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We've already heard about how much our mental health has gone downhill over the last two years, as Australians continue to face the ongoing challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But as we recognise Mental Health Week, it's become clear that now more than ever we should feel empowered to take charge of our mental wellbeing, in order to come out of this incredibly difficult period stronger than ever.
Aussie’s mental health has deteriorated by 8 per cent from 2019 to today, according to the study by WayAhead, but there are some very simple things you can start doing right now to hopefully help swing that number back in the opposite direction.
Candice Smith, Head of Wellbeing at AIA Australia, is passionate about educating Australians to better understand their health and making small behavioural changes that will lead to significant health improvements over time.
Here, Candice shares 4 simple things with Yahoo Lifestyle that you can do today (or tomorrow, or any day for that matter) to help improve your mental health, one small step at a time:
1. Go to bed earlier tonight
"Less than optimal sleeping patterns have been linked to poorer mental health, so try to aim for between 7 and 9 hours sleep every night," Candice explains.
"Practice sleep hygiene by having regular bedtime and wake times, relaxing before bed, avoiding evening stimulants and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
"If you’re having trouble nodding off, try relaxation or mindfulness interventions such as mindfulness sessions involving a breathing focus, guided meditation, muscle relaxation techniques or listening to classical music."
2. Eat an apple
"There’s growing evidence of an association between the quality of our diets and our mental health," Candice says.
"Increase your intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, low-fat and unsweetened dairy (or dairy alternative) foods, raw and unsalted nuts, fish, lean red meats, chicken, eggs, and olive oil.
Reduce your intake of ‘extras’ foods, such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks."
3. Go for a 5 minute walk
"Regular physical activity is associated with a greater sense of wellbeing and lower rates of depression and anxiety.
"Physical activity produces endorphins, also called ‘feel-good’ chemicals. These chemicals positively impact wellbeing. Exercise also promotes wellbeing long-term through building resilience against stress, improved sleep and enhanced self-esteem.
"Any activity is better than none for mental wellbeing and overall health! Find an activity that you enjoy to motivate yourself to take part in regularly and develop a habit."
4. Do 2 minutes of breathing
"Mindfulness programs have been shown to reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress, including improvement in anxiety, depression and chronic pain," Candice says.
"Practicing mindfulness enhances wellbeing, as it aids self-awareness and understanding, helping people make choices that align with their values."
Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.
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