Updated: Jul 12, 2019
Why do we try to separate physical and mental health from each other? Mental health and physical health are surely just about the health of the individual. We all have a mind and a body. Looking after both would be preferable to focusing only on one or the other.
Have you ever done some exercise or physical activity (be it the gym, a bike ride or gardening) and then had that good feeling afterwards? Or have you ever experienced a time when stress is building, work, family, finances are all bubbling away in the background and then suddenly you get a cold or the flu on top? These two examples highlight the interrelationship between our physical and mental health.
There are many ways you can support your mental health alongside your physical health… here’s a few strategies that I and my clients have used:
Meditation: There are plenty of apps out there now to help reduce the unknown elements of meditation. Personally, I use Headspace to give me a guided meditation once a day, usually for about 10 mins. I find it increases my patience and tolerance (helpful with a toddler around) and increase my focus and commitment to healthy habits.
Journaling: Whether its just getting thoughts down on paper or writing down 3 things you are grateful for, committing your thoughts to paper gives you a safe space to get things out and helps prevent waking in the middle of the night worrying. There are lots of studies that prove writing things down helps us to develop ideas and come up with strategies and solutions for our own struggles.
Trying new activities: Going to the gym is not the only way of being active. And age should be no barrier to trying and learning something new (Google the Iron Nun if you want some inspiration!!). Here are a few less obvious suggestions you could try: Martial arts training, triathlon club, stand up paddle boarding, bowls, yoga, dancing, hiking, self-defence, swimming, canoeing. Anything that gets your body moving! Meeting new people and learning new skills will have a positive impact on both physical and mental health.
Being part of a community: Loneliness and social isolation has a huge impact on our mental health. Over 9 million people in the UK said they were often or always lonely, and over half of all people over the age of 75 live alone (www.campaigntoendloneliness.org). Taking steps to find like minded people to spend time with can feel scary – but the benefits to your health and happiness are worth it. Talk to your neighbours, try out a new club or wander round to the pub in the evening.
Today’s challenge has two parts.
Challenge 1: Sit and think about how happy you are with both your physical and mental health. Score each part on a scale of 1-10 (1 being terrible and 10 being amazing).
Challenge 2: Whatever you scored each element, have a think and see what could you do to increase each element by 1? Decide you are going to improve each side of the equation just a little bit. Try to make it something you can do at least weekly if not daily and make the commitment to start this week!
Note: I’m not a mental health professional and if you feel that you are in need of specialist help, I would recommend searching out someone you feel comfortable with and starting on that internal work. https://www.mind.org.uk/ and/or your GP are good places to start for more support and information.