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Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Improve your mood using these five tips

Mood disorders are on the rise. The last two years especially have seen mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression increase with the uncertainty of the future, loss of job security, and fear of health concerns.

More time to think and ponder doesn't always bring positive outcomes, so we need strategies to fall back on in times of worry and concern. As much as we need to train our muscles in the gym if we want them to grow and support us, we also need to train our minds and create new chemical pathways in the brain to help us deal with things in a different way to achieve a positive outcome.

One of the best strategies I have found is to build a toolbox.

You will put tools that become permanent features into the toolbox and you can call on them at any time of need. Here are my top five tips to building a better mental health toolbox.

1. Breathe

This may seem obvious, but often when we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and oxygen levels are no longer optimum. This will switch the body’s flight or fight mechanism on, stress hormones rise and the cycle of stress and anxiety begins. When recognising you are in a situation that causes fear or anxiety, taking a minute to readjust the breath can be a lifesaver. There are so many techniques for different breathwork options that can be applied but ultimately you are looking for a slower, longer out-breath than in breathe.

2. Get into your body

You may not feel like doing exercise when you have a million things running around your head, but that is exactly the time that it becomes a tool for mental health rather than just for fitness. It needs to be an exercise that you cannot just do without being present. It could be as simple as standing on one leg, as It’s pretty impossible to be thinking about anything else except how to not topple over! Rebounding on a mini trampoline, skipping with a rope, hopscotch, anything that allows you to bring focus to the movement and get you out of your head. Remember the joy skipping brought when we were kids? Anything that you enjoy that makes you feel your body will work.

3. Turn off the noise

We are surrounded by noise from the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed. Television, radio, social media, music. industrial noise, traffic. Our nervous system needs some downtime to recalibrate and integrate all it has been exposed to, discard that which is not necessary and quite simply get some balance. A simple act of having a day, an afternoon, an hour or even 10 minutes with conscious removal of noise can be a blessing to our nervous systems.

4. Belly laugh

This one can be a life-changer. Whenever we laugh positive chemicals are released from the brain that reduces our stress hormones. Having a collection of things that make you laugh can be utilised when needed. I have a file on my desktop that has silly moments with friends captured on video. Your favourite comedy shows/comedians doing a routine or just simply a voice recording of an infectious laugh can really help. There are laughter workshops that can be attended or create your own by forcing yourself to laugh and recording it. Patch Adams once said, "People crave laughter as if it were an essential amino acid.”

5. Get out in nature

This is my favourite one – it has the inherent power to recharge and rejuvenate. The Japanese are credited with the term shinrin-yoku which means forest bathing and it was a term adopted in the 1980s as a way to encourage people to reconnect back with nature. However, the concept at the heart of the practice is not new. Many cultures have long understood the importance of nature to human health. It is free, easy, it doesn't require any special equipment or money and quite simply it reconnects us back to Mother Earth to get the hug our nervous systems so desperately need.

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"It’s never too late to learn something new and incorporate it into your life."

- Lindy Smithies