As the old proverb goes, ‘sunshine all the time makes a desert.’ When it comes to our feelings and emotions, none of us can feel happy all the time and, actually, periods of sadness, anxiety, and other perceived negative emotions can help us appreciate the good moods when we have them. As humans, we have a wide spectrum of feelings and it’s perfectly normal and healthy to feel all of them from time to time, but if you’re in a slump and unhappy more often than not, it’s a sign that there’s a problem.(Check out our own mental health story) If you’re suffering then do speak to your GP, but if you want to try to give your own mental health a boost by yourself then here are a few things you could try.
Read More Books
Books are good for the mind and good for the soul, there’s nothing nicer than curling up with one and getting lost in another world (we can attest to that). They’re a great way to relax while still actively using your brain, making them much more beneficial than, say, watching TV. Reading can improve your vocabulary as well as your writing skills, and in older adults it’s been shown to ward off dementia. Books are a great way to relax before bed and can help you fall asleep much more healthily than staring at a bright phone screen which has been shown to interrupt sleep hormones and the process of drifting off. Reading opens the door to all kinds of magical and incredible worlds and places. You can get to know characters as though they’re real people and, if you’re stressed and want to lose yourself in another reality for a while, then this is a safe, productive and fun way to go about it. Reading has also been shown to increase human empathy, allowing us to better know our own minds and those of other people. Make the effort to read more books; if you enjoy one then look for others in the same genre or see what others the author has done. From there you can branch out further and further.
Related: Books That Might Help Your Mental Health.
Write for Fun
Reading is a great way to learn new language and writing styles, and it helps you to understand how a story is put together. But writing your own pieces allows your creative juices to flow, to use what you’ve learned and put your own spin on it. Writing a novel or even a short story can be daunting at first, so maybe start a blog and work on some articles at first? Write poetry, or keep a journal. Expressing yourself creatively or even just getting your thoughts down on paper can be great for your mental health as well as building your skills. Being able to write fluently is always going to be beneficial; we live in a digital age and much of our communication in our work and personal lives is done through the written word. Expressing yourself creatively is a major key to a good mental health boost.
Travel really does broaden your horizons– it helps you to understand more of the world. It’s one thing to see it on TV and in photos but quite another to experience it for yourself. Travel teaches you about different places and people that have grown up completely differently to you. It lets you explore culture, history and customs of places, you can try the food and understand the ingredients and cooking techniques. Not only is it a great learning experience but travel is fun, too. It’s important to give yourself a break; our daily routines can become so mundane that it feels like being trapped in a groundhog day. A week or two of sun and sea, exploring a city, attending festivals abroad or sailing boats on the ocean could be just what you need to refresh your mind. Best of all, travel doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. If you’re flexible with where you’re prepared to go then you can snag some great last-minute deals. Sites like Groupon and Wowcher also have travel deals that can save you heaps of cash.
We all know by now that exercise isn’t just good for the body but the mind, too. And there are so many reasons for this. First of all, exercise releases endorphins into the body giving you a ‘natural high’ and making you feel good. It also helps to regulate hormones which can affect mood and sleep, leaving you feeling better rested, more energised and happier. Exercising and improving your shape can increase your self-esteem, and setting and achieving your fitness goals is also highly rewarding. Exercise is the fastest way to see a real mental health boost, often immediately. There are so many reasons to include regular activity into your week, you’d be mad not to. If you’ve not worked out in a while it can feel like a real slog at first and you might find yourself wondering how anyone could possibly find it enjoyable. But stick with it, once you have that foundation level of fitness you can start pushing yourself and going for the burn. Aim to incorporate cardio, stretching and resistance exercises into your routine. You can even do some of these right from your home. For example, you could look into where to buy resistance bands (UK) and do some resistance training in your living room or garden on a sunny day. You could get a skipping rope or a trampette and give yourself a cardio workout.
Get a Pet
Of course, getting a pet is a huge responsibility and something that you’d have to sit and consider before going ahead. Can you afford it? Do you have the time for it, and do you have the space? If you answer yes, bringing a new friend into the household could do wonders for your mental health. If the pet is a dog it can encourage you to exercise as you’ll be going out on walks; you could join dog walking groups and meet new people in the process. But other animals, like cats, rabbits, birds, and even rodents can be incredibly rewarding. Pets have been shown to help individuals with depression – it can give meaning to your life when you have responsibility for taking care of this little creature, therefore something as simple as a bunny can be a real mental health boost. Pets make you smile, and stroking a cat or dog has been shown to lower blood pressure. Have a think about the pet that would suit you and your lifestyle, and take the plunge if you feel that you can be the best pet parent possible! You could even try housesitting, get away and take care of someone else’s pets!
Jess is the creator and editor of Books and Bao. She's passionate about the world, it's literature, food, culture, and people. She enjoys sharing her travel tips with others and capturing those perfect moments.