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It’s important for everyone to take care of their mental and physical health but when researching, it can be overwhelming and you may not know where to start.

Our mental health and sport & physical activity project manager, Nicola, has shared her top tips to help you.

Connect with others

Staying connected with others is so important and the feelings of being close to somebody, being valued and appreciated can really help to improve our mood and overall sense of wellbeing. Having strong social relationships is something many of us need and it means a lot to know we are not on our own and that there is somebody to connect with. ‘Connect’ also forms part of the Five Ways to Wellbeing and there are so many different ways we can connect with others.

For example, have a chat with a friend or family member on the phone, do an activity such as a quiz with others whilst on the phone or a video call, write a letter to a friend, family member or neighbour or you can even play online games on Facebook messenger and houseparty.

There is also something quite different to try, called ‘Mayathon’, which is a free app. This is an initiative designed to help people to connect virtually with someone whilst getting active and as a result, feeling happier and healthier. Take a look at the link below for more information:

https://mayathon.com/

Be Kind to Yourself

Being kind to yourself is a really important action to take to help improve your mental health and overall wellbeing. Sometimes life can move so fast it can feel like things are going at a hundred miles per hour… which can make it hard to catch a breath and slow down. However, making a conscious effort to take a step back from the busy, sometimes quite chaotic and confusing day to day life, can help us to reset and relax our minds and bodies. This can be quite a challenging thing to do but it is important to remember that we all need time to ourselves to unwind, slow down and recharge.

If you make a plan to do something or achieve a task but don’t quite manage it, don’t feel guilty or give yourself a hard time as every new day presents a new opportunity and a chance to fulfill plans or tasks. By listening to our bodies, we will start to recognise what we need to do to make steps to look after our physical and mental health and how to be kind to ourselves.

Try to move more and sit down less

It is well documented that physical activity, moving more and sitting down less can not only improve our physical health but can be so beneficial to our mental health. Something to really take note of is the fact that anything counts… however small it may seem! You don’t have to run a marathon or set your targets too high; do something that you are comfortable with, enjoy, and that allows you to have fun!

Examples of ways to move more can include walking a dog at a brisk pace, dancing to your favourite music, gardening, putting some extra effort into the housework, getting up from your desk to walk around and stretch and walking up and down the stairs or around the garden. Being physically active, exercising and moving will release endorphins, which are hormones that make us feel good and happy; therefore helping to boost our wellbeing and improve mental health.

Establish a routine

Having a daily routine can give you structure and may help with motivation towards achieving goals or targets. When thinking about establishing a routine, it is important to find out what works for you and what will suit your lifestyle. Things to consider when creating a routine can be:

  • The time you get up every day
  • Setting regular meal times
  • Finding the best time for you to be active / exercise
  • When to access social media and when to switch off
  • Setting time aside to unwind, relax and recharge
  • The time you go to bed every day

Remember, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t stick rigidly to anything you set yourself or if some days your usual routine is just not working; this can happen in our ever-changing world. However, having some kind of structure and daily routine in place to refer back to is beneficial and can help to refocus your mind.

Using exercise and activity to focus our minds and provide clarity

We know that being active and taking part in regular exercise is good for us. It can benefit our physical & mental health and ultimately makes us feel good! People exercise for different reasons and for many of us, it is a way to let go of stress and worry, to focus on something positive and to get into a different mindset. The world moves at such a fast pace and we are often faced with having to make big decisions that may define our next steps. This is where taking time out to be active and to exercise can really help, and can also be a positive choice to make. Exercise can help to clear your mind, to think about the present moment and to really take note of how you are feeling. As a result, we can become more in tune with our minds and bodies and find clarity in relation to any decisions we might be faced with making.

Appreciate the great outdoors

Spending time outside, even for just a few minutes, can really boost your mood and wellbeing. Feeling the breeze on your skin, hearing the birds singing, looking at beautiful views and breathing in the fresh air are all actions that can help make us feel calm, content and relaxed.

Combining being outdoors with physical activity is something that is actively encouraged. Why not take a walk or bike ride to your favourite beauty spots? Taking time to notice the colours, listening to the sounds and appreciating the environment are all steps we can take in our busy lives to relax, refocus and feel re-energised.

Finding the right activity and exercise for you

When it comes to physical activity and exercise, it is really important to take the time to think about what you like and what you are interested in. Finding the right activity for you will play a big part in how much you enjoy the exercise and want to carry it on. Things to think about when it comes to finding the right exercise for you include:

  • Your current lifestyle and commitments
  • Your daily routine
  • How much time you want to allocate to exercise and activity

It is important to do something you enjoy and will look forward to, and not something that will feel like a chore. Exercise and physical activity are very personal things and what is right for one person may not be right for somebody else. Additionally, it is vital to be mindful of your own experience with physical activity, your own ability and your interests.

