We caught up with wellness expert Niels Eek to discover how we can start putting our mental health first
1. Laugh often
When we laugh we experience feelings of happiness, and it might surprise you to know that this feeling remains with us even after laughter has subsided. “It helps to reduce feelings of stress or unhappiness and can also bring us closer to people,” states Niels. “Aside from the mental and physical benefits, your laugh is an important part of your identity, so learn to embrace and love it.” Niels top tip is to try and laugh even when you least feel like it. “Just by laughing you can train yourself to see the positives in a bad situation.”
2. Communicate well
“Having friends or family members that you can speak to and share your experiences with allows you to deal with stress and loneliness, and will greatly benefit your mental wellbeing. Discussing an issue with someone will help you see the struggles facing you in a different light and perhaps lead you to a solution.” Niels goes onto say that socialising with friends leaves you feeling more relaxed and optimistic, and he suggests setting up date nights with your pals.
3. Get active
“When we start to feel mentally drained we neglect the very things that make us look and feel better, such as eating well and exercising,” explains Niels. Whether it’s a short stroll or an intense gym session, exercise boosts endorphins and will even improve your quality of sleep. “It will help to clear your thoughts and give you perspective, which in turn will enable you to deal with issues in a calmer manner, and boost your mental wellbeing.”
4. Minimise bad habits
Many of us are guilty of turning to drinking, smoking or other unhealthy patterns when we feel overwhelmed. “This is called avoidance behaviour,” says Niels. “It doesn’t help you address, or deal with what’s causing you to feel mentally drained. It only creates a temporary escape and additional negativity spirals as a result. If you do smoke, drink heavily, or eat an unhealthy diet, addressing it could help you create a clear and healthy mind. The NHS offers programmes on how to stop smoking, and apps such as ClassPass have a wide variety of classes from yoga to HIIT that can help to boost your wellbeing.”
5. Learn your triggers
Your brain is a mastermind that can help rationalise your behaviour and habits, no matter if they’re good or bad. Something happens and you react – this is how habits are born, and why they can be so hard to break. When addressing bad habits, it’s important to understand your triggers and how to start avoiding them. For example, if there are certain things that leave you feeling unhappy or stressed, such as a mirror on the way to work, or a particular celebrity on Instagram, limit your exposure.”
6. Practise mindfulness
The main purpose of mindfulness is to allow you to become more present in everyday life and thus improve your relationship with those around you. The key principle behind this is being completely aware of reality as it is and not adding or subtracting anything from how you perceive it, but instead simply observing and living through it. A good place to start your practice is to take a few minutes to focus on your breathing and to concentrate on your senses. As you breathe in and out, just focus on being – if your mind starts to wander, bring it back to focus.
7. Define yourself
Some of our mental health struggles can boil down to body image, if that hits home with you, then Niels has some key advice. “It’s important that your definition of yourself isn’t rooted in self-image. Instead, focus on finding a new hobby, or something that you are good at – whether it is succeeding at your job, being a great friend, or supporting your family – and let that be the thing that defines you.”
Niels Eek is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of mental wellbeing and self-development platform, Remente (remente.com).
Remente (remente.com) is a free-to-use personal development platform for individuals and businesses. The app combines psychology with brain and mental training to help users reach their full potential, complete personal goals, and lead a healthier lifestyle. Available to download on iOS and Android.