To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked Positive News readers for the best advice they have received about looking after their mental health. This is what you said
Once again, the Positive News community has proven itself to be a font of wisdom. Last week, we asked readers to share the best advice they’ve received about looking after their mental health – and the responses flooded in.
Thanks to those who felt compelled to share. As ever, it was cheering to read the responses and hard to whittle them down. Sorry to those whose advice we did not publish.
Below are some of the best replies we received. We hope they prove useful long after Mental Health Awareness Week has passed.
Write it down
“Journaling has been a game changer for me. It’s a way to offload and process my thoughts, to give perspective and help stop negative thoughts spinning. It means I get round to those things that matter to me instead of them just sitting as ideas that occasionally pop up, and reduces overwhelm.” – Laura, Surrey, UK
“Take a closer look at the tiny things of this world that we take for granted. Get to ground level and observe the beauty and diversity of insects and plants – it is utterly absorbing. Photographing these has been an absolute lifesaver for me.” – Gilly, Nottingham, UK
“Get out into nature. No matter how long, any amount will help. Early mornings are the best, find a nice spot, close your eyes and listen to the birds while taking deep breaths of fresh air. It helps me ground myself and appreciate being alive on this beautiful earth.” – Ryab, Canada
Notice your thoughts
“We are taught to think at school, but we aren’t taught how to observe what we think. Being able to observe thoughts allows you to decide which to engage with and which to let drift away. This massively changed my mental health.” – Adrian, UK
“The brain will offer you thoughts you’ve had repeatedly, but you can change them from a negative to something more helpful. For example, ‘I can’t do this because I’m stupid’, to ‘I can’t do this yet, but I’m learning’. It makes a massive difference.” – Cecilia, Oxford, England
“It’s cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason! Be verbal about what’s going on inside, don’t bottle it up. Everyone needs to belong and be seen.” – Lea, Sweden
“Cherish and connect to your web of support. Do not let the stigma of mental illness isolate you.” – Maureen, Nova Scotia, Canada
Be an unconditional loving parent to yourself
“When I’m having a wobbly day, I list in my head all the things I am grateful for. I also have my ‘three gratitudes’ every night before bed. After a bad day it might be as simple as toilet roll (a very bad day indeed!). It shifts my mindset and works every time!” – Jen, Scotland
Accept the now
“I know you are hurting but this too shall pass, it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.” – Shelley, Manchester, UK
“Be an unconditional loving parent to yourself. Accept that human beings are perfectly imperfect. Right here, right now. There’s nothing else.” – John, Galway, Ireland
Engage your creativity
“Make something. I’m a songwriter and writing songs has kept me teetering (just) on the safe side of sanity throughout my life. If music isn’t your thing, draw, doodle, bake or build something. The simple act of creation soothes the soul and gives a sense of purpose.” – Leanie, Surrey, UK
“Dance. And dance some more. And then still more. Anything that gives you joy.” – Kim, California, US
“Chop wood, prune shrubs, tend to your plants; that is, do something hands-on that engages your whole body and mind.” – Joni, San Diego, US
Lay down boundaries
“Dealing with other people can be stressful, especially when you’re feeling low. The best thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t control someone else’s reactions, only your own. Interpretation happens on the listener’s terms, so be kind and polite, but if someone ‘takes things the wrong way’ that’s not on you.” – Suzanne, UK
“I’ve worked with my own, and others, mental health for over 50 years. This is my single most useful piece of advice: know and understand your own boundaries – what’s okay for you, and what’s absolutely not. Accept that others won’t always know, or care, about your boundaries, so also know your exit strategies from an untenable situation.” – Daphne, Yorkshire, UK
“Spend a short time each day being mindful. I lie on the floor and visualise my body from hair to toes. It centres my thoughts and stops me making ‘shopping lists’! – Julia, New Zealand
“Pause. Whatever situation you’re in, unless it’s life-threatening, just pause, reflect, respond. Everything will be calmer if you just … pause.” – Charlie, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Ditch the phone
“Don’t reach for your phone and scroll first thing in the morning when you wake up – it’s an anxiety inducing start to the day. Instead, exercise. I find even a ‘seven-minute scientific workout’ (google it!), combined with daily short walks, has a significant positive impact.” – Lara, Guildford, UK
Rejoice in who you truly are
Let it go
“I used to think that being worried meant it wouldn’t bother me so much when a bad thing happened. But worrying does not help you cope with bad things. It’s okay to foresee a problem and do what you can to prevent it, but then you have to let it go. Worrying won’t make it more acceptable if it does happen – you will just have been miserable before as well as after.” – Linda, New York, US
“Stop being your own bully. Your relentless self-criticism is bad for you and also affects others around you who care about you. Easier stated than accomplished, but still the best advice I’ve been given.” – Mark, Ohio, US
“Do something kind for someone else, acts of kindness are reciprocal as you will feel better too.” – Kali, Prince Edward Island, Canada
“The most important thing I have learned after years of therapy is to allow yourself to be with all your feelings. Intense fear, shame, sadness, anxiety, anger – don’t try to make them go away, don’t ignore them, just let them be there. This will transform you.” – Jeanne, Massachusetts, US
Be your own cheerleader
“Making an ‘I am’ list. I read it to myself in front of the mirror every morning. The list is made of only positive statements, including things I want for myself but that may not yet be true, like: I am an amazing educator that help kids grow their full potential. It has helped me develop a vision for myself and has truly been life changing!” – Marie, Delaware, US
“The opposite of courage is not cowardice … it is conformity. So, rejoice in who you truly are and confidently offer your one-of-a-kind self to the world with joy.” – Morgan, California, US
Main image: AzmanL
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