Leading a balanced life in which we can work productively, cope with normal stresses and contribute to our community can indicate good mental health. For one in seven Australians, however, everyday life is impacted by mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Here are some simple ways to take care of your mental health.
1. Get moving
Doing some exercise may seem impossible when you’re feeling blue, but even short bursts of movement can go some way to lifting the dark cloud. According to the Black Dog Institute, research has shown that regular exercise may increase levels of ‘happy hormones’, improve energy levels, provide distraction from worries and help to alleviate stress.
Starting your day with a walk, even just a short stroll, can be a great habit to form. It’s recommended that those suffering from depression exercise almost immediately after rising. Why not walk to your local park or beach? Even just 10 minutes outside in nature has been shown to boost mood. Then, work your way up to 30 minutes. You don’t need to complete all 30 minutes at once; incidental exercise, which involves short bursts of activity, can be beneficial.
2. Prioritise yourself
Self-care doesn’t mean you’re selfish – looking after yourself enhances your ability to take care of others. Taking time out to look after your own needs may include exercising regularly, eating well, socialising outside of your immediate family group, participating in group sports, going to bed at a similar time each night, reducing screen time, enjoying pampering treatments or relaxing baths, or reading a book.
Mindfulness activities, such as meditation, have also been shown to help reduce mental health issues. Mental health charity Beyond Blue suggests ‘box breathing’ to help create a calm mindset. Picture a square with each side representing a different count to four. Start with a slow inhale to the count of four, hold for the count of four, exhale for four, hold for four, and so on.
3. Be creative
If you enjoyed painting, knitting, drawing or sewing when you were younger, why not take up these hobbies again? Creative activities are ways to focus on the present moment, which can help to calm a runaway mind. One study of almost 700 students found that those who practised some type of creative activity were in a better mood on those days. Once you’re finished remember to display your finished projects in your home so you can enjoy them.
4. Declutter your home
Research has found that clutter has a profound effect on mood and self-esteem and can contribute to stress and anxiety, so set aside some time to get your home in order. Storage boxes are a great tool to organise paper items and keep them out of sight. Try tackling just one cupboard or one room at a time. Fix up anything that’s broken or needs painting – you’ll get a great sense of achievement from completing long-standing tasks.
5. Nurture in nature
Spending time outdoors is beneficial for both your mind and body. A great way to enjoy your garden and fresh air is by planting fruit and vegetables - plus you’ll be more likely to eat well when you have easy access to healthy produce. Ask a Bunnings team member for advice on what’s best to grow in the space you have and when to plant it. Create a peaceful spot in your garden to relax and enjoy your backyard with a good book.