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Time to Talk About Mental Health - 5 Key Areas to Help

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Time to Talk Day 2020 is taking place on Thursday 6th February.  Help to change someone's life and get into conversations about good mental health.

First, Let's Get Physical

As a society when we think about a healthy body, we break down the keys components and study what we can do in each area to improve our physical wellbeing.  It’s a well held belief that prevention is better than cure and is also thought to be a lot more cost effective.

Below are the key areas we can address for a healthier body:Group of people sat doing yoga

  • Physical exercise – Try to alternate between strength training, cardiovascular and flexibility workouts of at least 30 minutes each day.   Such as a 30-minute of walking, 30-minute weight workout class and 30-minutes of yoga.  Factor in exercise into your daily life where you can i.e. Taking the stairs, walk or ride to work and taking ‘desk breaks’ with short walks and mobility moves such as back extensions and knee bends.
  • Nutrition – Balanced diet with the right quantities of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals Swap cakes, biscuits and crisps for fruit and easy to eat veg such as carrots and celery.  Have alcohol free weeks or even months to let the body detox, replace with hot lemon water and fruit or green teas for a good cleanse.
  • Hydration – Drinking enough fluids to keep well hydrated Drink enough water to avoid any signs of dehydration, dark urine, dry skin or lips or feeling thirsty  
  • Sleep – Enough sleep to help the body function and keep systems such as the endocrine system working well. recommended - to try to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleepFor more information on sleep ready our guide - Best Night's Sleep Ever - How to improve your sleep and mental health.  
  • Physical Checks – Being self- aware of any changes and havening regular physical check-ups with your GP, optician and dentist. Notice any changes in your body, are you in pain, how is your mobility? Periodically check all your senses are functioning normally, sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.  Any problems should be checked with an appropriate health care professional.  

A great deal of information can be found going into depth on the key areas we have outlined above, and many guidelines recommend that if you improve these area’s you will be on the right track to developing and maintaining a healthy physical body.

From Physical to Mental Health

In this article, we wanted to take a similar approach to important areas of mental health and identify some of the key areas to allow us keep a healthy mind.   

When we think of mental health, this tends to be about our thought processes and patterns. For example, whether we think more negatively or positively, however, we have also included the physical needs of the brain tissue and what it needs to function at its best.

So, these are the key areas to help you focus on a healthy mind:Sleeping woman

  • Sleep – Quality sleep is critical to good mental health and it is recommended that the average adult should get approximately 7-8 hours of sleep per night. For a good night sleep read our bedtime routine for a perfect night’s sleep.
  • Physical exercise and the mind – ensuring that you get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day that reaches an intensity level which will increase your heart rate, will not only help you to sleep better but has been shown to have very positive effect on mental health.  Exercise releases hormones that can help to improve your mood.  Many GP’s incorporate exercise as part of health care programs with persons who suffer with depression, stress and anxiety.  Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells which can help with the prevention of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Nutrition and hydration for the mind – Have you ever gone without food for a period time and not been able to think clearly?  The brain is 60% fat and it needs fats, particularly monounsaturated fats, to function properly.  Thinking and working on complex problems can burn upwards of 6,000 calories so it’s important to keep well feed when the mind is busy.  Some foods that contain healthy fats are salmon, avocados, nuts and cheese. 
    The body as well as the mind must be well hydrated to function correctly.  A guide to determine how much to drink is 3.5 litres for men and 2.5 litres for women, but this can change depending on the weather, how much exercise you have done and if you are in good health. Watch for sign such as dry skin, being thirsty or dark urine.
  • Mental exercises for the mind – there are various things we can do to boost mental health and memory, and this will vary depending on what you enjoy doing.  Some mental health skills to enjoy could be; learning a new skill, playing cards, puzzles, expanding your vocabulary or doing cross words.
  • Calming the mind – mindfulness and meditation can help calm the mind.  When the mind is spiralling out of control with multiple problems it can be beneficial to, in effect, press the pause button, calm the mind and slow down the heart rate, this will help you to relax and re-assess priorities.  Once you have mastered this skill and we would recommend taking some sessions with a qualified professional to then put your new skill into practice each day. 
  • Checking thought patterns – Thinking negativity can be very destructive and bad for your mental health.  There are many things that can be done to reduce negative thinking.  You may have been practicing undesirable views for a number of years but by learning to identify damaging thoughts is the first step to being able to face them head on, deconstruct and analysing negative thought patterns and finally substitute them for a more positive approach.  Visit the NHS web site for a great article showing top tips to improve mental wellbeing.
  • Altruism and concern for the wellbeing of others – You don’t have to make big donations to charities or spend hours volunteering your time, the father of compassion the Dalai Lama recommends living a life of warm-heartedness and kindness each day.    Showing and practicing compassion can bring about a peaceful heart, be very rewarding and bring joy and happiness into your life.  Recommended reading The Art of Happiness, Dalai Lama & Howard C Cutler.
  • Talk about your problems – Unfortunately one in four of us suffer with mental health problems, some people are made to feel ashamed and worthless, which can lead to debilitation and isolation. For further information, tips on how to talk and to find out what’s on in your area visit the Time to Change web site.

Thinking about our mental health in the same way we do our physical health allows us to plan for an all-round healthy body and mind.

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