Mental illness can take many forms. From anxiety, to addiction, to OCD and personality disorders, mental health issues cover a wide range of symptoms and personality traits. And whilst we might be much better today at looking after our cognitive cogs than we were 20, 10, or even five years ago, our mental health, just like our physical wellbeing, needs constant monitoring and support. Here we take a look at some of the basic steps you can take to look after your mental health naturally.
1.Talk about your feelings
A problem shared is a problem halved, not doubled – just in case you were concerned about burdening your listener! Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying in your head for a while. It can give a sense of perspective, a different take on a situation and possibly even yield a solution, and, as the Mental Health Foundation points out, just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. Plus it works both ways! If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.
When we focus on the past, we tend to feel depressed about the things we cannot change and when we focus on the future, we can feel anxious about events we cannot control. Try to ground yourself in the present by being aware of what you’re smelling, hearing, touching, tasting and seeing. Let your senses anchor you to what’s happening right now. Simple activities such as gardening, cooking and arts and crafts, are great for bringing you back to the present moment.
3.Eat to support mind and mood
Mood-friendly foods include fish, turkey, chicken, beans, avocados, bananas, protein and wheatgerm as they help the body to produce more serotonin. Wholegrains, seasonal vegetables and fresh fruit boost energy, and foods rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as oily fish and seeds, can help to support general brain health. EFAs, and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) especially, have also been linked to improvements in mood. One study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, found dietary supplements of EPA to be just as effective as the anti-depressant fluoxetine in reducing symptoms of depression .
B vitamins are also important for brain health. They help to convert food into energy and they help to support the adrenals during times of stress. Food sources of vitamin B include oat-based cereals, porridge especially, bananas, lentils, peppers, tempeh and beans. Alternatively a B vitamin supplement can help to keep you topped up.
In short, a diet that’s good for your physical health will be good for your mental.
Get moving and get outdoors! Exercise is really good for you and unsurprisingly, physical activity has been found to protect to some degree against unhappiness. Green space exposure is thought to be especially beneficial, because greenery activates a primitive part of the brain involved with stress regulatory responses. Just 10 minutes a day will help you to feel better and more in control.
 Comparison of Therapeutic Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Fluoxetine, Separately and in Combination, in Major Depressive Disorder - Shima Jazayeri, Mehdi Tehrani-Doost, Seyed A. Keshavarz, Mostafa Hosseini, Abolghassem Djazayery, Homayoun Amini, Mahmoud Jalali, Malcolm Peet, 2008 (sagepub.com)