Supporting mental health – tips for ‘Blue Monday’
Today is known as ‘Blue Monday’ – a term coined in 2004 for the third Monday in January, the day of the year shown to be ‘scientifically’ shown to be the most depressing. It is a controversial subject, however, as it is based upon an equation that uses weather conditions, debt level, time since Christmas, time since failing at new year’s resolutions, low motivation and feeling the need to take action – and many claims that the formula used doesn’t even make mathematical sense.
Despite the arguments against Blue Monday however, there is no doubt that January can seem like a very long month and the dark mornings and evenings, gloomy weather and the long wait until payday can lead to many experiencing low mood and mental health issues.
Mental health issues can affect us at any age and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives.
The symptoms are varied and include fatigue, persistent sadness, low mood, suicidal thoughts, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep changes, low sex drive, changes in appetite and general health issues such as headaches and digestive problems. Supporting someone with mental health issues can be beneficial to both parties and forge long-lasting relationships that benefit society overall.
Ways to support mental health
The following lifestyle factors can have a positive impact on our mood and are a great start-point for supporting our mental health on a daily basis:
Get plenty of sleep – nourishing, restful sleep is key to supporting mental health. Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
If you struggle with sleep (falling asleep or waking a lot in the night), a bedtime routine is the place to start. Take time to relax before bedtime, turning technology off at least an hour before bedtime and reading a book or taking time to meditate or do some relaxation exercises. Sipping chamomile tea or a night-time tea blend can help with relaxation, but don’t drink too much too late or you might end up running to the bathroom in the night.
Make sure your bedroom is a peaceful and comfortable sleep environment – try not to have electronic equipment in the room you sleep in, keep it as uncluttered as possible, use black-out curtains and keep it cool (around 18°C).
It is also useful to be mindful of daytime routines – include some exercise every day, but not too late into the evening and get outdoors in natural light as much as possible as this will help to support your natural bodily rhythms. see our blog post 12 Tips for a better sleep
Eat well – an anti-inflammatory diet that supports neurotransmitter function can help to support mental health. Neurotransmitters are the brain’s messenger chemicals and control mood, sleep, energy, appetite, and other functions. Include lots of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, poultry, and lean red meat in your diet every day – if in doubt add vegetables. Try to avoid processed, sugary foods and drinks as much as possible.
Avoid alcohol, smoking, and drugs – whilst they may provide an initial high, they affect neurotransmitters and impact mood over the longer term. They will also impact sleep, perhaps initially helping us to fall asleep, but leading to night-time waking or shorter sleep cycles.
Spend plenty of time outdoors in the sunlight – sunlight enables our body to make vitamin D and natural light and fresh air can help to improve immunity, concentration, and mood. If it’s not sunny (as it rarely is in the northern hemisphere in January), wrap up warm and dry and get out for a 20-minute walk whilst it is still light – if you are at work all day, make a point of getting out for a walk at lunchtime or in your break.
Manage stress – relaxation techniques such as deep-breathing, meditation and mindfulness can help with stress management, as can trying to reduce your load on a daily basis. Set the alarm on your phone to go off once an hour to remind you to take a couple of deep breaths and reconnect with how you are feeling – and consider setting your morning alarm for 10 minutes earlier each day to incorporate a short meditation before you start your day.
Exercise and activity – any type of activity can help, including walking, yoga and weight-lifting. Exercise supports the production of neurotransmitters and it is useful to build some sort of physical activity into each day. If you have children, get them outside with you for an hour after school – go on a bike ride, jump on the trampoline, throw a ball or a frisbee or go for a walk – it will help to reduce their screen time and support their fitness and mental health as well as yours.
Connect with others – building relationships can be key in helping to support mental health. Joining a local club or group can help with meeting like-minded people – a yoga class can be a great way of connecting with a small group, as can joining a choir, a dance class, a book club or a local running club.
Key supplements that can also help to support mood include vitamin D3, fish oil, B vitamins (particularly folate and vitamin B12) and probiotics.
Specific herbs have also been shown to help improve mood, including adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola and Ashwagandha and essential oils such as lavender and chamomile – try different herbal tea blends available in most supermarkets or health shops to find one that suits you.
Recent blogs on supporting mental health:
Supporting our children’s mental health
Your gut health affects your mental health (and vice versa)
Helping someone else
How to support someone with a mental health problem
How to support mental health at work
Want to know more?
Pro-Ven Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and how it can affect your mental health too, please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth proven research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107