Supporting your mental health

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(Photo: iStock)

Mental health is a huge issue in the community, with rising rates of depression and anxiety being some of our fastest growing health issues. The contributors to mental illness are many and varied and sometimes out of our control, but science is showing us more and more that there are simple things we have the chance to do every day to help support our mental wellbeing.

1. Fill up your plate

When it comes to meal time, you should fill your plate with plant foods! Research suggests plants can help our mood and wellbeing. Research out of Deakin University found that after 12 weeks on a plant-heavy Mediterranean diet, participants with a severe depressive disorder reported, on average, a significant improvement in symptoms and mood. And a study by the University of Queensland found that “an increase in fruit and vegetable intake was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction and wellbeing”.

2. Get active

Researchers have concluded that “young and elderly individuals who engage in programs of exercise display fewer depressive symptoms and are less likely to subsequently develop major depressive disorders”. Even better if you can get active outdoors, with research showing spending time in nature can also improve social bonds and community ties.

3. Destress

Find healthy strategies for managing stress that work for you, like learning to prioritise requests, exercising and taking time to clarify worries and determine if they are in you control. Stressed individuals are more likely to sleep poorly and have a greater propensity for poor health choices.

Mental health is a complicated area and it’s important to talk with your doctor about all your options if you’re struggling. There are things we can do ourselves every day to help support our mental health, but we don’t need to do it alone.

Stress-relieving strategies

Clarify worries. It sounds simple, but there can be great benefits from sitting down and working out what you’re actually worried about. This simple task can help you to work out which of your worries you can directly work on and which are out of your control. We can often spend too much time worrying about events unlikely to happen or outside of our control.

Put your worries in context. There are a whole lot of things that can go wrong in the average day—that’s just life. The good news is that, more often than not, the things that go wrong are minor. The next time something goes wrong or you’re worried about something going wrong, think about where it sits on the catastrophe scale. A 10 is the worst thing you could imagine, with a 1 being something like your lunch being made wrong. When you take some time you’ll start to see just how few things are anywhere near a 10.

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