How to keep a healthy mind

Your mind is like any other part of your body - you need to look after it and keep it healthy. But knowing how to keep a healthy mind might not be as obvious as doing the same for the rest of your body...

You can’t exactly treat your mind to a nutritious smoothie or take it for a jog around the park, right? Well actually, you kind of can because the two things go hand in hand. Often looking after your physical body makes your mind healthier and happier, too.

Keeping your mental health in check is just as, if not more, important than looking after the rest of your health. It can also be key to enjoying healthy relationships with others. So, just as you make the time to visit the dentist to make sure your teeth are OK, you should take a bit of time to think about the things you can do keep your mind healthy, too.

Psychologist Honey Langcaster-James says, “Mental health is just like any other aspect of our health. There’s certain hygiene factors we need to look after to make sure our mental health doesn’t deteriorate.”

The good news is that you can help to keep your mind healthy in simple ways. If you make sure you eat well, get enough sleep, do regular exercise, and surround yourself with good quality relationships and people you can be honest with, you’ll be on the right track.

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Why do I feel like this?

Sometimes the reason our mood is negatively affected is obvious – there might be something going on at home, an argument with a friend, or perhaps you’re faced with exams. But other times it’s hard to make sense of the way we’re feeling, or why we’re feeling a certain way – and that’s all perfectly normal.

Honey says, “It’s important to remember that you’re going through an awful lot of changes. As a young adult, your body is changing, your life is changing, perhaps you feel stressed about school – there’s lots of different circumstances you’ve got to adjust to as well as hormonal changes. These can all affect our mental health and the way we feel.”

How do I know if my mental health is suffering?

If you're not sure, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to one or more, you might need to speak to someone you trust about what’s happening:

  • Am I finding it hard to sleep?
  • Am I sleeping more than normal?
  • Have I gone off my food?
  • Am I eating more than normal?
  • Am I feeling sad?
  • Am I feeling snappy?
  • Do I keep crying for no reason?

Take control

If you’re feeling like you’re starting to struggle with your mental health, it’s really important that you talk to someone about the way you’re feeling. Often telling someone about what’s troubling you can immediately make you feel better, as saying what's wrong out loud can help you feel more in control.

Also, keep an eye out for patterns. If you feel rubbish after looking at social media, maybe come of it for a while or unfollow whoever is making you feel that way. Taking control of the situation can be empowering.

And so to bed…

At the end of the day – literally – it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. We underestimate the power of sleep, but sleeping for the right amount of time, and in the right way, can make all the difference to how you're feeling. Try this bedtime routine for a week and see if you start to notice the difference:

  • TWO HOURS BEFORE BED

Start to unwind. Do something nice and relaxing like having a bath.

  • ONE HOUR BEFORE BED

Switch off the screens. The lights from our phones, TVs, laptops and tablets has been proven to have a negative effect on the quality of sleep, so turn them off a good hour before you shut your eyes.

  • HALF AN HOUR BEFORE BED

Read a book or listen to some soothing music. You’ll often find that slowing right down in this way has a positive effect on the way you fall to sleep.

Where to find support

If you’re feeling like your mental health is deteriorating, we strongly advise having a chat with your GP or health professional as they can put you in contact with the right people who can help. You can also visit Young Minds for more information about mental health and how to get support, or the NHS.

Talking about the way you feel is always the best thing to do, no matter how big or small the issues are that you’re facing. Although it can be hard opening up about mental health, it’s something that affects every one of us. If you are experiencing difficulties, never feel ashamed or different or like you need to keep it to yourself. Talk to someone or find some support.

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