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10 ways to take some time for yourself this World Mental Health Day

There’s no denying 2020 has been a tough year for everyone. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s more important now than ever before to prioritise your mental health and take time for yourself – even if that’s starting by doing one thing for yourself on World Mental Health Day (10th October). 

Our Head of Wellness (and FD), Jane, shares 10 suggestions on how you can dedicate some time to your mental health and well-being. 

1. Take a walk in nature 

Research shows that spending just a few hours a week in green spaces such as parks and woodlands leads to improvements in health and happiness. Sunlight triggers the release of the feel-good hormone, serotonin, which also helps to regulate sleep.

How about taking out a packed lunch or even breakfast with you, if weather permits?

2. Do some exercise

Aerobic activity overrides any anxiety sensations, helps to reduce muscle tension and encourages a sense of well-being through the release of endorphins. It also leads to improved concentration through increased blood flow to the brain, increases your energy levels during the day and helps you to sleep better at night.

Exercise outside to get the added benefit of being in nature: my personal favourite is dancing!

3. Become absorbed in something that you enjoy

Being in a “flow” state stimulates the release of dopamine, which generates feelings of pleasure. As you steadily progress you will get flash after flash of positive feeling as tension melts away and you start to lose all sense of time and place.

Choose something relaxing like drawing, doing a crossword or jigsaw, baking or playing a musical instrument.

4. Take a warm bath

Recent research has shown that a warm bath can be more effective at lifting depression than physical exercise. Being immersed in hot water appears to help decrease stress hormones in the body, and to promote better sleep patterns.

What can be more decadent than taking a bath in the afternoon!

5. Have a massage

Not only does a massage help your muscles to relax, but it also triggers the release of oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” which promotes feelings of well-being as well as reducing pain, stress and anxiety levels. Such benefits are apparently felt by both the giver and receiver of massages.

How about trading shoulder massages with your partner or other member of your support bubble?

6. Do a guided relaxation or Yoga Nidra session

This will bring you to a state of deep relaxation, where your mind and body can recharge and heal. Regular practice will help to keep your nervous system in check and functioning as it should, as your mind becomes more grounded, stable and calm. 

Find a session on Youtube or one of the various apps such as Insight Timer, Headspace or Calm

7. Lose yourself in a good novel

A recent survey showed that reading a good book helps you to live longer! As you get into the flow of the story, and start to empathise with the characters, your emotional intelligence and concentration levels increase, helping you to develop new neural networks in your brain that have a knock-on effect on your health and vitality.

Curl up with a good book, or maybe take a walk with an audiobook on your headphones.

8. Have a laugh 

A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, relaxing your muscles and triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. It is also a strong medicine, strengthening your immune system, boosting mood and protecting you from the damaging effects of stress.

Ask your friends for some good comedy recommendations on TV, or a podcast.

9. Play some music

Music has a strong association with emotions, so a track that evokes a fond memory will instantly elevate your mood. Researchers have found that listening to music helps to reduce anxiety and can also boost your immune system.

So put on your favourite playlist, pump up the volume and maybe even have a little boogie!

10. Chat to a friend

Having meaningful conversations nurtures the important human need for connection and attachment, through the development of empathy, which is the ability to understand and reciprocate feelings: “I hear you”. As well as lifting your mood in the short term, practising empathy skills will help you to widen your perspective and become less inward-focused, reducing anxiety levels and helping you to feel calmer and happier.

How about having a good old chat with a friend you’ve been meaning to contact for ages, and really listen to them, think about what they’re saying and how they might feel. We are all facing additional pressures right now, and I’m sure your support would be massively appreciated.