Over the centuries, many cultures have recognised the clear connection between the body and the mind. In modern times science frequently demonstrates the link between physical health and mental health and research in this area is gaining more popularity. In our fast-paced world, it is easy to lose the balance in our lives, which can lead to imbalance of our emotional and mental health as well as our physical health.
According to the World Health Organisation “mental health is defined as a state of well being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
In fact, mental health in an integral part of our wellbeing as there is no health without mental health. Creating a new path for your body as well as your mind can be a positive step forward. In this article we explore the top ten activities for mental health. Try these tips to help you regain and keep your balance.
1. Hiking and being in nature
Walking, hiking and being in nature are all fabulous activities for your mental health. A walk could be a stroll in the park or a hike in nearby woods or countryside. It is about getting out and about and being in nature that can increase our energy levels, reduce depression and boost the feel-good hormones.
Popping outside for 15 minutes of sunshine a day, particularly in the early morning, late afternoon or evening (when there is less need for sunscreen), can elevate your mood and boost your Vitamin D intake. Take some time out for reflection or just immerse yourself in nature to restore your batteries. You can also invite family or friends to join in and make it more of a social occasion.
Here at La Crisalida Retreats we recognise the value of walking and being in nature. Guided walks are part of our everyday programme. You can enjoy a range of walks from our picturesque lighthouse walk, to the more challenging Vista walk where you can enjoy some splendid views. You can find out more about our guided walks here and discover for yourself the beautiful national park. You will probably make some new friends along the way too!!
2. Socialise with other people
Research suggests that people with a wider social network of like-minded people tend to live longer than those that are isolated. Aim to allow some time each week to socialise with “your tribe”, people who support you, encourage you and even challenge you if necessary. This could be through classes or events. Simply hanging out with friends who genuinely make you laugh is a great way to make sure those endorphins are coursing through your system. Watching fun clips on You Tube or comedy films are also great ideas.
Plan time to socialise in your diary, dedicated time to relax and revitalise. When we genuinely enjoy time with others, we can build strong relationships and bonds. This can lead to mutual relationships of trust and support which are important to mental wellbeing.
Remember that not all people have the same effect on you – if you know someone is a regular moaner-groaner, you might choose not to spend time with them, or get together with them during an organised activity, when they have less opportunity to moan!
Laughter and play are an important element of socialising that have great benefits for mental health. In our earlier article “Discover the benefits of laughter and play for mental health” Amanda explores a range of benefits to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. It’s difficult to be angry, stressed or upset when you are laughing, and it is a great way to release supressed emotions. Through our interaction with play and laughter our body releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone, which can help to manage our feelings of anxiety and stress.
3. Sleep well
Getting a good night’s sleep is so important for our emotional, physical and mental health. It’s an opportunity to rest and restore the body. Over time, a lack of sleep can lead to both physical and mental health issues.
When we sleep, we go through a series of cycles (each lasting about 90 to 120 minutes), which repeats three-to-five times a night. The first part of the sleep cycle is the deepest and is called non-rapid eye movement (NREM). This is the body’s optimum time for healing and restoration. The second cycle is called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) which is a more active phase and related to psychological processing.
Our sleep patterns can be disturbed by too much of the stress hormone, cortisol in our body or by stimulants such as drugs, tobacco or alcohol. Our sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for fight and flight) is on alert then and we simply don’t get a good night’s sleep. This can influence your outlook on life, energy level, emotions and motivation. Read more about stress and cortisol in Lisa’s article: reduce cortisol and stress to improve mental health.
Sometimes, when we are feeling low, we may not even realise that lack of sleep is to blame. Sleep deprivation over the longer term can cause us to be less enthusiastic, irritable, sad or to feel empty. These changes can also affect our relationships and family dynamics.
Help is on hand however and we have some great tips for getting a good night´s sleep and getting your system back on track. What helps one person may not offer relief to someone else and improving bad sleep patterns can take time and effort.
The word Yoga means “union” or “yoke” and in Yoga we can gain emotional, mental and physical health benefits. Practising yoga regularly gives you some dedicated time for inner connection and body awareness. A regular practice can also offer you time for personal reflection. This is in addition to bringing the physical benefits such as increased muscle strength and flexibility, improving your respiratory and nervous system and helping you to feel and look well.
Yoga can also help you to clear your mind and improve your mental health through the practice of breathing (pranayama) and self-awareness. In our article, cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your yoga practice you can find out how to adopt different attitudes when dealing with challenging situations. This can help you bring a greater sense of balance in your life.
