Your 5 step plan for a life of good mental health
Anxiety, stress and depression can rob you of life’s pleasures. Use these simple moves to help tackle poor mental health and get the most from every day.
1. Make nature your best friend
Long-term stress is a common cause of anxiety and depression1. Good news – just 20 minutes in nature significantly lowers stress hormone levels, reports a study in Science Daily2. So significant is this reduction that the study researchers described these activities as a 'nature pill' and suggested doctors prescribe them to patients.
A 'nature pill' isn’t about physical exercise – strolling or even sitting does the trick. And you don't have to be in the wilderness; anywhere you feel connected to nature works.
2. But don't forget real friends
Nurturing strong relationships with friends and family can help protect against depression, while making new bonds by volunteering has been shown to increase self-esteem and wellbeing as it helps relieve stress3.
However, toxic relationships have the opposite effect1. If there’s a toxic person in your life, your best move is to cut them loose. If there’s a reason this is difficult, talking to a professional or contacting one of the resources mentioned below can help.
3. Live your best life
Good physical health is associated with good mental health4. For example, a healthy, balanced diet can positively influence how you feel5, and new research has found significant evidence that physical activity really is likely to reduce the risk of poor mental health6.
Remember, some prescription medications can cause depression as a side effect7. If you suspect this could be the case, talk to your doctor.
4. Love your bed
According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with insomnia have a tenfold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well8. The relationship between sleep and mental health is not clearly understood, but the Sleep Health Foundation believes that a good night’s sleep supports both mental and emotional resilience. These techniques can help you sleep soundly.
- Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, even weekends
- A bedtime routine
- Avoiding electronic equipment, ideally for two hours before bed
- Investing in a comfortable mattress and pillow
- Avoiding caffeine after noon
- Tiring yourself out with regular exercise
- Practising relaxing breathing exercises1
5. Never forget, you're not alone
It’s completely normal to react to certain events by feeling sad, and to feel anxious in a challenging situation9. However, these feelings sometimes become overwhelming. Other indications that things aren’t as they should be include trouble concentrating, becoming more irritable or experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia or gaining or losing weight.
If you’re concerned about these or any other health issues, it’s important to seek help. Your GP and a range of services and mental health professionals can help, and you can find trusted information on websites such as the Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue. Black Dog suggests talking to someone you trust, or contacting your GP, a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist10. You can also find 24/7 counselling at Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 and MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78.
2 Mary Carol R. Hunter, Brenda W. Gillespie, Sophie Yu-Pu Chen. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
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