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With the recent deaths of two high-profile individuals – designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain – it can feel as though mental health conditions are on the rise. But as a society, the positives are that we are getting better at recognising and addressing this affliction.

Mental health conditions assume many guises, and professional help should always be the first step to recovery. But often, treatment can only prove successful alongside a programme of lifestyle changes and self-care. Here are some of those steps you can take to improve your mental health:

1. Look at your diet

There’s lots of evidence to suggest that diet affects your mental health. Eating healthy meals at regular intervals can stabilise your blood sugar levels and prevent those spikes which lead to mood fluctuations. Aim to gradually move away from processed foods and those high in fat and refined sugars towards whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.

2. Get outside

There’s a reason Seasonal Affective Disorder is often attributed to a lack of vitamin D. Sunlight is essential for this vitamin, which can improve your physical health and is an important trigger of serotonin, the happiness hormone. In fact, scientists have discovered [https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201111/psychological-consequences-vitamin-d-deficiency] that vitamin D receptors are located in the same part of the brain associated with depression. Exercise can also help cope with some forms of mental illness, particularly stress and anxiety, by releasing endorphins [https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm].

3. Get enough sleep

Your body needs sleep to feel rested and repair itself. It’s thought cells that aren’t able to repair properly could make some mental health conditions worse [https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201504/4-lifestyle-changes-will-boost-your-mental-health], not to mention lack of sleep being a big contributor to low mood and poor concentration. Of course, it can be a vicious cycle, with mental health problems such as stress often leading to sleep disorders such as insomnia. Try to establish a healthy sleep routine by cutting down on caffeine, going to bed at a regular time to get your full eight hours, and creating a cool and restful sleep environment free of devices to help promote peaceful sleep.

4. Build a support network

Having one or two people you can speak honestly with is vital to unburden yourself. It doesn’t always have to be about discussing your issues; simply having a social activity you pursue or a group that you meet with regularly can help focus your mind on something other than your struggles. If this is difficult for you, speaking with a healthcare professional can help.

5. Take a step back

Finding a way of expressing your thought processes into something tangible can help you look at them from a new perspective. Writing down or sketching your experiences and emotions could be one way, but mindfulness routines such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, attention refocusing and yoga can also help.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health concern, remember that there are professional forms of treatment tailored to your specific needs that can help. For some, counselling combined with medication may work for them, while learning stress management techniques and making lifestyle changes can elicit more positive thinking in others. Feel free to get in contact with us at Health Psychology Clinic today to see how we can help.

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