If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, anxious or unable to concentrate – you aren’t alone. These kinds of thoughts and feelings can affect anyone at any time. The good news is there are simple techniques you can use to calm your mind and improve your mental wellbeing. Here are a few easy things to try at home right now.
See, we said they were simple. Studies show deep breathing can relieve stress, ease muscle tension and even heighten concentration. An easy technique to start with is Box Breathing. First, sit upright in a comfy position. Then exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. Repeat.
The trick is to focus on each step and how it feels to completely fill up your lungs and empty them. It can help to visualise a box, tracing along 1 side for each of the 4 steps until the box is complete. Just a few rounds can help bring a sense of calm. Some beginners might start to feel dizzy after a while. Don’t worry, if that happens you can always stop and breathe normally until it passes – with practise you’ll get less dizzy.
2. Head outdoors
It’s amazing what some fresh air and sunshine can do. Spending time in green spaces like parks or forests has been found to decrease our stress levels, which can help improve memory, mood and even immunity. Exercising outdoors? Even better. Moving our muscles releases endorphins or ‘happy hormones’, making it another great way to boost your mood and destress.
It doesn’t need to be a big nature hike. Even a regular 5-10 minute walk, workout or simple yoga session can have an impact on your wellbeing. You don’t need much space either. You can stretch or sweat it out in the backyard – all you need is a towel or mat. Not sure where to start? There are plenty of free online videos for every kind of exercise, fitness level and duration.
3. Drink some water
It’s not just our plants that need regular H₂O. When we aren’t getting enough water, it can cause all sorts of problems like mood changes, lethargy and fuzzy thinking. To stay nice and hydrated, the recommendation is 8-10 glasses of water per day. You can top up your daily intake with other drinks like milk or tea and fresh fruit too.
It can help to keep a bottle of water handy throughout the day – by your desk when you’re working or in your bag if you’re on the move. Not a fan of plain tap water? Try adding a slice of lemon or some mint leaves to mix it up.
4. Practise gratitude
You know when you start the day with an amazing cup of coffee? Or someone at work makes you laugh? It’s often these little things that add richness to our lives. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day we forget to stop and appreciate them.
Becoming more aware of these moments is a great way to slowly change how you view and experience your days. You can do this by taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to make a short list of things you feel grateful for or enjoyed. It can be anything you like. A small interaction, a big milestone, even the weather. The best part? The more you do it, the more good things you’ll start to notice. Your mind and body will thank you too. Some who practise daily report all kinds of positive benefits like more energy, more sleep and more self-esteem.
5. Tend to your plants
It’s probably no surprise that we’re advocates of growing and caring for your own plants! There are countless benefits to gardening, but taking just 5 minutes a day to check on your plant life is a great way to take a break and focus your mind. That simple act of showing your garden some love is a natural stress reliever and can help reduce anxiety. Don’t have a garden? Not to worry. Bring the greenery indoors. Caring for and even looking at houseplants has been shown to have a positive effect on your mood and concentration.
So next time your mind or mood could use a little boost, why not give these simple techniques a try? If you’re having a hard time or struggling with your mental health, it’s always best to talk to a professional.