Product Focus - Looking after your mental health
Looking after your mind is important, but there’s no one-size-fits-all way to care for it. You have to curate your own mental health toolkit. And sometimes, that requires a bit of trial and error, which can feel especially daunting when faced with the ton of online self-care advice. So, in honour of Mental Health Week, we’ve distilled our favourite tips to support your emotional health. If you see something that piques your curiosity, try it out! If it doesn’t serve you, that’s fine. This is your self-care practice.
Movement is the first line of defence for your wellbeing. Cycling, HIIT, hiking – whatever your go-to, any form of exercise releases endorphins, happy hormones that make you feel great. And it doesn’t need to be a painstaking workout, either. You could put on your favourite song and jump around! Move in a way that makes you smile, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Try deep belly breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing (‘belly breathing’) is a powerful technique for your emotional health. Though stress and anxiety may convince us otherwise, our breath is the one thing we can control. Deep belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ state. If in doubt, breathe it out: breathe in for five counts, pushing your belly out, hold for five counts, and breathe out for ten counts, contracting your belly.
Seek out positive social connection
We all have a natural, evolutionary inclination to connect with other human beings. And this connection communicates to our body that we’re safe. Try to surround yourself with people that make you feel ‘at home’. Even positive micro-interactions with strangers can remind your body and brain that the world is a safe place. If you’re feeling out of sorts, give someone you love and trust a 20-second hug. It’s some of the best medicine going.
Think about how good you feel after roaring, belly laughter. Nothing compares to it, right? As the neuroscientist, Sophie Scott, says, ‘laughter is an ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds, regulate emotions, and make ourselves feel better’ (1). Try to find opportunities to invite more laughter into your life: befriend funny people, watch your favourite comedy, and set an intention to smile more!
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is overnight therapy for our brain. Without enough, we can feel emotionally reactive the following day, exacerbating anxiety and low mood. With this in mind, make sleep a priority. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ (staying up late to rebel against work and other commitments). Focus on creating a simple, relaxing wind-down routine. And if you can’t fall asleep, try doing something soothing, like colouring, reading, or even folding socks!
You can learn more about supporting your sleep hygiene here.
Give meditating a go
Whatever preconceived ideas you have about meditation, let them go. You don’t need to sit cross-legged. You don’t need to chant ‘Om’. You don’t need to practice for hours on end. In essence, meditation centres around focusing your attention on the present moment, allowing thoughts to come and go without judgement. Evidence suggests it can be tremendously helpful for managing anxiety and low mood (2). To get started, find a quiet spot – at your desk, on your bed, or even on your morning commute – and tune into your breathing. If you’re unsure of where to begin, you can try a guided meditation.
Feed your gut
As research into the human microbiome continues, the connection between gut health and mental health becomes more and more compelling. The Smiles Trial (2017) was one of the most ground-breaking studies in the nutrition and mental health space, revealing the extent to which positive changes to gut health can improve mood (3).
Researchers recruited participants with major clinical depression and randomly assigned them to either social support or nutritional support for 12 weeks. Those in the nutritional support group were given a predominantly plant-based diet – foods known to feed the gut – while the other group received therapeutic support. The results were astounding; more than 30 per cent of those in the nutritional support group saw positive change – compared to 8 per cent of those in the social support group.
And so, eat more plants! According to gut expert, Professor Tim Spector, we should aim for 30 different plant foods weekly to feed and sustain our gut bacteria (4). This doesn’t just mean increasing your intake of fruits and veggies; it also means loading up on grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
Rethink your supplement regime
Aside from making lifestyle and dietary changes to support your mental health, you may also wish to take the following supplements.
Naturally produced when cells are damaged or threatened, PEA belongs to a group of compounds that play a role in chemical signalling. It’s a well-researched alternative to CBD, with many people taking it to support their overall wellbeing.
Many of the B vitamins – namely vitamins B1, B3, B6, B12, biotin, and folic acid, – contribute to normal psychological function, giving your brain a hand when it needs it most.
Theanine & Lemon Balm
The combination of L-theanine and lemon balm is a popular choice to support health and wellbeing. Lemon balm is known for its relaxing properties, while L-theanine, the main ingredient in tea, is said to be uniquely soothing.
Ashwagandha is a revered herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine. This herb is often referred to as ‘Indian Ginseng’ since it possesses similar adaptogenic properties.
Magnesium is often recommended to support emotional health since it plays an important role in psychological function.
Found abundantly in oily fish, the long-chain essential fatty acid, DHA, contribute to normal brain function*, making it an excellent choice for your mental wellbeing. If you don’t eat fish, our Vegan Omega 3 is a great alternative, delivering high-strength, plant-based DHA derived from microalgae. *A beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg DHA.
Acidophilus Extra 10 Billion
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that while these practices can be excellent additions to your emotional health toolkit, they aren’t a surrogate for therapy. If you’re concerned about your mental wellbeing, you may wish to consider speaking to a mental health professional.
Since your gut is your second brain, it makes sense to support your gut health. Acidophilus Extra 10 Billion is of the most sophisticated live bacteria products, making it a brilliant choice for gut health. Each delay-release capsule provides 10 billion live bacteria, originally isolated from humans and far more at home in our digestive system than the live bacteria in yoghurt.