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Lifeline: 13 11 14
Mensline: 1300 789 978
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Ways to look after your mental health and wellbeing

There are many simple ways to look after your mental health on a daily basis. We are all different and what works for one of us may not work for another. There are little things you can do daily which may help.

Here are some things you can try that may help to look after your mental health and wellbeing:

  1. Do things with others. Spending time with family or friends, meeting new people and getting involved in activities can make a difference to how you feel. Get involved in community activities, kick the footy around, go for a bike ride etc.
  2. Do something creative.  Activities or hobbies can keep you distracted, have a positive impact on your sense of mental health and wellbeing and can help increase your confidence and self-esteem. This could be building something, playing an instrument, gardening, art, doing a puzzle, painting, cooking, writing etc.
  3. Invest time in relationships. Connecting with people and investing in good relationships are important for your mental health. Get in touch with people who you trust or feel good around. Give them a call, send them a message or organise to catch-up with them.
  4. Focus on strengths. Having positive thoughts can help you feel better. Try these support tools for guidance on how to feel positive. 
  5. Take time out. When you relax, you give yourself permission to let go of worries for a while. Relaxing gives your mind and body time to recover from the stresses of everyday life. Try some relaxation apps to guide you on how to relax.
  6. Sleep well. We cannot function properly without sleep. Sleep helps us to repair and restore our bodies and minds. Try these tips from the Sleep Health Foundation for guidance on how to get a better night’s sleep.
  7. Keeping active. Your physical health plays a key role in keeping you mentally healthy. Being physically active can improve your mood and reduces stress.
  8. Eat well. Nutrition and eating well can make a difference to the way you feel and in-turn may improve your mental health.
  9. Mindfulness. Mindfulness can help you feel better and reduce stress. It is easy to fit into your day. You can do it one minute at a time.  

Physical Activity

Keeping active is important for your mental and physical health. It can help improve your sleep, reduce stress, help you relax and make you feel better overall.

Research has shown that physical activity is associated with better mental health.1  Exercise releases feel-good chemicals including endorphins and serotonin, which improve your mood and make you feel good.2

There are many benefits of exercise, some of these include:
  • boosting your mood, concentration & alertness3
  • improving your sleep
  • providing distraction from unhelpful thoughts
  • giving you a chance to socialise and meet new people
  • increasing your energy
  • improving blood pressure, cholesterol and reducing your blood sugar4
  • preventing or reducing anxiety and depression.4

Even the smallest amounts of physical activity can make a difference. Here are some little things that you can do to increase your physical activity levels:

  • use the stairs instead of the lift
  • park your car in a spot that is further away from your workplace or shopping centre
  • walk or ride to school or work
  • spend some time gardening
  • housework, such as vacuuming.

Other ways to keep you physically active, socially connected and to help reduce stress include:

  • finding something that you enjoy – football, swimming, walking, dancing, jogging, cycling etc
  • start off gently and aim to increase activity by 10 minutes each day
  • try different things such as group activities or sports
  • ask a friend to join you to make it more fun and help you both commit to it
  • spend time in nature and go for bush walks
  • plan active outings such as bike riding, walking along the river or beach.
Visit the Act Belong Commit website for ideas.  

Nutrition

Eating well is important. When it comes to mental health, what you eat can make a difference to how you feel.

Eating well helps maintain brain health throughout your lifespan.5 Eating a balanced, wholesome diet can improve your mental and physical health.

There are little things you can do to eat well for your mental health such as:

  • Eat lots of vegetables - vegetables and legumes (e.g. beans and lentils) are rich in nutrients and fibre. 
  • Eat for your gut – the gut is sometime called ‘the second brain’, therefore it is important to keep the gut happy by eating healthy foods that contain probiotics (found in yoghurt, tempeh, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi).
  • Avoid processed sugar and additives. Highly processed food has been linked to poor mental health2.
  • Relax and enjoy a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Be mindful of what foods you are eating.
  • Include foods rich in omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids which are found in oily fish like tuna and salmon have a positive influence on parts of the brain and can help with depression6
  • Eat wholesome nutritious foods. Studies indicate that poor quality diets increase the risk of depression7
  • Snack on healthy foods. When you feel like a snack, try a healthier option such as nuts or fresh fruit.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks. Drinking enough water regularly helps prevent dehydration which can make you irritable8.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol  has been linked to mental health issues. It’s important to drink within the NHMRC Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.  Visit Alcohol.Think Again for more information.

Remember small changes to your diet can make a difference to your mental health. Some changes will be easier than others and if you have a slip-up with your eating, don’t be hard on yourself, just try to start again the next day.

Eating well without stress

Planning to eat in a healthy way doesn’t need to be stressful. Here is a list of things you can do that support you to eat well on an ongoing basis and in turn may help you reduce stress:

  • Meal planning - planning your meals in advance and being prepared for the week ahead can help you plan a balanced diet.
  • Shopping list – writing a shopping list can prevent you from indulging in impulse buying, reduce the amount you spend and help you to stick to your budget
  • Eating socially – there are benefits of eating socially, catching up with friends and family.
  • Sleep – avoid eating heavy foods and large meals too late in the day as this can put pressure on your digestive system and affect how well you sleep.4

Nutrients and brain function

Nutrients from your diet play an important part in the development and functioning of the brain.9  The table below summarises the connections between brain function and nutrients.9 

Brain function Depends on adequate intake of Examples
Short-term memory Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E Vitamin B12: shellfish, liver, fish, crab, soy products, red meat. Vitamin C: oranges, broccoli, strawberries, capsicum, kiwi fruit, brussel sprouts. Vitamin E: spinach, avocado, egg, almonds.
Performance on problem-solving tests Riboflavin, Folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C Riboflavin: milk, yoghurt, broccoli, egg, liver, mushrooms. Folate: legumes, fruit, leafy green vegetables. Vitamin B12: shellfish, liver, fish, crab, soy products, red meat. Vitamin C: oranges, broccoli, strawberries, capsicum, kiwi fruit, brussel sprouts.
Mental Health Thiamine, Niacin, Zinc, Folate Thiamine: whole grains, pork. Niacin: milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, wholegrains, nuts. Zinc: red meats, whole grains. Folate: legumes, fruit, leafy green vegetables.
Cognition Folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Iron, Vitamin E Folate: legumes, fruit, leafy green vegetables. Vitamin B12: shellfish, liver, fish, crab, soy products, red meat. Vitamin B6: meat, poultry, potatoes, legumes, non-citrus fruits, liver, soy products. Iron: red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit. Vitamin E: spinach, avocado, egg, almonds.
Vision Essential fatty acids, Vitamin A Essential fatty acids: nuts such as almonds, walnuts, eggs, olive oil, hemp, flax. Vitamin A: milk, cheese, spinach and dark leafy greens, broccoli.

Check out Live Lighter for some ideas and recipes to get you started.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being in the present (i.e not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future). It can help you feel better, reduce stress and improve your wellbeing which in turn has shown to have many health benefits1.


Mindfulness is self-awareness training originating from Buddhist meditation principles10.  It was initially developed to help people improve their moods and prevent depression. Anyone can practice mindfulness11


When you are mindful you pay full attention to what is going on in the moment without judgement. You are fully aware of your surroundings which enables you to observe your thoughts and feelings in a positive way and concentrate on taste, touch, smell, sight and sound10.

Mindfulness is easy to fit into your day. There are a number of mindfulness programs designed to help you deal with stress and the challenges of daily life. 

Support tools 

Try these support tools to help maintain your mental health and wellbeing