Small Ways to Practise Self-Care
While once self-care might have been thought of as nothing more than an indulgence, recent research into issues such as depression and anxiety, have found that practising acts of self-care, big or small, spiritual, emotional or physical, is key to achieving better mental health, helping to manage symptoms and prevent them from getting worse. Here are some ways you can support your own mental health and reframe self-care as a priority, not a luxury.
According to one study, 3.7 million adults in the UK often feel lonely, so it’s no wonder that feelings of loneliness can contribute hugely towards poor mental health. It might sound over simplified but hugging someone can have huge mental health benefits – after all touch is a basic human need. If you don’t have family or friends to hug, then even hugging yourself has been shown to reduce cortisol and improve wellbeing. Some research has even found that hugging may be beneficial to your physical health too, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease and boost your immune system.
Getting enough sleep is important for everything from productivity to focus and mood but it’s easy to let a healthy sleep routine slip if you’re feeling overwhelmed with life. Studies have shown that getting enough good quality sleep, especially REM sleep, helps the brain to process emotional information and importantly, consolidate positive emotional thoughts and memories.
According to studies, people who exercise regularly have better mental health than those who don’t. Don’t panic if you’re not naturally sporty or find it hard to commit to lengthy gym sessions; 20 minutes a day, whether it’s a gentle walk or some stretching, is enough to trigger the release of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals.
Smell is the most powerful sense we have and one that can greatly influence our mental health. That’s because when we smell things, small particles of scent travel up through our nose to the limbic system in the brain, an area that’s responsible for emotions, memory and mood. Wearing a favourite fragrance that you associate with positive memories can be a simple way to boost your mental health, while uplifting notes of citrus can help pull you out of brain fog effectively.
Mental self-care is an important part of taking care of yourself and one way to keep your brain sharp and engaged, is to lean into learning. Reading a new book is a particularly good place to start; research has shown that reading changes your brain and helps reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of depression and prevent age-related cognitive decline. If reading isn’t for you, a good starting place is something that excites or interests you, but it could be as simple as learning a few words of a new language or how to play word puzzles. The key is to try and maintain something that keeps you mentally healthy and fuels your mind.
Take up journaling
Understanding your triggers and also what makes you feel better, is an important part of the process when it comes to any mental health journey. Journaling is a simple way to keep track of those thoughts and help you to better understand your own needs, which will most likely change and adapt over time. Writing down things you’re grateful for is also a great way to try and connect with your life when it has a tendency to feel like it’s becoming too much. Anything goes, so make sure you make a note of it no matter how big or small.