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Mind

9 ways to improve your mental wellbeing

The social isolation, uncertainty and stress of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on the mental wellbeing of many of us.

We’ve put together some ideas to help you build resilience and stay positive.

What can I do to improve my mental wellbeing?

Any of these tips could be beneficial for your mental health, so choose one to start with that fits in with your lifestyle.

Remember that it’s easier to make changes if your goals are specific, realistic and achievable. For example, rather than saying you’re going to exercise more often, it’s better to work out how much time you can devote to it and make a firm commitment by scheduling the sessions in your diary.

1. Practice mindfulness for better mental health

Information overload and constant demands on our attention can make it hard to focus on what’s really important. And many of us spend too much time worrying about the future and stressing over things we can’t change. Simple mindfulness practices can train your mind to wander less and help you appreciate the here and now. For example, try really noticing the sights, sounds, smells and physical sensations you experience when out for a walk. Read our article to learn more about how to start practicing mindfulness.

2. Cut back on clutter to reduce stress

A tidy and organised environment lets you feel calmer and more in control, whereas clutter creates stress, especially if you’re at home a lot during lockdown. Invest in some drawer dividers and storage boxes and focus on one small area at a time – your desk, a messy corner, the medicine cupboard. Get rid of everything you don’t use and find a home for other items, and just make sure you don’t start dumping bits and pieces there in future. Marie Kondo is the queen of decluttering and her website has many useful tidiness tips.

3. Laugh to boost your mood

A good giggle releases endorphins, or feel-good chemicals, and is a great way to relieve stress and give you a lift. Watch a funny film, find some stand-up comedy online, or read a laugh-out-loud book. Giving your sense of humour a regular workout helps you to see the funny side of difficult situations and defuses tension. And sharing a chuckle is even better, so regularly hook up with the people in your life who make you laugh.

4. Get regular exercise

Physical activity is another way to get the endorphins flowing, and it can also reduce levels of stress hormones. Even if you can’t get outside or to the gym, there’s plenty of free online exercise or dance workouts to choose from. The trick is to find an instructor who makes it fun – Joe Wicks is a favourite for many.

5. Find joy in nature

Many studies have found that spending time in nature has a positive effect on mental health, so try to get out into your local green spaces several times a week. The physical exercise involved in taking a walk can also help boost your mood. Even looking at pictures of nature, or bringing house plants and flowers into your home, have been shown to have positive effects.

6. Use social media in a positive way

Social media lets you stay connected with family and friends but it can also eat up your time, expose you to online conflict and make you feel that everyone has a more exciting life than you. Most recent smartphones have built-in apps, such as Screen Time for IOS (Apple) and Digital Wellbeing for Android, that can help you monitor and limit time spent on social media. You could also turn off the notifications that constantly lure you back to your phone. Resolve to use social media in a more positive way by following people and pages that you find uplifting or educational, and ones that provide useful health information. Learn more about how you can reduce your screen time.

7. Boost your happiness by helping others

Research has found that volunteering and being kind to others can increase our own wellbeing, self-esteem and happiness. So why not get involved in a local volunteering scheme that fits with your interests and skills? You can find many opportunities on the Do it website. Or, if you’re short of time, you could simply try to do a small act of kindness every day, such as offering to pick up some shopping for a neighbour, letting another driver into a traffic queue, or giving an unexpected compliment.

8. Learn to say no

Many of us find it hard to say no. Although helping others can benefit your mental health, overcommitting and being constantly at other people’s beck and call may have the opposite effect. If you struggle to come straight out with a refusal, say you’ll have to think about it or check your diary first. Then just say you can’t manage it this time as you’ve got too much on. It gets easier with practice!

9. Be grateful

Counting your blessings and being thankful for small, day-to-day pleasures helps to develop a more positive mindset. Each night before you go to sleep, try to think of three good things that have happened that day, such as an achievement, an enjoyable chat with a friend, or a delicious meal.

You may also find it helpful to read our other articles on ways to improve your mental health and how to be a calmer person.