New Year’s resolutions tend to fall along the lines of ‘lose weight’ or ‘go travelling’, but there’s one very important thing all of us should be prioritizing in 2019, and that’s mental health.
A recent Stress and Wellbeing survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society found that 26 per cent of Australians are experiencing moderate to extremely severe symptoms of depression, and 26 per cent of Australians are experiencing above-normal levels of anxiety. That’s around one-quarter of Australians who are struggling with their mental health, making it one of the biggest health issues in Australia.
We spoke to LYSN psychologist Gabrielle McCorry about how each and every one of us can prioritise our mental health. These are her top 10 tips.
1. Make ‘you time’ a priority
“Self-care has become a buzz word for a very good reason: it’s incredibly important. Place an emphasis on setting aside ‘you’ time every day and try to make time for enjoyable activities. This might mean half an hour every morning that you spend meditating, exercising in the afternoon, taking a bath in the evening or simply enjoying a good book. If your days are spent rushing around and seemingly doing everything for other people, it is very easy to feel stressed, over-whelmed and eventually unhappy!”
2. Practice gratitude
“Studies have shown that the regular practice of being thankful for what you have can improve your mental wellbeing, so get started! Research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. The easiest way to do this is by thinking about the things to be grateful for every day and writing them down. The ‘3 Good Things’ exercise has been shown to increase wellbeing and reduce depression. This involves writing down three things that went really well today at the end of each day.”
3. Practice self-love
“While many people think that self-love is narcissistic, this isn’t true. Understand that self-love is crucial for happiness and it’s important to practice being good at it. This doesn’t mean you have to go around ‘tooting your own horn’, it just means telling yourself some positive thoughts each day rather than focusing on the negative. Try to remind yourself of the reasons you’re a good person and notice how your mood can change.”
“Yes, we all know the benefits that exercise can have on our psychological wellbeing, however a lot of people can quickly forget this. Make exercise a non-negotiable in your daily routine, even if you’re set for a busy day. Just half an hour is enough to get the heart rate up and have those endorphins pumping.”
5. Wake up early
“There is an increasing amount of evidence that is making the case for waking up early, proving that it can reduce the risk of depression. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found people who consider themselves 'early birds' are at a lower risk of mental illness. Research found those who naturally go to bed and rise early (six in the morning or earlier) had up to a 25% lower risk of depression, compared to those who identified themselves as night owls. And you know what they say – the early bird gets the worm!”
6. Watch your nutrition
“Contrary to what many people think, our nutrition can affect our mental health. Make sure you are fueling your body with the right nutrients. Just like a car, if you give it the wrong ‘fuel’ it won’t go. Look at your overall nutrition and ensure you’re getting the nutrients from the recommended food groups. Studies have shown there is a link between the risk of depression and people’s diet due to ‘bad’ gut bacteria and the gut-brain connection.”
7. Write it down
“The practice of writing things down has been proven to help a person’s mental state. Particularly if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. The act of writing something down can allow you to ‘free’ the worry or allow you to not focus on it as much. Get into the habit of journaling each day or making to-do lists at work.”
6. Be social
“Humans are naturally social beings so don’t forget to seek out social situations once in a while. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and try to avoid those who don’t. Sometimes emotions can be ‘contagious’ so bear that in mind when choosing your social circles.”
9. Avoid constant monotony
“Having a routine can make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security, but try to break this up once in a while. A change of pace can improve any tedious schedule and throwing in a little spontaneity into your life can improve your wellbeing. Try a different café for your coffee in the morning, an alternate running route or jump in the car on the weekend for a spontaneous road trip. Also, try to set realistic goals and learn some new skills. Research has shown that striving to reach a goal that’s important to you leads to greater levels of positive mood, life satisfaction and actual success in achieving that goal.”
10. Seek help
“Mental health issues can affect anyone, no matter who you are, where you live, or your circumstances. Don’t be afraid to seek help no matter what you’re dealing with. This doesn’t have to be a mental health professional, it could be a friend who is a good listener, a gym trainer or a support group. That being said, don’t be afraid to turn to a professional who can help you work through your problems. Services like Lysn provide access to psychologists via phone or video chat, which can be accessed from the comfort of home around the clock. Lysn offers online video calls with qualified Australian psychologists specialising in a range of fields such as anxiety, depression, drugs and alcohol, bullying, eating disorders, learning disabilities, LGBTIQ, parenting and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
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