12 Tips to Improve Mental Wellbeing

The New Joy
When we are talking about mental wellbeing what we are really referring to, is how we are feeling and coping on a day to day basis. For most of us this tends to vary from day to day. If we are feeling unhappy, overwhelmed and struggling with the demands of day to day life, it could be said that our mental wellbeing is not so good. On the other hand if we feel happy, confident, productive and engaged with the world we live in, this is a sign that our mental wellbeing is good. This also tends to suggest that our overall mental health is also good.

Many things can affect our mental wellbeing and such things as loss, relationship difficulties, money worries, work stress and even loneliness. There are also a number of things that may predispose and make us more vulnerable to poor mental health and wellbeing. These include childhood abuse or trauma, social isolation or discrimination, homelessness, poor housing or social isolation or discrimination. Caring for a sick relative or friend, unemployment, long term physical health difficulties and even being the victim of some kind of crime or accident. It could be said that if mental wellbeing is poor over a long period of time this is more likely to result in mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.


There are however, a number of things that we can do to stay mentally well and build our mental wellbeing. These include:


1. Taking time to talk to others about our feelings. There really is some truth in the old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved,” Just talking something through can help us feel lighter. Sometimes another person may be able to offer advice or a different perspective and this can help. It need not necessary be a mental health professional, a caring friend or family member can provide the listening ear so often needed.


2. Building friendships and relationships with others is an important part of staying well. Choosing positive, supportive and happy people to be around, rather than negative people who are always moaning and critical is very important. Volunteering and helping others can really help to feel you are helping others and contributing to society.


3. Staying physically active is a cornerstone to wellbeing. Good diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise all promote good mental health. Reducing reliance on alcohol, recreational drugs  and cigarettes can also help us to feel better about ourselves as we take care of our bodies.


4. Taking up a hobby, interest or pastime is really helpful. Doing things we enjoy can help to express how we feel through activity in way that is similar to childhood play. Whether it’s cooking, gardening or DIY, or maybe something more creative such as joining a local drama group. What we do in between the more mundane activities of life can give us a boost.


5. Setting some kind of life goal, “bucket list,” or challenge gives us something to aim for. When we begin to reach our goals we can feel positive about our achievements.


6. Learn to recognise the sort of things that drag you down. Keeping a mood diary can help us identify triggers. These may be many and can include people, places and events. Sometimes things like lack of sleep, overwork or even eating certain foods can underpin mood changes. Try to be a detective and identify the villains that scupper your wellbeing.


7. Take care of yourself. Try substituting the term “selfish” with the term “self-caring.” In other words, looking after you. Take the pressure of yourself, take small steps towards your goals and learn to be accepting and compassionate towards yourself. In other words, speaking to yourself with kindness and understanding as you would a friend you cared about.


8. Learn to accept yourself, stop being critical and learn to take yourself and life a little less seriously. Little things like smiling and saying hello to people, as well as valuing the things you do, however small. Learn to be assertive and trust in yourself a bit more.


9. Make building your self esteem and confidence a long term aspiration. Appreciating that you are important and that you are, who you are, a unique human being. Stop comparing yourself with others, forget about striving for perfection, identify your positive traits, such as caring for others or loving your pets.


10. Take time to read self help books, websites and blogs (such as this one!) to help you build your mental wellbeing change negative beliefs and old unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving. Find yourself a therapist who can help you work on these areas, think of them as a mental wellbeing coach.


11. If you have mental health problems take an active part in your treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about your medication and learn to manage it in a way that helps you. Make sure you know about your medication, side effects and the best times of day to take it. Also if you wish to reduce or come off your medication, try to do it as a team with support from your therapist or healthcare provider. Take time to make a crisis plan and tell health professionals, family and others what helps and doesn’t help.


12. Finally join a support group or a group associated with a hobby or interest, such as a knitting, reading or art group. Join others for Pilates or other activities. Reach out to others, accept compliments and find time for you.


Until next time





Ref: How to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing – Mind                             info@mind.org.uk                                                                                                                                   mind.org.uk
Image:By Bart Everson – Flickr: The New Joy, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21362146

Remember the Positives – Beat #Depression


Tip 6 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s very easy when you are feeling down to lose sight of the positives.  One facet of depression is the way the depressed outlook shapes thinking.  The depressed person tends to ruminate on the negative things people say, and hears only critical comments. This is called “filtering out” and is a particular type of unhelpful thinking trait that often goes hand in hand with depression.  Instead of noticing things in a balanced way, we only notice things that “fit” our negative mind-set and we dismiss the positives. This in turn serves to reinforce low self-esteem and a negative outlook.

One way to turn this around is to create a positive book (see tip 25).  Buy a small exercise book, and if you are creative, cover it with a bright paper cover or positive images from magazines.  Use this book to jot down positive things that happen, positive things people say and positive things that you have achieved during the day.  Slowly you will begin to notice more and more positives as you learn to hear them and not dismiss them from your radar.

Consultant Psychologist Rick Norris, in his excellent book, “The Promised Land,” recommends compiling a list of 20 positive memories.  He acknowledges that this can be somewhat overwhelming, as depressed people get out of the habit of playing memories that make them happy, because their mental filter tends to screen these out of their conscious mind.  He suggests recalling three positive memories each day for a week. He tells us the benefit of doing this exercise last thing at night is because it can be a pleasant way to drop off to sleep and also that we tend to be more in tune with our sub-conscious mind during sleep, perhaps  leading to sweeter dreams!

