Many of my friends, family members, and at times myself, have had challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy headspace. It’s an area of life which is unique to each person, and takes a lot of work.
What “good” mental health looks like is different for everyone. A close friend of mine needs a lot of time on his own, whereas another will start to feel low without lots of social contact (you can guess who’s dealing better with the pandemic).
Although individuals must take their own approach to managing their mental health, like physical health, there are some things which will allow all of us to feel better.
- Sleep – A good night’s rest is the difference between a bright, productive, meaningful day and a write-off. If you’re not sleeping properly, you give yourself a much lower chance of feeling good.
Tim Ferriss, one of my favourite writers and self-described “horrific insomniac” suggests reducing the temperature of your room by a few degrees; creating a bedtime ritual and going to bed at a consistent time; limiting screens before bed; a tea made from apple cider vinegar and honey (can verify it does work), and creating as dark a room as possible to sleep in.
I also find reading before bed (especially novels), making sure I’m not looking at screens, and being in bed at a consistent time is vital for a good night of rest.
Sleep is arguably the most important factor in keeping your mental health in good condition, and should be prioritised and valued accordingly.
- Meditation – “If the benefits of meditation were put in a pill, the world would be scrambling for a prescription.” – Jamie (my brother).
This year is the first time I’ve managed to meditate consistently. I built the habit into my morning routine during lockdown, and have had some form of mindful practice since. The most powerful effect it’s had on my mental health is the ability to observe thoughts without being absorbed by them. I’ve heard it said that meditation allows you to become the chess player instead of the chess piece in daily life. I’m more able to see a negative thought spiral beginning, analyse it, then let it dissipate. It gives you a little more control over the only thing you actually have control over – your mind.
Two useful resources are the Headspace App and Waking Up app. I’ve used them both, and can highly recommend their free introductory courses.
- Exercise – the mental health benefits of exercise cannot be overstated. Any form you enjoy, from walking, yoga, HIIT training, swimming, running, or even ultimate frisbee. An activity which increases your heart rate and makes you sweat will make you feel better. Conquering your “inner bitch” as Joe Rogan puts it, can be incredibly difficult, but on the other side of a workout is a healthier state of mind.
This is a great blog post by Joe Wicks which dives a little deeper into why it’s so good for you.
- Cold showers – cold exposure is extremely healthy, even if it can be a bit brutal. Cold showers have been shown to reduce cortisol and release endorphins. It’s not clear why, but being in cold water is great for your body, and your mind. It’s another thing I do every morning, and it definitely improves my outlook on my day.
Your mental state is the foundation of your life. It affects the quality of your relationships, the choices you make, and how you generally experience reality. Poor mental health can leave you feeling helpless, you have actions within your control which will make you feel better.
I hope this is in some way helpful, and if anyone reading this is feeling isolated or down, drop me a message. I’m genuinely happy to chat.
Thanks for reading everyone. As I’ve said before, I’m still figuring out the best way to deliver value through the blog, so please give me your feedback on how I can improve.