5. Learn new skills
Learning new skills and breaking the routine of everyday life can help you boost your mental health. You could experiment with new recipes, try creative writing, paint or join a dance class. At La Crisalida we offer a variety of activities including creativity workshops giving you the opportunity to paint stones, or model your Spirit Animal with clay or draw on a canvas. Many of our guests enjoy the simplicity of releasing their inner critic and allowing themselves some creative play.
6. Pay it forward
The spirit of pay it forward or doing something for someone else can not only create good feelings in yourself but also in other people. Simple acts of kindness benefit both your physical and mental health.
Paying it forward is a very simple activity to do and you can choose from whatever you feel works for you and your budget. You could pay for someone else’s coffee (the person behind you in the coffee queue), bake something for people at work, volunteer for a charity or buy a surprise ticket for the person behind you in the cinema. If you are interested in learning more, we love the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, called “Pay it forward”, or you can also watch the film version.
7. Gratitude journal
Keeping a gratitude journal can be a great step in helping to appreciate life by shifting your perspective and viewing life’s challenges differently.
It is quite simple to start a gratitude journal; any notebook will do. You can buy specific gratitude journals or download an app that reminds you to count your blessings. A journal can help you to refocus your life and be grateful for the things we often take for granted, like running water, electricity, or a friend making us dinner. Even when you are going through a difficult time, it can help you to cultivate new habits and realise that a hard time, illness or misfortune may be an opportunity for personal growth.
Aim to write three things you are grateful for every day. You can do this in the morning or evening and it’s ok to repeat things. Make sure you include the things you do not normally feel grateful for, which might be overlooked.
You can read more about the health benefits of bringing gratitude into your daily life here.
8. Practice mindfulness and meditation
In meditation practice, we work with our attention and awareness. There are many different types of meditation techniques, some of which take your attention to our thoughts, some on our breath, and some in which we are simply present with nothingness. Mindfulness is a meditation technique that brings our attention to the present moment. Through the practice of mindfulness, we can develop awareness of our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, which can contribute to improving our mental health. Ruby Wax, the comedian, suffered from depression for many years. She found that by regularly practicing mindfulness, she became more aware of the subtle shifts in her mental health, meaning she could take different action to break the path to experiencing regular highs and lows.
If you are interested in discovering more about mindfulness and meditation you can check out our meditation page
We would love for you to come and stay with us to sample one of our daily meditation classes. Each morning you can try a different meditation technique, giving you time to explore which meditation technique suits you best. We also offer weekly Yoga Nidra sessions which is a very beautiful relaxing and restorative practice. If you are new to meditation and what happens you can read more about it in an earlier article.
There is a beautiful meditation practice called Metta, which is practicing loving kindness towards yourself and others. You can read more about this in our article about Metta and how to practice it
9. Get organised and make plans
Getting yourself organised and making plans for your life can be important for maintaining good mental health. It can help to set goals for yourself, as this can ease decision making and be proactive in moving your life forward. Know that you can always update or change your goals when life changes, as life is in a constant state of flux.
When we plan, we can create a coherent set of actions that are in-line with our values and priorities. We can create a greater sense of control in our life and plan for fun activities to boost our mental health as well as prioritising what needs to be done at work or in and around the home. Scheduling in a digital detox time (when you leave your phone at home and disconnect from the constant chatter of social media, e mails and other distractions) is a great way to reconnect with yourself, or others.
10. Positive self-talk
Being aware of our thoughts is an important component for managing our mental health. Overly negative self-talk can leave us feeling disempowered and unworthy. A great step in managing your own self-talk is to catch any negative “chatter” and replace it with positive self-talk. The positive self-talk will normally work best if it is grounded in reality and focussed on self-love. Repeating the simple phrase “I love you” can help to keep you grounded and feeling more empowered.
Finally…visit beautiful Spain and La Crisalida health and wellbeing retreats.
If you would like to immerse yourself completely and give yourself the opportunity of getting away from it all to relax and rejuvenate, then book a retreat. La Crisalida Retreats is open all year round. We have variety of activities on the programme to not only boost your mental health but improve your physical wellbeing too. You will have the opportunity to try different meditation techniques to find the type of meditation that works for you, and explore mindfulness is our weekly Mindfulness workshop. There are different styles of yoga available to you at different times of the day to help you to rebalance body and mind. This is supported by our delicious plant-based food and juices, to get you back into tip top shape and back on track.
So, don’t delay come and join us and experience top activities for mental health for yourself, today!
About the author
- Rachel is a talented Pilates trainer and workshop leader.
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