Good Mental Health Tips To Get You Through The Day

A lot of what we are sold today relates to our well being and staying healthy, to help us manage stress better, build relationships or lose weight. We are told to purchase items, experiences or services because they will make life easier, help us unwind or give us something to look forward to. And because life is stressful with all of its responsibilities, we are always looking for an answer to what will make life easier, and what will get us through the day. It isn’t anybody’s fault that we think like this, it is part of the way the human brain thinks and how it protects us. When we look at the fight, flight and freeze response, our brains way of dealing with danger, it is geared towards avoiding stress and finding an easier way to do things. It has helped us stay alive for this long, as well as helping us develop new technologies over time to keep us safe and make life easier. However, we have all experienced at some point in our lives the feeling of stress, and some of us may have also experienced depression and anxiety. While there are many possible reasons and triggers for stress and mental health related illnesses, following these good mental health tips can not only help you get through each day, but may help you to be more resilient when things don’t go so well.

Any information included in this post is of a general nature and for informational purposes only. If you require support specific to your needs please seek support from your relevant health professional.

Be A Whole Person

For many years, mental health and physical health were talked about in isolation, each seen as separate from one another rather than being seen as complementary to each other. Thankfully a shift has started, and rather it is now acknowledged that in order to have good physical health, you require good mental health, and vice versa. Us as human beings are starting to be acknowledged as a whole human, rather than pieces of a person that are all looked at separately. With this in mind, it is important that we begin to acknowledge that each day.

As part of our way of sifting and sorting information, people tend to ‘compartmentalise’ information in their brain in order to better manage the way we organise, store and retrieve information. It is beneficial as it allows us to access information quickly and process it just as fast to help us make decisions quickly. However, we tend to do the same when it comes to ourselves. As an example, we may be so focused on getting somewhere on time, that we fail to notice the impact it has on our stress levels. The increase in stress then leads to additional mistakes at work and a drop in concentration, impacting our confidence in the work place. Finally, feeling down-and-out, we might end up being a bit clumsy and not notice something in our way and we end up with a minor injury. In this scenario, it is likely that we would end up focusing on treating the minor injury to help it heal and not focus on treating the actual cause of the injury which was our stress levels.

If we were to look at ourselves using a whole person approach, we would want to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Is what I am doing going to affect how I feel emotionally?
  • Will it affect how I think?
  • Will it affect my body?
  • How can I do things differently so it doesn’t impact me in an unhelpful way?

Now I am a realist, and I understand that doing this 24/7 would probably be exhausting, so my tips are:

  • Start your day by doing a ‘check-in’ with yourself for a few minutes, asking the above questions and ‘planning’ out how you will manage your day.
  • Finish your day by doing a ‘check-in’ of how your day went, and reflect for a few minutes on what went well and what you would want to do differently.

This simple act allows you to make a choice on how you plan on going through the day, and grounds you to that moment rather than thinking too far ahead. It allows you to prepare what you need to maintain your mental health throughout the day.

You Are What You Do

Humans are designed for movement, to run, jump, walk, swim. To be out exploring, looking for food and finding shelter. Movement and activity, although a necessity for our survival in the early years of modern homo-sapien, is also important in maintaining our mental health. However, with our modern lifestyle, a lot of the incidental physical activity we would have achieved is no longer occurring thanks to modern conveniences.

Physical activity is traditionally talked about in terms of keeping us fit and healthy. It has benefits for maintaining muscle mass, maintaining bone density and improving cardiovascular health. However, within the last decade we have seen more and more information coming to light about the benefits of exercise on our mental health, with research showing a positive impact on our moods, our sleep hygiene and our focus and concentration.

Physical activity causes the release of endorphins in our brain, the chemical that makes us feel good, producing a natural boost to our moods. On top of this, the concentration involved with physical activity usually requires us to concentrate on the exercise we are doing, naturally reducing our thought processes which can help if we have a lot of stressful thoughts at that point in time. It is also thought that the sense of achievement that often comes about after doing exercise also impacts on our moods – feeling accomplished also helps to flood our system with those positive chemicals and emotions.

But I hear what you’re saying – you’re a new father, working and looking after your family and time is precious. I get it, I struggled to exercise in my first 18months of having my daughter. But the key message here isn’t about exercise, it is about physical activity. Doing exercise can be hard, but doing physical activity can be easy in the following ways:

  • Go for a walk with your partner and baby. Yes this is an activity you will need to plan into your schedule, but it also helps with baby’s development and your relationship too.
  • Carry baby and walk around the house. This sounds boring, and I’m not going to lie and say that it isn’t. But, bonding and physical activity at the same time is easily achieved by doing this, and if you focus on your baby it helps reduce the boredom even if only by a little.
  • Do what your baby does. Now I don’t mean cry and poo yourself, but if they are doing tummy time then lay on your tummy in front of them too. If they are sitting on the floor or rolling around, then sit and roll with them too. All of this physical movement, even from sitting on the floor to standing up, is going to add up as well as build your bonds with baby.

