*Disclaimer: This article is unqualified advice from personal experience and research, to seek professional help please contact your GP.
Now that January has well and truly started, it seems that everyone is joining a gym or discussing a new fitness trend to get into peak physical shape.
The topic that’s less discussed for 2018 is mental health.
Where are the adverts for meditation exercises? Why aren’t people in the pub discussing anxiety?
My friend recently wrote a brilliant and honest article about her experiences of making mental health her focus in 2017. After reading it, I realised that 2018 was my year to make some changes.
"The issue is that mental health, like fitness, takes constant work and it’s about time we took it as seriously."
I’ve had severe anxiety throughout my teenage years and I still struggle at times at the age of 26. Through my years of research, personal experiences and a science degree, I understand my own mental health pretty well but can get lazy.
The issue is that mental health, like fitness, takes constant work and it’s about time we took it as seriously.
The below are practical tips that I have successfully used previously and will be using again consistently in 2018.
Everyone’s different and you don’t need a mental health diagnosis to make mental health a priority. The first step is to plan your area of focus, ask yourself what you’d like to work on and what’s worked previously.
For example, my focus is reducing anxiety and I’ve purchased a 2018 calendar to carry round with me to schedule in consistent mindfulness, exercise and self-care appointments. It’s also important for mental health not to be overworked; a calendar may help schedule plans better including relaxing holidays!
2. Start consistent physical exercise
It may seem contradictory to what I said above, but physical health is crucial for a healthy mentally. Physical exercise doesn’t need to be the gym or running, it could be cycling to work, joining a local sports team or walking on the beach. I started surfing a few years ago and it’s changed my life. Getting up early in the morning a few times a week and getting my endorphins going, whilst gaining a new hobby with new friends has drastically improved my mental health.
Research suggests that Yoga is also an effective treatment for anxiety and depression. Luckily there is no shortage of Yoga studios in Australia. It might help to try comfortable eco fitness gear like Vege Threads.
Here are also some great tips about planning physical activity from the UK mental health charity MIND.
Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash
3. Journal daily
I’ve always thought writing down your feelings was a trap for potential embarrassment but actually, it’s quite liberating. Talking to someone about mental health is really important and journaling can be just as effective. It can be used as a form of meditation each morning, writing down your thoughts from the day before and the day ahead.
The Huffington Post in a recent article claimed that journaling daily could improve emotional intelligence, self-confidence, communication and creativity. It can also be useful to spot patterns of personal behaviour and track goals.
“Journaling brings you into that state of mindfulness; past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge in the present moment.” Thai Nguyen to HuffPost, 2017
4. Find a new hobby
A new hobby doesn’t have to be fitness and there are many activities out there to try that are beneficial for mental health. Last year I took up photography, gardening and fashion illustration classes and they all made me feel great. Picking up a new hobby or volunteering can bring a sense of achievement, self-awareness and a new social circle. They can also be really helpful to take your mind off the stress of work or life.
In an article with Psychology Today, Dr Jaimie Kurtz, a professor of psychology at James Madison Univeristy, recommends that everyone should find a new hobby as we’re not really that busy. “Perhaps you could reach out to a new organisation: a community choir, softball team, or book club.”
Photo by Christian Joudrey on Unsplash
5. Book a trip
Breaking up routine can sometimes be beneficial and there’s nothing better than getting away and outdoors, even for a weekend alone or with family or friends. Once a month, look at planning a day trip close-by or a spontaneous weekend away. It can be beneficial to clear your mind and bathe in nature. For inspiration check out ‘microadventures’ on the website We Are Explorers.
There are lots of other practical tips to focus on mental health this year and each person is different.
If you are struggling with your mental health, it’s really important to talk to someone close to you and your GP. There are really effective methods for managing mental health issues such as counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychology sessions.
Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.