How to feel happy and healthy this year
Expert tips on how to boost your mental health and happiness and get you raring to go in 2020.
Not quite in the swing of 2020 yet? Feeling the pressure to have or even stick with a New Year’s resolution doesn’t help, so before you decide to lose eight, eat less cake or stop smoking, why not consider investing in your mental health instead?
I asked five wellbeing experts for their tips on how to boost mental health, feel less jaded and well….a little more happier.
1. Be realistic about resolutions
Jenny Collard, Practice Director, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor at Rutland House Counselling and Psychotherapy believes that many of us don’t actually take New Year’s resolutions very seriously, so in making one we pretty much expect to fail.
“That sows a seed of doubt which has the power to undermine our attempts and become self-fulfilling. If we really want to make a lifestyle change I recommend taking a dialectical mindset. This means to balance excitement for the change you want to make, with realism that change is sometimes hard.
With this mindset you create a plan for change that incorporates how you will ride through the inevitable days when motivation is low.”
So if, for example you want to stop eating chocolate, Jenny’s dialectical plan would aim for total abstinence (like the resolution) but would also recognise that sometimes there will be temptation like Friday treats in the office. If you slip up, you can correct it quickly, or call on other people for encouragement when tempted and perhaps avoid walking past the cafe that sells those cupcakes you can’t resist.
2. Get Appy
Jenny recommends the headspace and Calm apps which are both popular and her personal favourites. “I have benefitted myself from the mindful practice and have worked with a great many clients who speak positively about using the apps as a reminder to tend to their mental well-being daily.”
3. Be kind to yourself
Stop and think about the internal dialogue you’re having with yourself. “Is it kind, accepting and encouraging or cold, hostile and critical? Remember, every time you talk to yourself in a negative tone another part of you is receiving that talking to” says Jenny. “Most of us grow from nurture not criticism so if you want to grow, nurture is what you must give yourself. The way we talk to ourselves matters as much (if not more) than the way we speak to others.”
4. Eat your way happy
After Christmas most of our livers take a battering and can leave us feeling sluggish and bloated. If you want to banish the blues, try altering your food routine by introducing some good stuff into your diet slowly.
Nutritional therapist and metabolic balance coach Judy Merrick suggests the following: “Add Spirulina and/or Chlorella into a green smoothie for breakfast. Bitter, green veggies are great for the liver so eat a lunchtime salad of veggies and throw in some rocket, endive, chicory, watercress, asparagus, artichoke, as well as foods high in Omega 3’s (salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, herring trout, nuts, seeds, avocado) dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or unpasteurised Apple Cider Vinegar. Herbs such as Milk Thistle, Dandelion, Turmeric can also be helpful to cleanse and restore the liver.
Complex carbs are also an important source of food for our gut bacteria which help synthesise serotonin (the “feel good” neurotransmitter). Think oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, root and starchy veg such as sweet potato, squash, pumpkin, carrots, parsnip, plus beans and lentils provide a good source of energy for the brain.”
Unless you’re planning on a month-long vay-cay to the Bahamas to soak up some sun, Judy says “think about getting your Vitamin D levels checked (try a finger-prick blood test kit that you can use at home) and take a good quality supplement at an appropriate dose to your personal requirements.”
5. Practice mindfulness
It’s not just a buzz word anymore. By paying more attention to the present moment, your own thoughts, feelings, and to the world around you can help boost your metal wellbeing. Lance Sullen from Mindfulness Leicester suggests trying a core Mindfulness practice. It will only take up a few minutes of your day but will change and train the way your mind thinks.
“Set a timer for 10 – 15 minutes. Sit in a comfortable posture, that allows you to be physically relaxed, but mentally alert. Breathe in and out through the nose, letting the breathing be just as it comes. If you hear sounds, or feel bodily sensations, just notice and accept them, neither dwelling upon them, nor trying to push them away. Similarly as thoughts arise, just see them as mental events and let them move on, like a cloud crossing a clear blue sky. Stay with this process until the timer sounds and notice how you feel. After a few sessions of this, I think you will notice positive differences in your life.”
6. Exercise your endorphins
Hannah Gibson is a fitness instructor and a massive believer that exercise leads to a happy state of mind but fear not, she doesn’t expect you to run a marathon. She says, “You need to find that hobby or activity that you enjoy doing, that gets you moving – no matter how big or small. Go for a short walk around the block, find an exercise clip on YouTube or take the plunge and attend that group exercise class or gym induction. Do something to boost that brain chemistry to increase your happiness.” It’s that simple.
7. Get some zzzzz’s
Jade, founder of the newly relaunched Oak Om Studios, Rutland suggests trying a simple pose called Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) to help de-stress and get ready for bed after a long day. “Simply lay on your bed or on the floor, make yourself cozy, place your legs up against the wall. Close your eyes and start to inhale in though your nose, and then exhale from your nose just making your exhale a little longer then your inhale, either focus on your breath or simply allow your mind to wonder. Works like magic and comes with lots of benefits for your mind and body.”