Woman enjoying nature and benefitting her mental health
This week  (Monday 13th - Sunday 19th May 2024) marks this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. To celebrate good mental wellness and its recognition in recent years, here are Rio Health’s ten easy tips to naturally support your mental health that you can try straightaway!


1. Experience Nature

Exploring the great outdoors and its greenery can be a fantastic way to lift your mood, especially as the weather gets brighter towards summertime! Being in contact with moss, trees and other elements of nature is thought to help increase feelings of wellbeing and also lower stress, according to some sources. Not to mention the benefits of sunlight itself, which can produce endorphins and help activate vitamin D in the body. So get out there, enjoy a walk and give your brain a break!


2. Exercise

Walking, running, cycling, yoga – any way to get your heart pumping gives an excellent boost for both your mental and physical health. They say that if you could transform the benefits of exercise into a pill, it would be the most widely-prescribed of all! From releasing endorphins to helping to alleviate stress, exercise is truly a miracle drug that can be taken for free! If you’d rather not join a gym, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to get moving – why not learn yoga with a friend or get a group together? You needn’t run a marathon and every effort adds up – a simple brisk walk or even ten squats a few times per day can greatly improve your health! As with everything, consistency is key. Research suggests that regular exercise may improve mental sharpness and could potentially even link to a decline in diseases like dementia later in life.


3. Gut Health

You may have heard from our previous blog on gut health, that mental and digestive health are affected by one another.

Incorporating  fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir and other natural yoghurt with “live”, active cultures can support the gut biome - and possibly, mental health too.

When we talk about a “gut” reaction, this could be based biological truth. The digestive system may be either the cause, or the product of, negative mental symptoms such as stress and anxiety. It seems both the mind and body work together to inform the state of overall health, so make sure to take care of both! Prebiotics and probiotic supplements can be another great solution to supporting gut wellness. Have a read of our blog on gut & digestive health if you haven’t already and be sure to always listen to your body and consult a GP if something feels wrong.


 4. Help Others, Help Each Other

It’s true what they say – a problem shared is a problem halved. The same can be said for working together and that, for instance, volunteering can help take the focus away from one’s own situation. Being part of a community and sharing the burden of our worries is important for humans - we’re social creatures! Whether you’re volunteering for a charity or acting as a listening ear for a friend, this can help put things into perspective and help lift you out of whatever might be going on for you - while reminding you you’re not alone. You may even both find a solution together!


5. Vitamins and Minerals

While eating a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, protein and complex carbohydrates is optimum for all aspects of one’s health, supplements can sometimes give us that extra boost we might need.

B vitamins can help your brain function more optimally and produce mood-regulating chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. While B vitamins can be found in foods such as seafood, eggs, meat and poultry, people following plant-based or vegetarian diets might be lacking in these and may benefit from an additional B vitamin supplement. Vitamin D, as mentioned before, is particularly important for mental health and is best activated by sunlight. Be sure to keep up your dosage this summer and get those mental-health benefits! Magnesium plays a powerful role in mental health – this mineral can help calm the nervous system with suggested links to mental wellness. As always, it is best to consult a GP, dietician or other trained medical professional before making changes to your diet.


 6. Sleep

As anyone who’s ever felt exhausted will know, a lack of good sleep can lead to irritability, poor concentration and a reduced sense of mental resilience against the day-to-day hurdles life may put in our way.

As difficult as it can be, try to put in place a “sleep hygiene” nightly routine – a good practice includes limiting screen time to at least two hours before going to sleep to allow your brain to fully switch off. The blue light from our screens makes our brains think it’s still the middle of the day!

Instead, try relaxing in the run-up to bedtime reading a good book (not your emails!), having a hot bath or shower and/or meditating - just for a few minutes - to allow your brain and body to slow down ready for sleep. This will give you the best chance to wake up the next morning feeling mentally strong and ready to take on the day like a pro!


7. Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Don’t worry, you don’t have to quit the sweet treats altogether (we only said “reduce)!

Making choices for snacks and meals with less added sugar can be beneficial for both brain and body – sugar is well-known for being incredibly addictive as well as increases inflammation and makes energy levels “crash”. Some studies suggest sugar addiction can even affect the prevalence of anxious and negative thoughts, such as an increased fear of negative consequences.

However, it only takes a few small changes to make a huge difference. Swapping that chocolate bar for an apple and a teaspoon of peanut butter will likely lead to fewer mood swings (from the sugar “crash”) and feeling more satiated between meals, helping to stave off those “hangry” feelings. What’s more, while it can be tough at first, your tastebuds will get used to the change and you may even eventually look forward to eating fruits, vegetables and other whole foods. Be sure to allow yourself a small sugary “treat” in moderation – to keep up morale, of course! – and glide through the day with your new healthy lifestyle on a calm wave of nutrients and sustained mental energy.


8. Journal

Just like with sharing problems with others, writing them down can also be a great way to “offload”. Writing about any troubles, thoughts and feelings can help you define, unpack and “untangle” the things that might be bothering you. It doesn’t have to be a work of great literature! Spelling mistakes, half-finished sentences and illegible handwriting are just as valuable for the process and can still help you feel loads better. Getting your thoughts out on paper can be a good previous step to sharing them with a trusted friend, family member or as part of talking therapy. Of course, you may wish to keep the writings private. As always, listen to what feels best for you, without putting pressure on yourself.


9. Practice Mindfulness

An excellent tool in so many ways, the practice of mindfulness has gained popularity especially in recent years in the Western world.

An “umbrella” term for staying aware of one’s own thoughts, mindfulness can help recognise negative thinking patterns and change them for the better. Practicing meditation, for only a few minutes each day is thought to help reduce stress and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. This reduction can greatly improve both your mental and physical health and promote overall feelings of wellbeing.


10. Schedule Tech-Free Time/ Write a Gratitude List

It has been found that an “attitude of gratitude” and actively seeking the positive side of things can help your mental health massively. While it may be hard to resist the temptation of “doomscrolling” - bad news stories and picture-perfection on Instagram - it can be hugely helpful to take a conscious technology break and have a few hours of leisure time per week away from screens. Why not use this time to start a new hobby, rekindle your love of an activity you enjoy or write a “gratitude list”? As with mindfulness, focusing more on positive aspects and less time on things we can’t control, can help us to change our perception for the better and to stay in the present moment. Take a break from the socials and see how much your mood improves!

So, there you have Rio Health’s ten tips to feeling better in yourself – for Mental Health Week and beyond! As always, our blog is only a guide and it is best to consult a GP, therapist or other medical practitioner for expert psychological advice. For those in crisis, needing help urgently or just wanting to talk, Samaritans is available for free on: 116 123  and at https://www.samaritans.org/.


Happy Mental Health Awareness Week all round. Be kind to yourself and know that you’ve got this!