If you can fit in time to exercise then I would encourage you to do so, but if you can’t or motivation is a struggle, then start small and work your way up from there.

You Are What You Eat

This age-old saying isn’t just about our physical health, it also applies to our mental well being too. Now we know that eating healthy can improve our cardiovascular health, which can help improve our overall quality of life through increased participation in day to day life activities. We also know that people will often report that they generally just ‘feel’ better when they eat healthy compared to unhealthy foods. But the research indicates that what we eat plays a much more important role in mental health than what was initially thought.

What we eat impacts our gut health and the bacteria that resides in our gut. Certain foods, typically fatty and sugary foods, can destabilize our gut environment causing the healthy balance of bacteria to become imbalanced. Add to this list any foods that we may be intolerant or allergic too, and we potentially have a gut environment that is sub optimal for physical and mental health. In recent years, increasing research has demonstrated a link between mental illness such as anxiety and depression, with an imbalance in our guts, and that a change of diet to correct this imbalance has shown to have a positive impact towards improving mental illness.

Once again, if you are in the midst of a newborn then you are probably feeling lucky enough to make time for a home cooked meal let alone making any drastic dietary changes, but a few simple ideas can at least start the process towards improving gut health.

  • Add in some veges. A simple first step which shouldn’t come as a surprise, vegetables are packed full of what we need without many of the nasties that come with processed foods. If you can’t think of ideas to add them into meals, then do what I do and eat some raw veges as snacks during the day (cucumbers and tomatoes are my personal favourites).
  • Keep up your fibre intake. Veges have fibre too (bonus point for veges). Fibre is like the food for our gut bacteria, keeping our gut system healthy and ‘regular’.
  • Avoid or minimise your intolerances. I know I am intolerant to milk, but I can’t go my mornings without my cereal and mocha. Purchasing soy milk regularly became a bit expensive, so I switched to skim milk. Skim milk has less of an impact on me compared with full cream and that’s how I minimise my intolerance.
  • Take a probiotic. Studies have indicated a potential positive link between using a probiotic, in tablet or drink form, and improvement in mental health. The research is still fairly new, and needs to be further explored if these results occur in a larger control sample, but it is a simple way to help balance your gut health.

If you want to look into it further, chat to your doctor about how you can explore your gut health to find the right approach for you.

You Are What You Think

How we think about ourselves, our actions, the world around us and our future has a massive impact on our mental health. One of the core underpinning theories of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is that by adjusting the way we think about an event, it will lead to appropriate behaviours to manage that event which will in turn help us to have a more appropriate emotional response to that event in the future.

So if you imagine yourself tripping and falling over, there are many ways you could choose to respond. Assuming you have no injuries, you could:

  • Become embarrassed and feel like a fool. This might lead you to ruminate on it all day and make additional mistakes during the day, making you feel more foolish.
  • You might get angry and push away people trying to help you. The rest of your day you might be on edge and take it out on others.
  • You might just brush it off, see it as a simple accident, and then move on with your day focusing on the next part of your day.

While simple examples, it demonstrates how a singular event can be interpreted in different ways, and each different interpretation can lead to vastly different experiences of the day. So how can we begin to adjust the way we think?

  • Ask ourselves if what we are thinking is realistic. I say realistic because not everything will be positive, and sometimes positivity isn’t the most appropriate response.
  • Complete your morning and evening check ins discussed earlier.
  • Focus on your strengths, and have strategies to manage things you find challenging. This will help improve confidence and self-esteem by shifting your focus to things that you are good at. And if your brain shifts focus to things you find challenging, then the strategies to manage those weaknesses reinforce that you are doing something about them!
  • Understand when your brain is getting stuck in thought traps.

When you begin changing the way you think, you probably won’t notice any immediate changes. However, it is important to stick with it as with enough practice and repetition, these thoughts will become second nature and occur almost automatically.

Mental Fitness Is A Journey

Mental fitness takes time, practice and perseverance. There are many ways to achieve mental fitness, different strategies, approaches and ways of thinking, but they all look at the mind-body connection and involve putting in the effort to achieve long term outcomes.

By making some small changes like those identified above, you will make gradual steps towards overall better mental well being, but just like if you wanted a specific fitness or diet program made for you, seeking specialist help such as a Psychologist is important so they can help create strategies specific for your needs.

And remember, you don’t need to have a mental illness to begin trying to improve your mental well being. Just like you don’t need to have health issues before you decide to start improving your physical health. Mental wellness is something that we can all improve and maintain by completing a few small steps each day.

Any information included in this post is of a general nature and for informational purposes only. If you require support specific to your needs please seek support from your relevant health professional. 

about author

Zak

dadpsych@psychedtobeadad.com

<p>I've now got 1 year experience as a father and I'm still finding my way through fatherhood. I'm a registered Psychologist, and you would think this would help me in my fatherhood journey. But realistically nothing can prepare you completely so I'm just trying to figure it all out as I go.<br /> Check out my socials through the links below!</p>

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