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                                                                               Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

How to Improve your Quality of Life

File:Salsa Begets Happiness.jpg

Write down seven words which sum up honestly how your life feels at the moment, the quality which your life expresses.

Take your time, choosing carefully those words that truly express your life. Cross out, add others until you are satisfied with your list.

For example: Joyful, learning, laughing, understanding, dreaming, inspiring, releasing, deciding, changing, opening, loving, sensual, dramatic, scintillating, creative, expressive, exploring, learning, building, limiting, intense, comfortable, dull, stuck, dreary, routine, aimless, repetitive, chaotic, sad, lonely, resentful, anxious, guilt-ridden, cluttered, exhausting, hopeless, helpless, frustrating, rootless, disastrous, fearful, uneasy, drifting, argumentative, serious, ambitious, succeeding, opening, touching, listening , intimate, spiritual, peaceful, transforming, aware, stimulating, exciting, challenging, blossoming …

Looking at your list, consider whether your life is just as you want it to be. Do you want it to be the same in six months’ time, or different? Or even next week – but do you love it as it is right now?

For example:

List 1 – Routine, Lonely, Limited, Rigid, Serious, Trapped, Sad…

Could there be room for improvement?

Make a second list of words in which you transform any words which feel negative, or mildly positive, into what you really want. (The new list might include some of the original words.)

List 2 – Spontaneous, Intimate, Expanding, Flowing, Light-hearted, Carefree, Joyful…

Take time to look carefully at your second list, and repeat the words to yourself several times – out loud if possible. Try to absorb the different “energies” of the words.

How might your life be different if you expressed these seven qualities?

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist


Ref: Clifford.S adapted from Edwards, G. (2010) Living Magically; A New Vision of Reality. Piatkus

Image ref:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASalsa_Begets_Happiness.jpg

Where has all the fun gone?

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It should be so simple. Yet fun seems to get pushed to the back of the to-do queue. Shopping, housework, D.I.Y, chores, work, all seem to take over, and this thing called fun gets relegated to the bottom of the pile.

When was the last time you woke up and thought, “what fun things shall I do today?” rather than how can I fit in the shopping, going to the rubbish tip, picking up the kids, etc. The problem with fun is that life and responsibility somehow just gets in the way. I believe the equation is simple: Increase in responsibility = decrease in fun.

In my book, fun is a necessary component to a full life. Many studies show that the feel good factor and release of “happy hormones” lead to a happier outlook, more flexibility and greater resilience. The ability to play, to immerse ourselves in enjoyable activity is vital for our emotional and physical well-being. I would go so far as to say that fun is both “nurturing” and “healing,” Rather like exercise (another vital life component) engaging in fun activities results in an upturn of energy and positivity. Look at children in any school playground and you can see the outpouring of positive energy and joy, as well as the squeals of pleasure. You could say that pure fun is palpable.

However entrenched we are in the responsibility of daily living all of us can bring some “play-time” into our lives. Many, if not the majority reading this will have a smart phone or iPad to hand. Start by downloading a game or two. Begin to seek out space for freedom and fun. Set a specific time perhaps morning and early evening to check your emails, in-between set a specific time for play-time (you did it when you were at school!) There are so many great apps out there that can bring a bit of fun back into our lives.

If you don’t like the idea of starting with a bit of “cyber-play” look for something else you may enjoy. Remember, play is an activity you do for its own sake. Play promotes fun and relaxation – get out the drawing pad and pencils, paint a picture or buy some air drying clay and make a caricature of yourself, exaggerate your features…have fun.

Here are ten tips to help you to inject a bit of fun back into your life:

1. Think back to your childhood, the games and activities you enjoyed then – and now make a list of all the fun things you do now…compare the two.

2. Be prepared to experiment – try out different things. Having fun means so many things to each of us. Mountaineering might appeal to one person, while paint-balling or putting on a dance DVD might appeal to another.

3. Enlist others to have fun with – phone a friend and “Invite them out to play.” After all you did it when you were young! Just don’t ask anyone who might inhibit you.

4. Aim to try something new each month, for example, going to the theatre, seeing a rock band or taking up zumba dancing. How about looking up a ballet class you can attend in your lunch hour?

5. Look to see what classes are on at your local community centre or adult education establishment.

6. Use your imagination – that’s what its for… what have you always fancied doing but never dared take the risk?

7. Smile more – after all, smiling and fun go hand in hand.

8. Katherine Hepburn once said – “If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.” So many of us have self imposed rules, whether it is wearing matching shoes and trousers or a suit to a business meeting. Maybe, these rules have reached their “sell by” date…time for new rules.

9. Reduce stress – relax more.

10. Finally, be in the moment – find pleasure in everything you do. For example, washing dishes, make the water as bubbly as you can, really feel the sensation of the water, the suds, the dishes. Stop multi-tasking and just be mindful.

Remember the phrase – “All work and no play makes William a dull boy.”

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.


References:                                                                                                                                    “Fight for the right to have fun” Emma Cook                                                                                 “Create more fun in your life”   Prof Ben C Fletcher                                                                        Jan 2012 www.psychologies.co.uk

Image ref:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAlien_Balloon_Party_(3715267974).jpg