With the winter nights slowly approaching, this can be a difficult time for everyone’s mental health. But this year, experts have provided a list of preventative measures people can take to help boost wellbeing.
The research from the Mental Health Foundation wanted to find the best “preventative self-management actions” – or healthy behaviours – people can engage in to help maintain good mental health.
A team of 23 international experts were asked to come up with a list of behaviours they believe can help people sustain good mental health.
The actions were then put to a group of almost 1,500 people who had lived with a mental health condition who voted on the “most appropriate” actions that people can take.
14 things you can do to sustain good mental health, according to the research:
Avoid illicit drugs
Avoid unmanageable debt
Improve quantity and quality of sleep
Learn to understand, regulate and manage your mood
Prioritise fun or have something to look forward to
Spend time in green spaces
Remain curious and open for (new) experiences
Have a healthy diet
Help others, contribute to something bigger
Engage in physical activity
Practise gratitude and cultivate hope
Strengthen social connections
Get support for good parenting practice
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, director of Mental Health Foundation for England and Wales, pointed out that the means to practise this advice “are not readily available to everyone”.
“For example, poverty, low education and isolation may mean that for some individuals it is not possible to avoid unmanageable debt,” he said. “Now that we have this clear evidence, governments should take action that empowers people to better look after their own mental health.”
Some behaviours, such as prioritising fun and helping others, are perhaps most relevant to maintaining mental health that’s already in a good place. But the research also included actions such as avoiding illicit drugs and seeking help, which people with experience of poor mental health marked as useful.
“The majority of people in our study, with the hindsight of their experience of poor mental health, told us that getting some support to avoid illicit drugs and unmanageable debt, to sleep better and to regulate their emotions, is what would have made the biggest difference to them,” Dr Kousoulis said.
The authors said the findings point to the “fundamentals of life that protect our mental health” and they attacked the concept of “miracle cures” billed to improve wellbeing, which potentially “take advantage of people’s vulnerability”.
Help and support:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
- CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.