Practical steps to improve your mental health

To help our members bring in the new year with their best foot forward, we wanted to tackle a hot issue head-on, to offer helpful guidance on how to take practical steps to improve your overall mental health – the health inside that nobody else can see.

Gratitude training

The 60-second solution if you aren’t a fan of meditation! Scientists have been analysing the practice of gratitude as an exercise, and studies have shown the best outcome stems from a daily list of things for which you are grateful. This exercise resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, people who have tried this say they experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved.

In practical terms, here is one example of how you can test the effects of gratitude training in less than 10 minutes over the next week: Ask yourself the following question each morning, immediately upon waking up and before getting out of bed: What am I truly grateful for in my life? Aim for five answers, and if you have trouble at first, ask yourself alternative probing questions such as:

What relationships do I have that others don’t?

What do I take for granted?

What freedoms, unique abilities, and options do I have that others don’t?

What advantages have I been given in life?

Which allies and supporters have helped me to get to where I am?

Meditation

Meditation, breathing, and yoga training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed, they are better able to manage them. For best results, try morning meditation! This is because sleep is a very different brain pattern than meditation; so it’s the best way to start your day with a peaceful, centred mindset – a mental state we should all strive to be in.

If you want a little more guidance or structure, try a mindfulness app such as Calm or Headspace. You can also meditate in some less traditional ways: take a meditative yoga class, or spend time digging in your garden. Whatever lets you focus, breathe, and be present in the moment. However, absolutely not TV!

21 Day No Complaint Exercise

The author of this idea was Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister who had recognised that word choice determines thought choice, which determines emotions and actions. It’s not enough to just decide you’ll stop using certain words, though. It requires conditioning.

“This $@#&ing laptop will be the death of me.”

Will designed a solution in the form of a simple purple bracelet, which he offered to his group with a challenge: go 21 days without complaining. Each time one of them complained, they had to switch the bracelet to their other wrist and start again from day 0. It was a simple but effective metacognitive awareness training. The effects for many were immediate and life-changing. The bracelets spread like wildfire as others observed these transformations, and, to date, more than 6 million people have requested the little devices.

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