How to get ‘5 a Day’ for your Mental Wellbeing

Looking after our mental health can feel like an uphill challenge, here’s a way to make things a little more simple!

Most of us have heard of getting our 5 a day and usually this refers to eating enough fruits and vegetables, which is always a great thing to do, but with this week being mental health awareness week, I wanted to hi-light how to support your mental health with these 5 simple activities that you can include in your everyday life.

The following steps have been researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation.

Just as we need to look after our physical health, our mental health also needs nourishing and by adding in 5 simple activities on a daily basis, you can reduce your risk of a mental health problem and increase your happiness and satisfaction with your life.

#1: Connect

Connection is a vital aspect of human health. Feeling valued by and close to others has been shown to be a fundamental human need.

Regularly spending time with others or reaching out to connect with someone can be a useful way to look after your wellbeing or to support you if you are struggling with your mental health.

Ideas to support Connection:

  1. Pick up the phone instead of sending an email or text
  2. Meet someone for a coffee or walk or arrange a day out with a friend
  3. Share a lift, commute or lunch break with a colleague
  4. Turn off screens and spend quality time with your family
  5. Arrange a time for your evening meal to eat together with family
  6. Use video calling to have a chat with someone, no matter how far away they are!

#2 Be physically Active

You don’t have to go to the gym or sweat buckets to be physically active. Adding any movement that you enjoy into your day will help support your mental health.

Being physically active helps release chemicals in the brain which can improve mood and being physically active can also improve focus, decision making, sleep, and confidence- all of which will also support your mental wellbeing.

Ideas to support Movement:

  1. Couch to 5Km Podcast
  2. Swimming
  3. Local walking group
  4. Online classes (yoga, HITT, strength)
  5. Zumba (or just have a dance in your kitchen!)
  6. Gardening

#3 Learn Something New

Learning something new can help support your mental health through increasing your confidence, helping you to feel you have purpose, living in line with your values and by connecting you to others (2 in one!).

It doesn’t have to be anything big, just something you enjoy and can fit into your life!

Ideas to Learn Something New:

  1. Start a new Hobby (Sewing, Drawing, a new sport, blogging)
  2. Look for free online courses (Alison courses, Duolingo etc)
  3. Take on a new responsibility at work – be a mentor for example
  4. Take on a DIY project to improve your home or garden
  5. Grow something (Herbs, potatoes, flowers, tomatoes).
  6. Sign up to a course at your local College
  7. Learn to cook- this could help you improve the health of your diet, which is a great idea for health & Wellbeing too!

#4 Give to Others

Giving to others is such a rewarding thing to do. This again supports your values, your sense of purpose and your sense of connectedness.

Even small acts of kindness can make an impact on others and your mental health.

Ideas for Giving to Others:

  1. Have a chat with a lonely neighbor or elderly relative
  2. Leave a surprise anonymous gift on a work colleague’s desk
  3. Make an extra portion when cooking and give it to a friend in need
  4. Thank someone for being there for you
  5. Volunteer in your local community
  6. Donate some unwanted items to charity

#5  Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and having awareness of your thoughts, feelings and environment without judgment.

This awareness can help us to be more understanding and compassionate towards ourselves as well as enjoy our lives more as we are not worrying about what has been or what might be. It can take time to develop a mindfulness practice, but simply noticing something beautiful as you walk along, or taking the time to really taste the food you are eating can be good starting points.

Ideas for Mindfulness:

  1. Start a gratitude diary, where you note three things you are grateful for each day
  2. Daily mindfulness practice, using an app like calm or headspace can really help with this
  3. Mindful Eating practice
  4. Journaling
  5. Go on a walk and listen to the sounds of nature, note what you can see etc
  6. Spending time on your own