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The Imperfect Formula for Better Mental Health

Can fresh air and a bath really improve your mental health?

Content warning: Mention of mental health suffering

A balcony with a wicker chair with a white cushion next to a large green plant.

We are told time and time again about all the different things we can do to help improve our own mental wellbeing. These different pieces of advice, however, can get overwhelming, confusing, or feel contradictory. The truth is, our mental health is as unique as we are. The way we feel, process emotions, and respond to events all depend on who we are individually. Our upbringings, experiences, and, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, even our genetics can play a part in our mental health and how we come to deal with it throughout our lives. But if we are struggling with our mental health, how can we improve it?

Helpful vs unhelpful mental health support

Depending on what a person is experiencing, their suffering and the help they will need will differ. However, there are some general tips that can be very helpful in supporting yourself and others. Detailed further by Mind, things such as spending some time outdoors in nature, eating a varied and balanced diet, and practising mindfulness can generally help a lot. As well as this, it is important for people who are struggling to have access to relevant specialist support, as well as a supportive community around them. Therefore, generally, tips like "go and get some fresh air" and "try having a warm bath" are useful; fresh air helps to ground you, and running yourself a bath is a practice of self-care, and so helps you to show yourself that you love and care about you. However, if an individual is depressed, then having a shower might be better than a bath as it encourages movement. It is also good practice to take some time to yourself - this is because time alone allows time for you to practice positive self-talk, journal about the way that you are feeling, and also just to relax. In spite of this, it is important to remember that prolonged isolation can increase negative thoughts, as humans are a social species and need interaction to thrive.

Unhelpful suggestions

When people are struggling, there are lots of unhelpful tips and advice that others may offer. These usually come from a place of genuine kindness and the individual will most likely mean well, but using language such as Thought-Terminating Clichés, as this Well + Good article suggests, can actually be really unhelpful. These clichés are targeted specifically at mental health, and include:

"It could be worse."
"Someone out there has it worse than you."
"Try to look on the bright side."

These clichés are not only invalidating as they belittle the struggle of the sufferer, but they also use unhelpful comparison, which would most likely make the person who they are attempting to comfort only feel worse. Mental health is complex, and it can be very tricky to improve depending on the condition, therefore depicting it as something which could be easily solved 'if you tried hard enough' is just damaging. If you are worried about your own mental health, or that of someone else, it is important to speak to a professional. It can be difficult to know what to say or do in order to comfort someone you care about, so it can be just as important to seek some support for yourself.

Taking a break for yourself

Because today's society is so fast paced, it is more important than ever to step out of the rat race whenever possible, in order to look after your wellbeing. Taking a break from things that can stress you out, such as work commitments, and doing something enjoyable with your time instead can boost your overall wellbeing. Going for a walk, catching up with a sibling, or colouring in are just some examples of ways that you could unwind. It might be surprising, but taking some time to do something that you truly enjoy might just work wonders for your mental health, and there is a reason for this. According to Cleveland Clinic:

"[Engaging] in activities that make you happy or feel relaxed [...] is thought to increase dopamine levels."

However, some mental health conditions, such as depression, can sometimes come as a result of imbalanced chemicals in the brain. In cases like these, talking to a doctor would be beneficial.

Imperfect formula

It is clear that ultimately, there is no 'perfect formula' to curing or bettering someone's mental health. This is because everyone is so different, and their experiences are often very unique. However, some things can generally help, such as:

  • Being surrounded by people who have a positive impact on you. Not people who are perfect, but people who truly make you feel good about yourself, can support you, and want the best for you.

  • Living a balanced and varied lifestyle. This creates refreshment for both the mind and body, helping to boost your mental health and wellbeing.

  • Being self-compassionate. This might be considered to be the true 'perfect formula', because it is not about getting everything right and staying perfectly consistent, it is about being patient with yourself and the very human mistakes that you will make. It is about allowing for the ebbing and flowing of your journey, and not being harsh on yourself through the difficult times.

So yes, maybe fresh air and a bath will help improve your mental state, or maybe it is much, much more complicated than that. So be patient with yourself and others, and don't be afraid to ask for support.


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