I recently discovered the website Mindapples. The idea behind it is that, just as for physical health and wellbeing we are encouraged to eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg a day, we should try to incorporate five activities into our day that encourages good mental health and wellbeing. What a wonderfully simple, but effective, idea. One that all of us should embrace, whether as prevention or as part of a cure. To spread the word, bloggers are encouraged to do a kind of meme, mentioning the five things that they do each day for their mental health. I’m not going to nominate anyone in particular to join in, but if you do have a blog, it would be lovely if you participated. This can be a particularly difficult time of year for those who struggle with depression/anxiety and other mental health problems, so it’s a good time of year to exchange ideas.
Ok, my five things. Nothing very earth shattering, just a few basic things that I’ve learned are essential for my mental health and wellbeing.
- Eat sensibly. For me, this means eating regular meals, and making sure that each meal gives my brain the nutrients it needs to be healthy – protein, good fat, complex carbs, plenty of vitamins and minerals from fresh produce. I avoid caffeine, because it makes me feel very jittery, and I don’t have alcohol that often either. I’ve found that there is a direct relation (for me) between what I eat and how well I sleep, which in turn affects my mood.
- Pilates. Ok, I’m cheating a bit here, because I don’t do Pilates every day, I do it 3 times a week. But I wish I could fit it in every day. I always walk away from class feeling 100 times better than when I went in. It makes my overly tense body uncoil, and I get a real endorphin rush from it too. On the days when I don’t have a class, I try to do fifteen minutes of stretching exercises in the evening, to help my body unwind from the day.
- Do something creative every day. Take some photographs, knit, write a more personal blog entry, anything that switches off the analytical side of my brain and focuses on the creative side. Even for ten minutes.
- Stop labelling others by their appearance. She’s fat, he’s short, she’s got ugly hair, he’s got a big nose. If we do it when we look at others, we do it when we look at ourselves. Now this is a tough one for us women. We don’t like to think that we’re this shallow, but hands up how many of us have seen an old school friend or someone we haven’t seen for a while, and immediately thought, “they’ve put on weight! and they look so much older!” From which it’s a small step to, “I’m sure I’m thinner/younger looking than them.” And an even smaller step to, “I’m the fattest one in the room.” Not good for the self esteem.
- Keep a tidy house. This is a very personal one; it may not bother a lot of people to have a messy house, but it really bothers me. My spirit gets all rumpled up when the house is untidy/dirty. But it’s a bit of a Catch 22, because when I’m stressed, things tend to pile up, and then I feel all overwhelmed and where do I start? When it gets like that, I try not to think of the long list of chores to be done, instead I think, “Just do one thing.” Just one thing. No matter how bad you feel, you can manage one job, the washing up, clean the bath, tidy the living room, do a load of laundry. Just that one thing makes me feel so much better that I can usually manage one more. Another tip I read on Ravelry, but haven’t tried yet, is to set a 20 minute timer, and work madly for that 20 minutes, then stop. It’s only a short time, not too daunting, but you can get a lot done in 20 minutes.
So, there’s my five. Now it’s your turn.