We know that 1 in 4 people in the U.K will experience an episode of mental ill health every year (McManus et al, 2009), with an estimated 1 in 6 people in England alone reporting feelings of anxiety and depression each week (McManus et al, 2016). Despite the increased awareness of mental ill health, emotional wellbeing is arguably still not given the same priority by many as physical wellbeing. Below we have compiled five tips that can be implemented to support you in looking after your mental health and developing emotional resilience.
Do Not Isolate Yourself
Maintaining connections with the people around you is a healthy action which supports emotional wellbeing. Research (Brugha et al, 2005) suggests that a lack of social support and relationships is closely associated with poor mental health. For many experiencing mental ill health, spending time with people can feel particularly challenging. However, isolation distances the individual from any social network that they may have which acts as a buffer against psychological disorders (Deiner & Selligman, 2002). The literature further indicates that the quality of one’s relationships with others is more important than the quantity. Despite this, having less than three close friends or relatives who can be relied upon to provide emotional support has been cited as a predictor for future mental illness (Jenkins et al, 2008).
Whether it is dancing, running or even walking, developing an active lifestyle is an important part of maintaining emotional wellbeing. Rates of depression and anxiety have been shown to decrease when individuals regularly engaged in physical activity (Biddle & Ekkekaris, 2005). Research further indicates that the cognitive development of children and young people improved significantly following exercise (Sibley & Etnier, 2003).
School, work, relationships, social media and a host of other commitments/interests mean that our lives can feel extremely busy. As a result, many people do not take the time to pause and simply pay attention. Pay attention to their surroundings, their emotions or their actions. Practicing mindfulness, which can be defined as the psychological state of consciously choosing to be present and aware has been shown to have a positive impact on emotional wellbeing, as well as increasing one’s ability to self-regulate behaviour (Bowlin & Baer, 2012). The very act of reminding oneself to pay attention to every aspect of your life can provide people with the clarity needed to put every experience into perspective. This process includes savouring the positive as well as recognising and releasing negative automatic thoughts which fuel mental ill health.
Learn Something New
Studies show that learning new skills increases confidence and feelings of self-efficacy (Kirkwood et al. 2008). You may have always wanted to learn a new language, but felt as though you weren’t smart enough to do so. If you suddenly find yourself excelling in your Spanish class, or understanding the Italian menu while on holiday, you will likely begin to feel positively about yourself as a whole and your ability to do things well. Further to this, engaging in goal setting behaviours encourages emotional wellbeing due to the sense of achievement gained from reaching a target (Huppert, 2009). Wellbeing is particularly increased when goals are self-generated and in line with an individual’s own values.
Giving your time, a seat, or even a smile to somebody else who is in need, is one of the simplest ways of enhancing your mental health. This is due in part to the positive reinforcement received from altruistic behaviours which stimulate the brain’s reward system (Rilling et al, 2007). In addition to this, research indicates that volunteering in older people reduces mortality rates (Huppert, 2009), while another study demonstrated that one act of kindness per week increased emotional wellbeing (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon & Schkade, 2005).
Much like physical ill health, mental ill health can effect anybody at any time. However, the above tips are self-help strategies that you can use to promote emotional wellbeing in your life.
If you that you need additional support please contact your GP or a mental health professional.
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Bowlin, S. L., & Baer, R. A. (2012). Relationships between mindfulness, self-control, and psychological functioning. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 411-415.
Brugha TS, Weich S, Singleton N, Lewis G, Bebbington PE, Jenkins R, Meltzer H (2005) ‘Primary group size, social support, gender and future mental health status in a prospective study of people living in private households throughout Great Britain’ Psychological Medicine 35: 705–714.
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McManus, S., Bebbington, P., Jenkins, R., & Brugha, T. (2016). Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital, 39-40.
McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.
Sibley, B. A., & Etnier, J. L. (2003). The relationship between physical activity and cognition in children: a meta-analysis. Pediatric exercise science, 15(3), 243-256.