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5 actions you can take to improve your Mental Health

CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing for some readers.

Suffering with poor mental health?

If so, you're not alone. In England, 1 in 4 people suffer with a mental health illness each year, with the most common ones being anxiety and depression. These statistics are concerning and demonstrate that, despite a significant increase in the availability of mental health support services in recent years, the public still requires access to self-help tips for better mental health. So, this article will show you five activities that have been shown to be correlated with mental health.

1. Cooking

Making a nutritious homecooked meal from whole foods is beneficial to your physical health. When you feed yourself nutritious foods, your body and internal organs will function more efficiently. However, people frequently overlook how closely our diet is linked to our mental health. This means that, what you are feeding your body you are also feeding your mind. The BBC reported that:

"A good diet, particularly one that is diverse and high in plants and seeds, has been linked to reduced levels of depression in a number of studies."

This is why cooking yourself a healthy meal can be beneficial to your mental health. To add to this, the process of cooking can be fun because you can experiment with different ingredients, herbs and spices to create a unique dish. If you haven't had any experience with cooking so far, you may be worried about how to cook or where to start. With cooking, practice makes perfect so why don't you start by trying this main meal, side dish and dessert recipe that was shared by the Mind mental health charity?

2. Express gratitude

Mental health issues can make it difficult to maintain a positive outlook in life. Focusing on the good things you already have, rather than the negative aspects of life, is one way to gradually begin to develop a more positive mindset. You can practise this by keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three things you're grateful for at the end of each day. It may appear difficult at first, but once you get started, you will begin to appreciate many of the simple things you have.

For example, we can sometimes forget to be grateful for having a roof over our heads, access to clean drinking water and our friends and family for being there for us. These things are frequently overlooked because we are accustomed to having them; however, without them, we would be in a worse mental state, so it is important to recognise and be grateful for them. However, shifting your mindset from negative to positive is easier said than done. So, take a look at this step by step guide on how to start and maintain a gratitude journal.

3. Connect with nature

Going out in natural environments is by far one of the best things you can do for your mental health. From my own experience, going for a walk around a forest or sitting or relaxing by a river is really therapeutic and calming. By doing this, I feel more inner peace and connection to the earth. This is why I always recommend it to others too! There is science-based evidence that connecting with nature has mental health benefits. If you would like to read more into the research, have a look at this lab report about the relationship between nature and mental health.

So, when you next have some free time, take a trip to a green area near you, even if it's just a park. Or if you prefer, try visiting a river, lake or stream nearby. If you want to visit somewhere completely new, why not travel out of town to see some new nature spots that you haven't seen before? Either way, getting out in nature will work wonders for your mental health!

4. Talk it out

You've probably heard this one before, but it's just too important to go unmentioned. If you're struggling with mental health and feeling stressed, talking about it to a friend, family member, or support group can help. Having someone listen to your problems allows you to get things off your chest, and they may also be able to offer helpful advice to help you de-stress. And remember that speaking up and seeking help is not a sign of weakness; we must remove the stigma around opening up about our emotions.

5. Exercise

Linking back to the connection between the mind and body mentioned earlier, getting into a habit of regular exercise will benefit not just your physical health, but your mental health too. This is because exercise releases endorphins and dopamine, which creates feelings of euphoria. If you're not used to regular exercise, the thought of getting into a routine can be daunting. The good news is that any kind of movement is better than nothing, so even going for regular walks can be a good way to get started and create a routine. Think about which sports you enjoy the most, and consider partaking in them more often.


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