After a long and exhausting week at work, it’s important to get your mental wellbeing in check again over the weekend – ready for a fresh start come Monday.
Self-care is important for your mental health and it can be even more vital for those with a mental illness. “Self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of many mental health problems,” Rachel Boyd, information manager at mental health charity Mind, tells HuffPost UK. “They can also help to prevent some problems from developing or getting worse.
“Whether you have a mental health problem or not, it’s important that we all identify what improves our own wellbeing – whether that’s reading, exercising, meditating, having a bath or spending time with friends and family, and try to carve out the time to do it.”
Here are six things you can do this weekend that have been proven to boost wellbeing...
Think Kind Thoughts
Taking time to think kind thoughts about yourself and loved ones has psychological and physical benefits, research suggests. A study by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford revealed those who were encouraged to be kind to themselves felt more self-compassion and connection with others, and showed a bodily response consistent with feelings of relaxation and safety. Their heart rates dropped and they also showed lower sweat response.
Do some gardening or go for a woodland walk to improve your mental wellbeing. A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care found nature-based activities can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress and depression.
A separate study by King’s College London researchers found being outdoors, seeing trees, hearing birdsong, seeing the sky, and feeling in contact with nature were associated with higher levels of mental wellbeing. The effects were even greater for those with mental health issues and interestingly, the beneficial effects of being in nature impacted people positively for up to seven hours afterwards.
Join A Choir
If you love to belt out a tune every now and then, perhaps joining a choir could be on the cards? A study found singing, particularly as part of a group, was “essential in effecting [mental health] recovery”.
Researchers interviewed people involved with the Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO) project, a Norfolk-based network of community singing workshops aimed at people with mental health conditions and the general public.
“The combination of singing and social engagement produced an ongoing feeling of belonging and wellbeing,” researchers said. “Attendance provided them [participants] with structure, support and contact that improved functioning and mood.”
Hit The Gym
Mental and physical health are closely linked, which is why taking up a sport or doing exercise can never be a bad thing. In fact a study found completing just one hour of exercise per week at any intensity could be enough to prevent depression for some patients.
The landmark study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, worked with more than 33,000 Norwegian adults to analyse their levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety over 11 years. Researchers concluded that even small amounts of exercise can protect against depression, with mental health benefits seen regardless of age or gender.
Paint A Picture
Wielding a paint brush might do far more than just getting your creative juices flowing. A study by the University of Brighton found artistic activities like painting, drawing, doing crafts and pottery helped people with mental health conditions. Perhaps most interestingly it was found to reduce reported levels of depression and anxiety, and increase self-respect, self-worth and self-esteem.
Art therapies are also being used to treat mental illnesses. Their aim is to help people draw on their inner, creative resources while exploring personal issues with a trained arts therapist in a safe space. Therapies include things like art, dance, drama and music.
One study showed art therapy had a “clear effect” on people with severe depression. After 10 art therapy sessions, the patients who suffered from severe or moderately severe depression had shown more improvement than the patients who didn’t do any art therapy.
Helping others is good for us and can improve wellbeing. Firstly, when you help someone it releases endorphins which then activate parts of the brain associated with trust, pleasure and social connection.
Volunteering and being part of a community of helpers can also reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. In short, doing good can do you good.
Take inspiration from HumanKind, HuffPost UK’s ongoing celebration of kindness in all forms and the amazing people doing things for others.