Ditch the Tech

We all like to log our runs/walks/rides or other forms of exercise on apps or use tracking devices to measure our speed and distance when we move.  But every now and then it is nice to be able to ‘run free’ – to do our chosen form of exercise purely for the sake of enjoying the movement aspect.  As a runner, I often find myself a slave to my technology, spending my time focusing on the flashing numbers on my wrist and not concentrating on what is going on around me.  The pressure of the technology can also contribute to feelings of stress and tension, as we compete with ourselves or face the fear of failure if we don’t achieve what our app expects of us.  Ditching the tech gives us a chance to really focus on the present moment, to be aware of our surroundings – sounds, smells, noticing things we might have passed by.  We can tune into our bodies and minds and enjoy the pure simplicity of our bodies moving.  I find these moments of exercise far more enjoyable, which makes me feel calmer and more positive.

Set small, specific goals with a positive focus around wellbeing

Usually, our motivation for keeping active is driven by our desire to see physical change and we can be overwhelmed by the task.  If you haven’t been active for a long time or are suffering from low mood and lack of motivation, then getting started can be too much of a big step when we are looking too far into the future of what we want to achieve.  By setting small goals and linking those goals to other results then we can start to feel like they are more achievable.  For example, saying you are going to go for a 20-minute walk a day or have a set amount of steps that you want to achieve will give you something to work towards.  If you then link this to the goal of simply feeling better in yourself then you will experience the positive outcome straight away and will be motivated to keep going because of this.  Over time, you will start to see physical change and be able to increase your goals as your confidence grows and you feel better in yourself.

Thanks to Stacey from The Feel Fabulous Project for this tip.

Do what you enjoy, not what you think you should be doing

It’s great to be inspired by people but it’s also important to know that everyone has a very personal experience with exercise and will enjoy different things.  If your plan is to hit the gym because you think that’s what you need to do, rather than because you enjoy, then you won’t last very long and will feel that it’s your fault that you haven’t committed.  Your self-belief will take a knock and it will be even harder to start again in the future.  My advice is to try something new and stay open-minded until you find something you enjoy.  It doesn’t matter if you’re very good at it to start with, your enjoyment is all that matters if you want lasting change to support your physical and mental wellbeing.  Not all of us are marathon runners and not all of us are yogis, but there is something out there for everyone.

Thanks to Stacey from The Feel Fabulous Project for this tip.

Focus on what you can do rather than what you cant

When looking to take on any change or move towards any goal, we can often be focused on the barriers that stop us.  We can tell ourselves we don’t have the time, can’t get to the class or don’t have the childcare.  This approach can leave us stuck in a rut and waiting for things to change before we start to look after ourselves.  My advice is to look at what you CAN do and what time you DO have.  For example, if you want to do a yoga class but are feeling nervous, don’t have transport and can’t really afford it then start with some online FREE yoga on YouTube.  This way you can build your confidence in the comfort of your own home and you don’t have to worry about having the right gear, having enough time or having enough money.  You can also do it with the kids in the house if this is a barrier.  If you really enjoy it then you can start to explore ways that you can make it possible to attend a class whilst immediately benefitting from the exercise at home.

Thanks to Stacey from The Feel Fabulous Project for this tip.

Don’t compare yourself to others

It’s common for us to feel insecure when getting involved with exercise and sometimes attending a session can trigger insecurities that we have about ourselves.  This is often because we are looking at the person who has been going to the class for years and judging ourselves for not being as good as them.  It’s important to know that when starting exercise, you are on your own journey and will have strengths and weaknesses the same as everyone else.  This has the same effect as when we are doing exercise for the approval of others.  It starts a negative cycle that will leave you feeling bad about yourself.  My advice is to do what you do for YOU and don’t concern yourself about what others can or cannot do.  Also don’t concern yourself with other people’s opinions about your choices.  This is your journey and no one else should take that away from you!

Thanks to Stacey from The Feel Fabulous Project for this tip.

Don’t forget to rest!

Exercise is a great addition to our lives and is something to embrace and enjoy! However, it is also really important to remember to take time to rest, which will allow our bodies and minds to recover, recharge and reset. If you are including regular exercise sessions in your week, don’t forget to also factor in days to rest. These days don’t have to mean you don’t do anything at all, although if you feel like you need time to really put your feet up, watch some TV or read a good book then that is fine! It is just a chance to unwind, relax and allow your mind and body to recover. You could use your rest days to take a gentle walk, connect with others or just have some ‘me time’. Listen to your body and do whatever feels right for you. 

Fuel yourself well!

We know it is important to put good food into our bodies, but sometimes this can seem challenging and it can be easier to reach for more ‘convenient’ food items… especially with our busy lifestyles. However, some simple ideas for eating well to provide us with the fuel and energy to take on the day can include:

  • Eat a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables – aim for 5 a day!
  • Plan meals in advance and freeze extras for another day
  • Try to schedule in regular meal times
  • Sit down to eat and avoid eating on the move
  • Have lunch away from your desk

Also, don’t forget the importance of drinking enough water throughout the day! Hydration is vital and can help us feel more alert and even perform better when it comes to exercise and physical activity.

It is also important to remember that it is more than ok to have a treat and to not deny yourself that bar of chocolate if you really fancy it! Just try to maintain a regular pattern of eating well and include good, wholesome foods!

This page will be updated regularly with new tips to help you with your physical and mental health.

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