A national lockdown posed many challenges, including remote working, unemployment, social distancing, financial uncertainty, and health concerns. And now, with the UK starting the motions of leaving lockdown, the nation faces similar challenges in returning to work and day-to-day life in a sensible manner. With all this to handle, mental health can come under strain, so it’s important to look after your emotional wellbeing.
Specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp have released a Mental Health Training guide, with advice on boosting your brain health. Some of the highlights include:
Eat a Mediterranean diet for the nutrition you need for a healthy mind and body
· Foods providing antioxidants, phytonutrients and Omega-3 fatty acids are the best for brain health.
· Dark chocolate and red wine have proven health benefits, thanks to the antioxidants they contain.
· Healthy fats found in fish, eggs and beans, among other sources, can help manage moods.
Experts suggest the best diet for brain health is a Mediterranean one, with focus on low-sodium food such as olive oil, veggies, nuts, beans and cereal grains. According to Judy Rocher, registered nutritional therapist and naturopath at the London Clinic of Nutrition, “the Mediterranean diet, being predominantly vegetable based, provides a high level of phytonutrients and antioxidants.” And fortunately for those of us who enjoy a treat, dark chocolate and red wine also have antioxidant benefits.
Healthy fats, such as Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel can also boost brain health. Other sources of Omega-3 include coconut oil, egg yolks, liver, soya beans and hemp seeds.
Listen to music to relax and stimulate your brain
· Listening to music releases the mood-boosting hormones ‘endorphins’ in your brain.
· Playing music encourages you to move, relax, feel emotion, and use your voice.
· Any genre of music can have a positive impact on your mental state.
Music is an excellent way to both switch off and focus at the same time, and with many people returning to work, listening to your favourite album could be the best way to stay mentally balanced on the commute. According to Elizabeth Nightingale, a neurologic music therapist at Chiltern Music Therapy, “playing music is the best form of exercise for our brains.”
Further to this, Bernice Chu – a music therapist at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability – goes on to explain that “listening to music releases endorphins in our brain, boosting people’s moods, and evoking emotions and memories. Music is processed in more than one area of the brain. For a healthy individual, it encourages us to move, to relax, to feel emotion and to use our voice.” And this includes any genre of music, as Chu adds “the idea that classical music is the most effective for brain health is really a myth.”
Keep up lockdown hobbies to reap their therapeutic benefits
· Music and art therapies can alleviate feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety and depression.
· Activities that are “cognitively stimulating” are good for mental wellbeing, including brainteasers and creative hobbies, such as art and baking.
Many people have picked up new hobbies during lockdown, while seeking focus and entertainment at home. But rather than letting these fall by the wayside when life begins to return to normality, it’s beneficial to find time in your life for them post-lockdown.
Studies have shown that activities that may help maintain your mental wellbeing are those that are “cognitively stimulating” – and include the likes of brainteasers and educational activities, as well as creative hobbies like baking, art, drama, dancing and music. In fact, music and art therapies can help to alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma and low self-esteem in individuals with mental health disorders.
Stay active to boost your mental health, improve your memory and aid a good night sleep
· Exercise releases endorphins, which improve mood and a sense of wellbeing.
· Running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.
· Yoga has a calming effect on your nervous system, which combined with meditation can reduce negative emotions and feelings of stress.
It’s well known that exercise is essential for maintaining good physical health but staying active can also boost mental wellbeing. In fact, regular exercise can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It can also improve memory, boost mood, and encourage better sleep, helping you to get the 7-9 hours of sleep that are recommended for optimal mental wellbeing.
According to a study on exercise and the brain, it appears that exercise can have a broad rejuvenating effect on the brain. “Overall, converging evidence suggests exercise benefits brain function and cognition across the mammalian lifespan, which may translate into reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in humans.”
Yoga is one of the best forms of physical activity for mental health, as it brings together your mind and your body. As soon as you start breathing deeply, you slow down and calm your nervous system. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a practice that combines meditation, gentle yoga and mind-body exercises to reduce feelings of stress.