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Your Emotional 5-a-Day

Aussie-based Psychologist, Dr Linda Papadopoulos offers advice on keeping your mind healthy...

It amazes me how we’re happy to talk about physical health, and all agree that it’s natural for someone to feel well some days and awful on others. Yet, when it comes to mental health, we rarely talk about it and, when we do, we feel ashamed to admit that we’re not coping. However, it’s only natural to have mental highs and lows. As a psychologist, I notice how much advice is given to people to stay physically healthy, but little exists in terms of being mentally fit. We know we should be eating five portions of fruit and veggies a day, but what would our emotional five-a-day be? Here are mine—I think they’ll work for you, too.”

1. Look outwards

By supporting others, we put into context what it is we really need and what we really want. Research shows that volunteering for a charity helps people feel happier and more content. So every day, look at what you can give to others and then re-assess how you feel. Do something you Love The saying goes, ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans’. If we don’t make an effort to do the things that make life meaningful, then it’s unlikely that success, happiness or anything else we desire will fall into our laps.

One of the best antidotes to depression is doing one thing every day that gives us joy—whether it’s walking your dog or spending time with your friends. It’s also important that see people who make you feel really good People are social beings. We function best when given the challenge to interact and engage with each other. Whether it’s making time to meet a girlfriend for a quick drink or calling your mum, research shows that a good social support network is vital for both our mental and physical health—and that face-to-face contact

2. Challenge the world around you

We’re bombarded by more media images today than at any other time in history. Each one of those messages is loaded with so many ‘shoulds’ and ‘have-tos’ that we’re prone to absorbing them without questioning. So make a point every day to question at least one idea that’s thrown at you— challenge the idea that you have to look a certain way to be happy, that a woman’s value lies in her ability to attract a man, or that you must have that new gadget, dress or handbag to experience happiness. By taking the time to evaluate and assess what’s thrown at you, you’ll not only begin to define what’s more important to you, but you’ll also feel empowered to resist those things that just don’t feel right.

3. Do something you love

The saying goes, ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans’. If we don’t make an effort to do the things that make life meaningful, then it’s unlikely that success, happiness or anything else we desire will fall into our laps. One of the best antidotes to depression is doing one thing every day that gives us joy—whether it’s walking your dog or spending time with your friends. It’s also important that you feel like you’re not stagnating, which is why (again) it’s vital to make a real effort to do things that give you a sense of accomplishment. It will keep your mood high and work miracles for your confidence.

4. See people who make you feel really good

People are social beings. We function best when given the challenge to interact and engage with each other. Whether it’s making time to meet a girlfriend for a quick drink or calling your mum, research shows that a good social support network is vital for both our mental and physical health—and that face-to-face contact is much better than online chat through Facebook or e-mail.

5. Try to busy your mind

We live in a world saturated with things that take up our time so much, that we rarely think about how we use our time. So instead of spending hours on Facebook, read a blog you don’t normally read, listen to a talk by someone who achieved something amazing, or enrol in a hobby class. Your mind needs stimulation; it’ll allow you to grow. Going through the motions and not fulfilling your potential can affect your self-esteem and make it hard to know what you truly want in life.