Mental health awareness week; mindfulness and exercise

Mental Health Awareness Week (May 10-16) comes off the back of a year which has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging for the mental wellbeing of millions. 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, in an analysis of data from the NHS and ONS, highlighted a steep increase in mental ill health since March 2020 when lockdown began, and with mental health services overwhelmed, many people turned to alternative methods to address their mental state and strive to improve their mental wellbeing.

As a result, the past year has seen millions of Brits begin to explore the concept of mindfulness, trying and testing a range of techniques to help them regain control of their mental and physical wellbeing. The meditation app Calm, for example, saw exponential growth of users throughout lockdown, with sales of wellness books and courses also skyrocketing. 

One of the most effective ways to boost mental wellbeing is exercise. One study undertaken by researchers at the University of Michigan in fact found that just 30 minutes of being outside 3 times a week greatly helped to reduce levels of stress. With lockdown measures relaxing and opportunities to head outdoors increasing as we move toward the summer, heading outside to move the body, work up a sweat and revel in the fresh air will be key to blasting away the physical and mental cobwebs of the past year. 

John Nolan-Neylan, Co-Founder of Revvies Energy  who work with Olympic athletes to help maximise their energy levels – provides his top tips to use mindfulness and other techniques to reclaim previous energy levels:

1. Have some ‘mindful’ me time, and meditate

Practicing mindfulness, and particularly engaging in a simple meditation practice, has been linked to a host of cognitive benefits. Allowing yourself some time to relax, quiet the mind, and focus on regular, smooth breathing can boost the brain’s executive functions, reduce impulsive and emotional behaviour, improve mood, and leave you feeling energised. This is an especially effective technique after a draining workday to achieve a productive, feel-good evening.  

2. Take a power nap

A power nap is just that – powerful! Research shows that you can make yourself more alert, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functioning with a nap, particularly around the middle of the day. A power nap is especially effective if you’ve not managed to get a good night of sleep – even a short, 20-minute nap will re-energise you and help you to power through the end of the working day and beyond. 

3. Go for a run/exercise

Most people would assume that going for a run or doing some exercise when you’re tired will make you even more tired… believe it or not, pushing yourself to go for a run or work-up can in-fact wake you up and give you more energy. Exercise releases potent feel-good hormones like endorphins, which can help keep your energy levels topped up for hours. The ideal time to exercise is in the mornings before work with studies showing that this increases energy levels throughout the day, and overtime increasing deep sleep, reducing required sleep by up to half an hour a night, so you’ll actually have more time.

4. Organise your time to make the most out of your day

The benefits of organising your day are simple – being more organised and achieving your goals gives you a great sense of satisfaction, and gives you more time to reap the rewards of the other tips on this list! Being able to effectively plan your day will help you to boost your productivity – both at work and at home – and enable you to take the me time, nap time and exercise time needed to live a happy and energy-filled life. 

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