Many of us measure being ‘healthy’ on how perfect our body is – strong, toned and fighting fit are all qualities we admire, right? While there are clear benefits to improved physical health, there is so much more to living a healthy life – one example being protecting and preserving your mental health.
The good thing is, maintaining your physical health and your mental health go hand in hand – one often benefits the other. Our minds and bodies are closely linked, and so by altering some simple aspects of our daily routines, we can be sure to not only look our best, but also to feel our best within ourselves too.
Here are some quick tips anyone can integrate into daily life to encourage a healthier mindset:
1. Eating well
Many of us associate eating well with losing weight, but this shouldn’t always necessarily be your aim. Eating fruits instead of chocolate, or nuts and seeds instead of crisps, can boost your brain power by up to 20%. This infographic also highlights how fruit-focused ‘grazing’ can help keep you going all day, both physically and mentally keeping you sharp and focused.
Naomi Mead, a nutritionist who knows a lot about eating well for the mind, says:
“Carry healthy snacks with you – such as fresh fruit and raw nuts. This takes away the element of choice when you are out and about and faced with temptation.”
2. Drinking well
We all know how difficult it is to focus on any task after a heavy night out on the tiles. Consuming large quantities of alcohol or binge drinking can give you poorer attention spans and decrease motivation and brain activity for several days afterwards. Try to cut back on the alcohol, or at the very least keep topped up on water regularly.
Ditch that cup of coffee as well – a fruit tea, smoothie or water can be just as satisfying (and much better for you!)
3. Exercises for your body
We mentioned before how we often associate fitness with physical gain – but fitness also has a big impact on our mental health. As little as 150 minutes of fitness each week can have an incredible impact on your brain, increasing the hippocampus, which in turn improves verbal memory, learning and can help maintain emotions. Time to take up that gym membership, then!
4. Exercises for your brain
While on the treadmill at the gym, or on the train commuting to work, try some mental games to keep you focused and exercise your brain. Online games can improve reaction times and are easily accessible on your smartphone for playing on-the-go.
Studies have shown that playing simple games such as bingo can increase brain activity by 2.5%, and there’s a lot of choice out there – look on your app store and see what you can get stuck into.
5. Talking it out
Got something on your mind? It’s easy to bottle it up, but this only leads to increased stress or depression. Talk to someone you trust, like friends or family, and if you need counselling sessions to get things off your chest, don’t feel this is a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength to tackle your mental health problems head on.
One deep breath is one bad emotion released from your body. Try it out and see how with each mindful breath your body and mind suddenly relax.
Some people find meditation a relaxing way of calming the mind. If this isn’t your thing, you could still relax your busy mind by sitting in a quiet room and closing your eyes. It can focus your thoughts and allow you to prioritise.
7. Escape stress
Stress can have an incredibly damaging impact on the body. Analyse what causes you stress in your life and attempt to adjust how you approach it, or find simple stress management techniques to allow you to guard yourself from it more easily.
Try taking a step back at peak moments, or seek to balance your time more effectively to prevent one thing dominating. And remember – if the source of stress, whether it’s a job, individual or relationship, is not possible to renegotiate, then remove yourself. Your mental health should be the priority.
8. Learn to appreciate what you have
It’s easy to take things for granted. Your house, your partner, your friends, biscuits – anything or anyone who has a positive impact in your daily life. Make sure you step back and consider what is really important in life. Gratitude can you help to manage the day-to-day troubles you can often feel burdened by in your working life.
The untidy living room, the car that keeps breaking down, the bills that need paying – whatever it is that causes you stress can quickly fall into the background when you adopt a focused and positive mindset. Of course, that doesn’t make your concerns less important – and acknowledging and challenging the route causes of what’s challenging you, by talking and changing your behaviour, is essential to feeling better in the long term.