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Top tips to improve your mental health

Here is some expert advice on how you can improve your mental health and provide support to others.

There are 3 simple things you can do to start improving yours and the mental health of others: starting conversations, journaling and exercising.

Conversations about mental health

Many of us know someone who is going through a tough time, and experiencing poor mental health. We’d like to help, but we’re not sure how to approach them, and what to say. Here are some pointers for starting conversations about mental health.

  • Set the scene: try to choose a location where the person will be comfortable and relaxed. Go for a coffee, or go for a walk or a drive somewhere pleasant and make sure they know they’re safe if they choose to open up to you.
  • Read the room: Sometimes the individual will want to get what’s bothering them off their chest; other times they may not feel ready to do so. However, knowing someone is available when they want to talk is very helpful. You can try to broach the subject this way: “If there’s something bothering you or you’d like to talk, please know that I’d like to help.”
  • Listen to understand, not to respond: If the person opens up, remember that you need to pay attention, so you can understand. Don’t try to respond right away. Don’t interrupt, but gently encourage them to keep going. It helps also to pay attention to your body language. Maintain eye contact, sit upright, and use the movements of your head and hands to let them know you’re listening.

How journaling can boots your mental health

Journalling is a meditative exercise that can help you sort out your emotions and prioritise pieces in your life,” says Melissa Divaris Thompson, a US licensed holistic psychotherapist, speaking to Insider. “It can reduce anxiety and depression, and also help you understand yourself on a deeper level.

These are some of the benefits of journalling:

  • It helps to manage and relieve stress: Stress management is a crucial tool in the effort to enjoy better mental health and research suggests that, when we write down what we’re feeling and get the emotions on paper, they’re released and we’re also better able to understand what we’re experiencing.
  • It’s good for the brain: By writing down things that may have happened to you in the past, your brain is better able to remember them.
  • It helps the brain to process trauma: If you want to use journalling to boost your mental health, try to keep to a consistent practice – opt for at least two or three days a week, if you can’t do it daily. You’ll likely find that you have better perspective about issues in your life and enhanced personal insight.

Exercise and mental health

We know that exercise is important for mental health. This is because it releases endorphins, helps to reduce stress and could improve memory function.

However, research is now suggesting that certain types of exercise may have a greater impact on mental health than others and that individuals with specific mental health conditions may be better off avoiding certain kinds of workouts and opting for other kinds of exercise, to enjoy its benefits.

According to research conducted by Jennifer Heisz , which she presents in her new book, Move the Body, Heal the Mind, if you’re anxious, you’d benefit more from low-intensity workouts, such as walking or gentle swimming, than high-intensity interval training, for example.

“People with anxiety sensitivity (which is, literally, the fear of fear itself) become afraid, often to the point of panic, when they experience the physical sensations brought on by anxiety, including a racing heart and shortness of breath,” she explains. “These physical sensations of anxiety are evoked by vigorous exercise, and so many people with anxiety sensitivity often avoid intense exercise, because they are afraid of how it makes them feel.”

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