Looking after your mental health
Being healthy doesn’t just mean looking after the physical aspects of your health, it’s equally important to care for your mental and social wellbeing. Being in good mental health will allow you to enjoy life to the fullest and cope with the usual stresses of everyday life. Try following these ten top tips to keep you in tip-top condition.
This information was published by Bupa's health information team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
Alcohol is a depressant and can affect the way your brain functions, so it’s important to take a measured approach to how much alcohol you drink regularly. Alcohol may give you a temporary ‘high’, but if you don’t drink sensibly, or you drink heavily over a long period of time, you may be at risk of developing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. If you drink alcohol, don’t drink to excess. Don’t ‘save up’ your allowance for a one night binge as this has a bad effect on your liver, which will leave you feeling worse too. Recommended limits for alcohol differ from country to country.
Also, don’t use illegal drugs, such as cannabis or ecstasy, because they have the potential to seriously harm your mental health.
Taking part in regular physical activity helps your brain to release happy hormones (endorphins), which can improve how you feel. Do whatever you enjoy most; whether it’s team sports, dancing, cycling or walking, there’s sure to be something out there for you. Even low-impact exercise like tai chi can help boost your overall wellbeing. The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. This may sound like a lot but you can break this down into 10 minute bursts, such as regularly walking instead of driving short distances.
Also, try to stay active in terms of working, even if it’s volunteering. Having a fulfilling work-life builds a sense of achievement, provides social contacts and support, keeps you physically and mentally active and gives structure to your day to day life. It’s been found that, particularly for men, not being in employment may give a greater risk of depression.
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- Mental health: a state of well-being. World Health Organization. www.who.int, published October 2011
- 10 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health. Mental Health Foundation. www.mentalhealth.org.uk, accessed 7 August 2012
- Anger. Mental Health Foundation. www.mentalhealth.org.uk, accessed 2 August 2012
- Depression. Royal College of Psychiatrists. www.rcpsych.ac.uk, published January 2011
- A healthy varied diet. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, published 4 January 2012
- Tips for a healthy heart. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, published July 2009
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- Wang C, Bannuru R, Ramel J, et al. Tai chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med 2010; 10(23). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-23
- Start active, stay active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. Department of Health. www.dh.gov.uk, published 2011
- Is work good for your mental health? Royal College of Psychiatrists. www.rcpsych.ac.uk, accessed 7 August 2012
- Men and depression. Royal College of Psychiatrists. www.rcpsych.ac.uk, published May 2012
- Meditation. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. www.nccam.nih.gov, published 14 February 2012
- Sleeping well. Royal College of Psychiatrists. www.rcpsych.ac.uk, published June 2011
- Talking therapies. Mental Health Foundation. www.mentalhealth.org.uk, accessed 16 August 2012
- It's good to talk. Counselling and Psychotherapy. www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk, accessed 7 August 2012
- Connect with people. Action for Happiness. www.actionforhappiness.org, accessed 16 August 2012
- Sources of support. Bereavement Advice Centre. www.bereavementadvice.org, published 30 July 2009
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