Understanding and looking after your mental health is important. One of the best things you can do for your own wellbeing is learning what affects it and, as a result, how to improve mental health.
Your mental health influences how you feel, think and behave in your day-to-day life. It also affects how well you cope with stress, overcome challenges and setbacks and build relationships with other people.
In the post below, we’ll be covering some ideas and ways to improve mental health. These will help you to look after your emotional wellbeing, boost self-esteem and improve your mental health.
In the article below, we’re going to cover how different aspects of our lifestyles affect our mental health and some of the most effective ways to improve your mental health, including:
Understanding the link between some of these things and your mental wellbeing is one of the first steps towards improving your mental health.
There are many benefits of exercise for mental health — regular physical activity can make a big difference to your mood and wellbeing. But how does exercise help mental health, exactly?
Here are some reasons why exercise is good for mental health:
Exercise won’t instantly ‘cure’ your mental health problems, but many people have found that regular exercise makes a big difference to their mental wellbeing, making them feel more positive and more energised.
Everyone is different — what works for one person might not work for another. Find an activity that you enjoy, something that fits into your daily life. This way, you’re much more likely to feel the benefits of exercise to your mental health.
You might not associate diet with mental health, but what you eat can have an effect on your mood and mental wellbeing. What you eat, this nourishes your whole body — including your brain.
Improving your diet — through eating regularly, avoiding certain foods and maintaining a healthy well-balanced diet — may help to:
It can be difficult to know what is good and bad for you, especially when dietary advice seems to change regularly, but there are foods you can eat which will support strong mental health.
Here are some foods that are good for your brain and mood:
These are some of the ways you can nourish your brain and keep your mental health strong with food.
Below, we cover some specific diets and mental health, to give you an overview of anything you need to know about how they interact.
More research needs to be done into the link between a vegetarian diet and mental health problems, but vegetarianism has recently been linked to increased chances of depression and poor mental health.
If you follow a vegetarian diet, then you need to make sure that you eat a balanced diet and get enough nutrients for your body and mind to function well.
For example, it’s important to get enough protein in your diet without sources like lean meat and fish. There are plenty of vegetarian-suitable foods that are rich in protein, such as milk and dairy products, legumes (like peas, beans and lentils), soy products (like soya milk and tofu), nuts and seeds.
Likewise, you will need to find vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids (which are important for brain health), such as rapeseed oil, nuts, eggs and soy-based food.
As with following a vegetarian diet, it’s important to ensure that you maintain a well-balanced and nutritious diet if you are vegan.
You need to eat a variety of different protein sources to get the right mixture of amino acids, which are vital for the building and repairing of the body's cells, including brain cells.
Pulses, such as beans, lentils and peas, are particularly important if you don’t get your protein by eating meat, fish or dairy products. Egg and meat alternatives, such as tofu, Quorn and tempeh, are also good protein sources.
People with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity often report mental health problems, such as depression, poor concentration, fatigue and anxiety among their symptoms. This is generally thought to be due to the psychological difficulties of living with a chronic illness, including dietary restrictions, social restrictions, exclusion and increased anxiety about negative symptoms.
There is a suggested link between symptoms of bipolar disorder improving under a gluten-free diet; however, more research is necessary to correctly establish the link between a gluten-free diet and mental health.
An unhealthy diet will negatively affect both your physical health and your mental health.
Eating certain foods, too much food, skipping meals and not drinking enough water can impact on your brain and mood. This gives you low energy levels, mood swings, concentration problems, disrupts your sleep, and weakens your immune system.
Avoid foods which make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly, such as sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks, and alcohol.
Here are some foods that adversely affect mood:
We know that relationships with other people — whether that’s family, friends, romantic partners or work colleagues — are crucial for our mental wellbeing.
Good relationships can:
However, building and maintaining good relationships with other people is easier to do when you have sound mental wellbeing. Poor mental health can affect your relationships negatively, and cause you to feel lonely and isolated.
Here are some ways you can build and maintain positive relationships if you’re struggling with your mental health:
Balancing mental health and relationships can be hard, but whatever you decide to do, there is plenty of support out there and people who want to help.
The rise of social media means that we are more connected than ever to others; it can be an invaluable tool for keeping in touch with friends, loved ones, and the wider world.
However, social media can have a detrimental effect on mental health in a number of different ways.
Here are some of the ways that social media can affect mental health in a negative way:
It is important to be aware of the link between social media and young people's mental health and wellbeing.
Our younger years are a crucial period for emotional and psychosocial development, and social media can be detrimental to young people’s mental health.
A recent report links social media to negative effects such as increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep quality, as well as poor self-esteem and body image.
Here are some social media and mental health statistics from that report:
If you’re feeling particularly stressed, anxious or down about something, then drinking alcohol can seem like an easy way to de-stress and relax.
Although you might feel better after you’ve had a couple of drinks, in the long-term, drinking (particularly drinking excessively) can have an impact on your mental health.
Mental health problems not only result from drinking too much alcohol; they can also cause people to drink too much.
In the section below, we’ll go into the link between drinking and mental health, including the impact of alcohol on mental health.
The connection between mental health problems and alcohol is complex, but here is an overview of the impact and risks of drinking alcohol on one’s mental health:
Alcohol is sometimes classified as a mental health problem. This is because it has both mental and physical components; it involves physical addiction, but it also interferes with a person’s mental state, affecting how they behave and interact with others. Alcoholism also often involves compulsion, like some other mental health disorders, and denial.
If you have mental health problems and also have problems with alcohol use, you will probably be described as having a ‘dual diagnosis’.
Self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It is based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves.
Self-esteem and mental health are often closely linked. Having healthy self-esteem means that we tend to feel more positive about ourselves, our relationships, and our place in the world. Higher self-esteem enables us to deal with tricky situations and problems in life.
When we have low self-esteem, we tend to struggle more with coping with life’s ups and downs. We see ourselves in a more critical light and may have problems with liking or valuing ourselves. We might struggle with making decisions, trying new things, or overcoming challenges and hardships in life.
Low self-esteem can be caused by a number of things: childhood experiences, relationships, stress, difficult life events, and personality.
We all have times when we don’t feel good about ourselves, or we feel lacking in confidence. However, if this lasts for a long time, or becomes more severe, it can have a detrimental effect on both our mental health and our daily lives.
It’s important to remember that different things work for different people, and there is no quick fix for things like low self-esteem.
With that in mind, here are some tips and advice on how to improve self-esteem:
If you’ve been trying to improve your mental health and you’ve tried the advice above but you’re not feeling any better, then you may want to get some additional help.
For people struggling with poor mental health, it’s not always easy to know where to go for help or who to turn to. But it’s important to remember that there are lots of people and organisations who can provide help, information and support.
If you’ve been experiencing poor mental health or symptoms of a mental health disorder, then you can visit our ‘What Is Mental Health?’ page — there’s a section at the bottom where we’ve gathered some useful information on where you can go for help.
Keeping on top of your mental health and emotional wellbeing is important. Staying mentally well and learning how to improve your mental health will help you to cope with the ups and downs of life.
There are many different ways to improve mental health which we have talked about in detail above: looking after your physical health through a balanced diet and regular exercise, building positive relationships, and looking after your emotional wellbeing and improving self-esteem.
Forming and maintaining healthy habits and routines will help you feel better and improve your mental health.
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