In Australia, the prevalence of mental illness is hard to ignore, with approximately one in every five Australians experiencing a mental illness each year. With the year we’ve just had, it’s more important than ever before to make sure you’re looking after you.
We had a chat with Lysn psychologist Bethany Howsley to get her top 10 tips you can try every day to improve your mental health.
Practice Active Gratitude
Turns out Pollyanna was on the money—you should always find something to be glad about. Each day take a few moments to acknowledge five things that you are grateful for, big or small. From little things, big things grow, and research has shown that regularly practicing gratitude can improve your mental health and wellbeing. It might be that chat you had in the corridor at work, the 3pm caramel latte from your fave coffee shop, or just a bit of extra sunshine. Whatever it is, take a moment to feel grateful for it.
Take Time To Get Creative
We know, time is like gold, especially as we head back to work after a lengthy break. But there really is no time like the present to start doing something creative that you enjoy. Sign up to that photography course, join that painting class, stop putting off that writing group you’ve been meaning to attend—whatever it is, give it a go. Creative practices have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health as they help to calm the body and mind, and right now, a bit of calm could be just what you need.
Nurture Yourself With Nature
Take your shoes off, feel the sand between your toes and go take a dip in the ocean—you can thank us later. Nature can support you in processing emotions and can help you achieve greater perspective. Studies have shown that people are in fact happier and less stressed when they are around plants, gardening or simply outdoors. Set aside some time to revisit your favourite place in nature, whether it be the mountains, the beach or even just your local park, or alternatively, explore somewhere you’ve never been—perhaps one of these destinations?
Write What You Feel
Journaling can help you develop deeper self-awareness, and is a great way to help process your thoughts and feelings. So get those thoughts down on paper or computer—there’s no right or wrong way to go about this, and try not to worry too much about formatting, grammar or flow of story. Just allow your mind to release the thoughts onto the page.
Okay, we feel you. It’s hot, it’s summer, it’s Australia. Humidity levels are skyrocketing and even the thought of moving more than you absolutely have to might just feel like a struggle. Here’s the thing—engaging in some form of movement each day can do wonders for your mental health. Go for a swim, join a yoga class, or even just spend five minutes dancing around your living room to your favourite song. Better still, grab a friend, loved one or work colleague and enjoy the movement together.
Whether it’s too your neighbours, a local sporting group or even just a book club, connecting with like-minded people in your community can help you feel a positive sense of social connection, which feels more important right now than ever before. So sign up to that netball team, volunteer at your local animal shelter or find yourself a running club to join—you might even make some new friends.
Don’t worry, we’re not about to start harping on about social distancing—it’s safe to say we’re all pretty pro at that by now. What we are saying is that identifying and expressing your personal boundaries are critical to your mental health. Know when to say ‘yes’ and give yourself permission to say ‘no’ when you need to.
Refill Your Cup
You’re probably feeling refreshed and ready to greet the new year after a break (we hope), so let’s keep it that way. Start a self-care list by thinking about the things that recharge you, the things that relax you and the things that inspire you and bring you joy. Check in with yourself every day to see how you’re feeling, and if you need to make some time to care for yourself, do it—keep that cup full and your mental health will thank you.
Get Some Sleep
To all those people who tell you that sleeping is time wasted, you can tell them they’re wrong. Well, partly. We’re not advocating spending the afternoon with your head on your desk snoring into your PC, we’re just saying make sure you’re prioritising getting enough sleep. Only you know how much sleep you need to be your best, so make sure you’re allowing for it. If you need some help, check out our tips for getting a better night’s snooze here.
Forgive Yourself And Others
This might sound self-explanatory, but often we are unaware that we might be harbouring resentment towards situations (or people) in our life. But forgiving and forgetting isn’t about the other person—it’s about you and allowing yourself to let go of negative situations and thoughts. Take a moment to consider whether there are things in your life that aren’t serving you. Now, take another moment to let them go and watch them float down the river. Well, not literally, but you get the drift.
Bethany Howsley is a clinical psychologist from Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.
Image credit: Neonbrand