How are our Lifestyles linked to our Mental Health? by Anna Witcherley, Founder of Head Hacks

(image: Pexels)

Our health and wellbeing aren’t solely dependent on how our brains and bodies work; they’re also influenced by how we live. Making healthy lifestyle choices is key in supporting our mental health; influencing our self-esteem, confidence, energy, motivation, mood, and even our ability to sleep.

Want to know more about what you can do to support your health and wellbeing? Here are 5 key areas to get you started!

Get active

We know exercise is beneficial for our health and wellbeing; even being active for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week can positively impact our mood, creativity, thinking and sleep. If going for a run or to the gym isn’t your thing there are so many other ways to get moving; including going for walks, climbing, cycling, dancing, surfing and table tennis (to name just a few). 

Check out Head Hacks, a new directory website, run by a qualified Occupational Therapist, where you can search for fun things to do, locally and online, to help you get active in a way that suits you!

Sleep

If you find yourself struggling to switch off at night, or you feel you’re not getting the quality of sleep you need to feel rested there are a number of things you can do to help yourself. These include:

  • Avoiding screens for at least 30 minutes before going to bed
  • Increasing physical activity and exposure to natural light during the day
  • Avoiding drinking caffeine for at least 6 hours before going to bed
  • Avoiding smoking for at least 2 hours before going to bed
  • Maintaining a general bedtime routine, for 30 minutes before going to bed (by doing things in roughly the same order around the same time each evening).

Mindfulness

When talking about mindfulness a lot of people may link it with meditation and yoga; however mindfulness comes in many different forms. If meditation or yoga aren’t your thing why not try ‘mindful doing’? The aim is to keep your mind present while doing an activity you enjoy or that fits into your routine, (like going for a walk, cooking, eating a meal, doing the washing up etc). Try to minimise distractions and instead focus on your current thoughts and feelings, and what you’re doing (using all your senses). 

Having purpose

Having a sense of ‘purpose’ is the feeling your life has some meaning or direction; without this we can feel anxious, low, bored and unmotivated. If this is something you feel you’re lacking here are some ideas to help you find more purpose in your life:

  • Voluntary work
  • Learn a new skill
  • Develop a sense of community by connecting with others over a shared interest e.g. joining a local activity group
  • Spend time thinking about what is important to you and form one or two goals around this (remember to break these down into manageable steps!)
  • Read (research has linked reading with feelings of purpose)

Connecting with others

Positive and meaningful relationships are vital to our health and wellbeing; providing us with a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and emotional support.  However you prefer to spend time with people, find a way to connect with others in a way that suits you; some of us prefer having one or two close friends, for others it’s family, and some prefer socialising in larger groups. 

To sum up

Research shows us that how we live; our relationships, how we spend our time, our sense of purpose and belonging, all vitally contribute to our health and wellbeing. Now that Coronavirus restrictions are easing, there are increasing opportunities, both in our local areas and online, to get involved in activities that are important to us, and that will help support our health and wellbeing.

Head Hacks is a new online directory, setup by a qualified Occupational Therapist, which aims to link people up with these activities and groups, as well as sharing useful information about managing health and wellbeing. Check it out to find fun things to do near you! Anna Witcherley is the founder of Head Hacks and wrote this article.

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