Happy World Mental Health Day 2023!

Happy World Mental Health Day 2023!

Just as everyone has physical health, everyone has mental health. This begins to make sense once you understand that what is physical and mental are inseparable and that what you eat, how well you sleep, how much you move and so much more in your physical body impacts how you think and how you feel about what you think, see and experience.

The impact of the mind on the body is also astonishingly powerful, with changes in thinking and feelings creating sweeping changes to hormone levels and body functions. If you have ever found your guts tied in metaphorical knots with anxiety or glowed with pride, you have experienced the impact of the mind on the body. So looking after ourselves means taking time to care for both body and mind.

It doesn’t matter how you go about this, so long as you enjoy what you are doing. As I was once told, “life is not a rehearsal”, so make the most of your time. Enjoy every moment you can, and if you can’t, see if there is anything obvious you can do to make life better.

The NHS suggests five things are shown to be important to maintaining your wellbeing:

  1. Connecting with others – checking in on your friends in person, making time to listen when someone tries to talk to you and making time to grab a cuppa and spend time together can help make you and other people feel wanted and included. There seems to be increasing pressure these days to look ‘productive’ every waking moment but when I look back over my life, those moments of ‘downtime’ are the good times I remember.
  2. Moving more – regular exercise doing something that you enjoy, stretching and releasing tension, getting outside into nature to walk and really take in your surroundings, moving gently and often to break up extended periods of sitting, and simply noticing how you are breathing and inviting yourself to draw tall and breath more fully and deliberately for a few minutes can all help make you feel better.
  3. Try something new – okay, you are at university and so probably are trying as many new things as you can possibly cope with but there are also a range of clubs and societies you could try – find something you like and expand your horizons still further.
  4. Give to others – it has long been recognised that helping others makes us feel better. One way you could do this is to form a study group so you can share and discuss what you are learning, each person reading a different book and then comparing notes. Saying thank you and really feeling gratitude for small things that others do can also go a long way to making you feel better about life and the world at large. If this is new to you and sounds like spurious hippy-speak, just try it.
  5. Live in the present moment more often – the average person spends 87% of their time trying revisiting their memories of the past or fantasising about what the future might bring and only 13% in the present moment. Yet, now is the only time we can have any agency. We can do nothing about the past and the future is seldom what we expect, so why not live more in the present? If nothing else, you will have a lot less to uselessly worry about.

I’d like to add a sixth suggestion to this: reading for pleasure has also been proven to be a great way to free your mind. You may find your body soon follows, making it easier to relax and sleep. Reading a book (if late at night, choose an ebook reader or printed book in preference to a tablet or mobile phone because the blue light from their screens can wake your brain up, making it harder to sleep) for just six minutes reduces stress levels by two-thirds, which is more benefit than most people get from listening to music – another great stress buster. Reading for 30 minutes a week improves health, wellbeing, relaxation and may even make you more interesting!

The Student Wellbeing Service is here to help

If you find yourself stuck feeling low, the Student Wellbeing Service is here to help and there are many other services and sources of self-help advice to which you can turn. You can contact them directly or through the WhatsUP app for confidential advice and support. No one should feel bad about asking for a helping hand – it is a sign of strength, self-awareness and maturity to recognise when you can no longer cope alone, and friends cannot always be there when you need them in the way you might need them.

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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