Though the month of May brings with it the start of longer nights, warmer weather and the promise of Summer soon to come, it’s marked in our calendar for another reason - and that’s to raise awareness around Mental Health Awareness.
Depression, anxiety and other mental health problems are only increasing - and genetic factors, coupled with the many stresses of modern life are leaving many of us feeling fraught, burned-out and struggling.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to improve your mental health that you can start today. Some of these are behavioural, some of these are to do with your diet, supplements and exercise.
The methods we list below aren’t intended to replace antidepressants and medical help if that’s what you need - but we wanted to share some lesser-known, simple methods that when practised regularly can have a hugely positive effect on your overall mental health and wellbeing.
1. Create a solid morning and night-time routine
For many of us, from the moment we wake up in the morning our brains are already working overtime. We are thinking about the many things we need to do that day, whilst simultaneously worrying about things that we might have forgotten.
Mornings are often started in a hectic or stressful way and we don’t help ourselves with activites such as scrolling aimlessly through social media or making ourselves anxious by reading the news.
What many people don’t realise is that how you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day to follow.
And whilst if you have a family and children, it’s not always possible to start the day in a calm, relaxed way, by creating a consistent morning routine that works for you, you’re taking back control over your day.
A morning routine can be as simple as waking up, making your bed, sticking the kettle on and enjoying a cup of tea for ten minutes before everyone else is awake. No phone, no distractions, no anxiety triggers.
Maybe you can consider starting meditation - something that’s been proven to help people sleep better, improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, reduce psychological difficulties around chronic pain and improve some cognitive and behavioural functions.
There are thousands of free, guided meditations on platforms such as YouTube. Our favourite channel is called The Mindful Movement and its videos are a perfect introduction to meditation for beginners.
Adopting a similar approach at night-time will help you to unwind before bed and lessen feelings of anxiety.
Try to go at least an hour before bed without looking at your phone or laptop, as the blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps to induce sleep.
Remember, you only have to start small. Perhaps you want to stop using your phone first thing in the morning or get in the daily habit of taking a magnesium supplement before bed to help you relax and promote good quality sleep.
These small, consistent changes over time will help you to find more peace and calm in the familiarity of these daily morning and night-time practices.
2. Look to your diet for alternative remedies
The importance of prescribed medication cannot be ignored when it comes to tackling mental health issues, however, it’s always worth looking at your diet to see if you’re doing everything you can to promote good mental health from within.
What we eat has an effect on every part of our health - the brain included! When you’re depressed and feeling lethargic, unhappy and demotivated, it can be harder than ever to stick to a healthy diet.
However, studies have shown that the link between a healthy diet and a healthy brain simply cannot be ignored.
One review said “A dietary pattern characterised by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression.
A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.”
Now this is not to say that animal foods and meat are bad - however, the problem with supermarket beef, for example, is that the cattle will have been fed corn rather than grass, treated with antibiotics and growth hormone and raised in an intensive environment.
This produces inflammatory meat full of exogenous hormones (including stress hormones) and unhealthy fats from eating all that corn which will have been treated with pesticides.
Therefore if you can, substitute supermarket meat and dairy for organic alternatives that have been grass-fed and raised in a better environment.
By sticking to a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet you are providing your body with all the vitamins and nutrients needed for good mental health.
3. Consider taking a Folate supplement
If you’re a woman who has ever been pregnant, it’s likely you will have heard of folate (or folic acid). If you’re not, this may be the first time you’ve heard of it.
Folate is essential during pregnancy as it works against neural tube defects, which help to ensure there are no birth defects when it comes to the baby’s head and spine.
However, folate is also vital for the development of our nervous system and vitally, our neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters transmit signals from one nerve to another nerve, muscle, tissue or organ. They work to regulate things like mood and sleep.
Both dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters and both of these have a vital role to play when it comes to experiencing mental health problems.
Dopamine is known as the “happy hormone” as it’s responsible for our feelings of happiness. Serotonin is responsible for feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
Dopamine system dysfunction has been linked to certain symptoms of depression, like low motivation whereas serotonin is involved in how you process your emotions, which can affect your overall mood and make you feel depressed.
By promoting healthy neurotransmitter synthesis through taking a daily folate supplement, you are essentially protecting yourself from problems that can arise when the hormones in your brain are out on sync or not working at optimum performance.
If you suffer from depression, speak to your doctor about folate. Studies have shown that a significant number of depressed people also suffer from folate deficiencies that they might not currently be aware of.
Get in touch
We hope this list has helped you to think of some alternative remedies to taking control of your mental health and wellbeing.
If you’re suffering badly with your mental health, please visit your doctor or healthcare professional who can advise you on medical steps you can take to feel better. Don’t suffer in silence.
If you’d like more information, help or advice on any of the products mentioned in the blog post, we’d love to hear from you.
Simply click here to contact one of our friendly customer advisors.