Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
There are so many stressors in the fast-paced society we live in. Sometimes it’s good to stop, check in with yourself, and get back to the basics. If you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression, or just need some advice on what to do to maximise your well-being, these 10 lifestyle choices may help you.
1. Eat right — Make sure you’re eating enough clean, wholesome, nutritious foods. Too many over-processed foods will make you feel sluggish. Try and eat foods that will nourish your body and raise your energy levels. Lots of colourful, vibrant, fresh fruits and vegetables will definitely help.
2. Move your body — Whether it’s walking to work/uni instead of driving, or going to a yoga class, make sure to move your body every day. Physical health and mental health are interconnected. So by looking after your body, you are also looking after your mind. But don’t force yourself to do exercise just for the sake of it. Don’t go on a run if you hate running, that definitely won’t help. Instead find exercise you enjoy — even if it’s just dancing around your room to music you love! The feel-good hormones that are released post work-out will help boost your mood.
3. Connect — Humans are social beings. We crave human connection. Spending time with people that make us feel good is a sure way to improve mood. If you’re struggling with something, talking about it with a trusted friend or family member can really help. Make sure to schedule in time each week to catch up with friends — and no, that doesn’t mean message them over Facebook, it means actually meeting up with them (or calling/skyping if physically meeting up is too difficult).
4. Keep an eye on your media consumption — Your brain consumes and processes everything you watch/read. So make sure you’re consuming things that lift you up and make you happy. Limit your social media usage to only following accounts and people that make you feel good. If that means unfollowing a bunch of people, then do. Your mental health is more important than a follow on someone else’s account.
5. Get out in the sunshine — Sunshine and mood are connected. Studies have found that vitamin D (which you get from the sun) improves your mood. Some days it can be hard to find the sun (especially in the UK right now), but even just going outside whatever the weather can help — fresh air is great for clearing the mind. Also, if it’s winter time with you at the moment and the sun doesn’t shine much, try supplementing vitamin D.
6. Sleep — Getting enough sleep is essential for your wellbeing. Aim for around seven to nine hours a night and focus on improving your sleep hygiene and getting into regular sleep routines. Perhaps switch your phone off an hour before bed, read a book just before you sleep instead of watching tv, take a shower, drink a chamomile tea — do anything that’ll help prepare your body and mind for the best night’s sleep.
7. Meditate — Humans have thousands of thoughts every day — some studies reckon we have around 50 thoughts every minute! We are constantly thinking about the past, or the future, or about something completely irrelevant to the present moment. If our mood is low, it often means that our thoughts are negative. Meditation helps to quiet the mind and allow for thoughts to come and go without us becoming attached to them. Try and build a meditation practice into your daily schedule, starting off with as little as two minutes per day. A great app to meditate with is Headspace.
8. Be grateful — It might sound cliché, but try and think of three things you are grateful for each day. It’s a great thing to do when you first wake up. You can even keep a gratitude journal and write them down. Reminding yourself of what you’re grateful for, even when you’re feeling low, is a good reminder of the positives in life.
9. Watch your alcohol intake — Everyone’s relationship with alcohol is different, but for some people their mental health is worse the day after a night of drinking — alcohol is a depressant, after all. Make a note of how you feel after drinking and perhaps cut down if you find alcohol to be correlated with feeling low afterwards.
10. Do things you love — The psychological state of ‘flow’ is when we are so immersed in an activity that we forget about everything else. Perhaps it’s listening to music, playing games, acting, reading, writing, drawing, sport, or something entirely different. Whatever it is, make sure to schedule into your day something you love that puts you in a state of flow.
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