Simple ways to boost your mental fitness today

It is estimated that one in six people in the last week experienced a common mental health problem. That’s somebody you know, a person you work with, or even you…
Mental health isn’t just a taboo subject for many of us, it’s often a struggle – a crippling, daily struggle of spectacular lows and battles with unseen forces. And just as there isn’t one kind of condition, be it severe depression or mild anxiety, there is no one surefire cure either.
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But there are methods that can go some way to helping relieve stress and anxiety and pressures of the mind. Here, Shayan Qadir, a development coach and workshop facilitator for Sanctus, reveals 11 that could give you a mental lift.

1. Find your flow

“Flow is a state when you merge your mind and your body, allowing them to dissolve into each other. If we practice something routinely, we can enter a state where we’re really immersed with the task and can lose our sense of self. There are lots of activities which can get us into flow, like running, meditation, art, or even typing. Once you understand how to get into your flow it can feel as if time has ceased and worries disappear. First it comes with practice, pushing yourself a little bit more each time, and eventually the body will take over.”

2. ‘Will this matter in?’

“When you’re really stressed about something it’s easy to lose sense of it in the broader picture. Ask yourself, ‘Will this matter in a week’, and then ‘one month’, and then ‘one year’? The physical reaction you have right now may not be as relative to how important this issue will be later down the line, and that’ll give perspective on how to respond to certain situations. And if it will be a big deal a year from now, it might change your perspective on how you react to the situation.”

3. Immerse yourself in nature

“The Japanese use a concept called Forest Bathing, which involves spending more time in nature, even walking around trees, and it actually helps restore the body into its natural balance. Stress, anxiety, perspective, a big city, constantly checking social media – all the things that make us very tense, so by taking time off to disconnect from all that, whether it’s just switching off and spending time in nature, is very good for our wellbeing.”

4. Control your breathing

“Quite often when we are too focused on what’s happening in the head we can get stressed and lose track of ourselves, and this can lead to anxiety and panic, and one way to interrupt this is to concentrate on breathing. Take deep breaths and really try to notice how you’re breathing, keeping yourself calm before worries spiral out of control and lead to a panic attack. Some of the triggers before anxieties are shallow breathing and tightness of the chest, hunched shoulders and general tension in the body. Focus on the areas that don’t feel right and ask yourself, ‘How do I pull out of that space’?”

5. Name your critic

“Most people think we have one voice in our heads. In actual fact most people have two conflicting voices, and the next time your inner monologue tells you that you’re no good, be aware that ‘The Critic’ isn’t your only monologue. Give it a name and a personality – so when you’re hearing something which is self-defeating you’ll acknowledge ‘The Critic’ isn’t a single thought, and you can challenge it.”

6. Get more movement

“Make regular time for stretching, strength, cardio, or even brisk walking, which can have a really big impact on mental health. Biologically, we’re designed to physically move like hunter-gatherers, where every day we need to go out get some food and come back, so sitting down at a desk all day where energy is only going into the head and the brain, keeps us disconnected from connecting with the body. Taking regular breaks for movement can have a big impact on the brain.”
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7. Connect with others

“A lot of people are quite reluctant to open up with family and friends about mental health. It’s a big step but an important one, as you can then talk truthfully, as opposed to the usual ‘Everything’s great’, when you really mean ‘Everything’s shit’. Believe it or not, there is a destructive side to being super positive all the time. For example, if you’re mourning someone close and your thing is to be positive, forget about it and move on’, that need to express that grief and let it out will still be buried within you. I’ve seen a lot of people, even a few years after an incident, who haven’t grieved and it can build up. Being able to experience a full range of emotions is important. If you allow yourself to feel bad sometimes, the sadness can pass more quickly.”

8. Be of service

“Sometimes when we’re stuck in our own loop of problems we lose perspective, and so being able to help someone else in their struggles really helps bring perspective to our own situation, and also releases endorphins that make us feel good. It could be charity work, or something as simple as checking in with people to see where they need help. Something very easy for us may be very difficult for someone else, but until you actually check in with someone you won’t know. Deep down this gives you a sense of connection.”

9. Create stuff

“Invest some time to connect the left brain and the right brain through creative activities. People get older and forget to just enjoy life and play, or make games – like we would as kids. It’s good to invest time, be it in art, music, singing, dancing, designing, building, cooking, or decorating – just keeping yourself in a creative space helps. If you’re not in a place which is mentally well, it helps to get out what’s inside, a way to heal yourself via expressing yourself in other ways.”

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