There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to looking after our mental wellbeing. For some, the idea of a relaxing afternoon with a warm drink and a good book could be the perfect way to wind down. For others, something more adventurous might be more appealing. Here are 31 suggestions that could serve as a source of self-care.
1. Go for a walk out in nature – Spending as little as a few minutes around nature can help to reduce feelings of stress. The same is true for low-intensity physical activity, such as walking. So why not combine the two?
2. Spend time on a DIY hobby – Research has shown that people who spend time regularly working on hobbies are less likely to suffer from low mood states. Consider a hobby you might have done in the past or try out something new.
3. Speak to friends and family – When we face difficulties, it can be common to hide it from others. Speaking to those close to you can help to find possible strategies to manage or even overcome the source of stress.
4. Make exciting plans – Having something in the future to look forward is a great motivator, in addition to helping to build a sense of optimism. Think about making plans for a holiday, day at the beach or even a coffee and catch up with an old friend.
5. Find a new activity near you – Trying something new is a great way to learn more about ourselves and what we enjoy, so take the time to look into what is available around you that takes your interest. It could be something active such as a sport, or perhaps a more creative option, like a pottery class.
6. Follow a new cooking recipe – Whether it’s a different take on a meal you frequently cook, or a meal that you love having at a restaurant but haven’t tried making yourself before, taking time to prepare a delicious meal can serve as a great mood booster.
7. Get creative with writing, painting, or crafting – Spending time engaging in a creative activity can encourage decision making, which can lead to improved self-awareness and self-esteem.
8. Offer help to others – It may seem somewhat counter-intuitive but taking the time to help someone other than yourself can alleviate feelings of stress, as well as boosting happiness.
9. Complete a mindfulness activity – Taking the time to be aware of your present experiences and senses allows us to become more aware of our thoughts and emotions, which can help you manage thoughts, rather than being overwhelmed by them.
10. Set up a comfortable sleeping environment – Sleep has a direct impact on our ability to use language, maintain attention and take in information. Taking the steps to ensure that you have a comfortable, quiet and cool environment for sleeping will go a long way to improve mental wellbeing.
11. Create a plan to complete ongoing tasks – If you are feeling overwhelmed with too many things to do, consider making a structure plan to approach them one at a time. Doing this can help to maintain a healthy life balance, stay focused on the task, and limit any uncertainty you might have about being able to manage the tasks.
12. Set some time aside for you – No matter how busy you are, it’s really important to set some time aside, ideally each day, to do something that you enjoy, such as spending time out in the garden, or reading a chapter in a book.
13. Set yourself an achievable goal – Setting realistic goals are a great way to build motivation, monitor your progress and review your progress. Make sure that your goals work for you, by making any targets SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely).
14. Think about what you are grateful for (3 at end of each day) – Taking some time at the end of each day to note down or think about at least three things you are grateful for can boost dopamine and serotonin, giving you positive feelings of happiness and promoting mental wellbeing.
15. Take some time in the morning before jumping into work mode – Rather than starting the day with the rush to get ready for and heading to your busy day, try to set some time aside (perhaps waking up 15 minutes earlier) to relax and slowly build into the day. It might be having your morning coffee while listening to some enjoyable music, for example.
16. Talk to someone about your worries – The old adage of “a problem shared is a problem halved” rings true here; speaking to someone close about what is worrying you might help to approach the problem from another prospective, to get ideas about possible solutions, or even just provide a sense of relief to get some worries off your chest.
17. Find something that makes you laugh – Whether it’s with friends and family or watching a comedy show, laughter can help to reduce or even stop distressing emotions. Finding ways to laugh and smile every day can make a big difference to your mental health
18. Make some “no technology” time – Though regulated use of technology can be beneficial, excessive use of digital devices, such as phones and computers, can lead to a greater risk of poor mental health. Set aside some time in your day to do something away from a screen, especially in the lead up to getting into bed to promote a good night’s sleep.
19. Participate in a session of yoga – Yoga is a great activity to not only benefit our flexibility and balance, but also to help lower stress hormones, while also promoting the release of endorphins associated with positive feelings.
20. Try something outside of your comfort zone – Stepping outside of your comfort zone every once in a while can help to overcome feelings of anxiety and fear. Once you experience the situation or environment you were apprehensive about, without any consequences, it helps to reduce avoidance-based behaviours that can lead to negative emotions or poor selfesteem.
21. Take in a new environment – This can be a holiday in a new country, or something as simple as a park in the area you haven’t been to before. Visiting new places keeps your brain active, which can encourage a positive mood, while also allowing you to step away from your problems and worries for a short while.
22. Prepare in advance with meal planning or setting out outfits for the week – Planning out your meals ahead of time can remove any worries about preparing a balanced meal, or having no choice but to work with what’s in the cupboards when you are feeling hungry. Both a simple plan for the day or something more detailed over the whole week will work. If possible, having pre-prepared meals stored in the freezer is a great option if you are caught unprepared if a plan ever changes.
23. Talk kindly to yourself – Remind yourself that “you can do it”, or that “it doesn’t matter if I make a mistake”. Using positive self-talk can reduce stress, improve levels of satisfaction and even boost your immune functioning
24. Make face-to-face connections with people – Humans are social creatures, so spending time together in person with those close to you can reduce symptoms of depression, compared to contact solely over the phone or online.
25. Choose foods that support your mood – Choosing foods that are sources of fibre and unsaturated fats can not only promote good physical health but can also improve your mental health. Examples include oily fish, berries, nuts and seeds.
26. Value yourself – Much like positive self-talk, make sure you know your own worth. Remind yourself of your recent achievements, no matter how small they might seem and accept your thoughts and feelings. This can encourage more positive thoughts and reduce feelings of self-doubt.
27. Build a stress management toolbox – Stress is a part of all our lives, so having tools in place to work through it is important. Find methods that work best for you to cope with challenging situations, such as a breathing exercise or taking a short walk to alleviate stress symptoms.
28. Mix up your routine – Routines can be beneficial for our mental health, but over time they can stagnate and have a negative effect instead. Don’t be afraid to change up your schedule with new activities or by changing the days that you do your regular activities.
29. Spend some time in the sun – Taking time in your day to be in the sunlight can help to relieve feelings of stress, in addition to releasing positive hormones, such as serotonin which can boost our mood.
30. Deep breathing exercise – Taking part in a short deep breathing exercise can help to regulate your body, reducing levels of stress hormones in the body and promoting a more mindful approach to your day. All you need to do is simply pause and focus on your breathing for 30 seconds to 1 minute to feel the benefits.
31. Reach out if you need help – If you feel that you cannot cope with your current situation, you can always reach out to someone. Whether that’s friends and family or a mental health professional, there is always someone that can help you.
Hopefully some of these options resonate with you as something to have a go at, and if you’re not sure you could try one a day over a month and see what works for you!