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Looking after your wellbeing – for young people

Information for young people on understanding mental wellbeing, and how to look after it.

This page is also available in Welsh.

Looking after your wellbeing

If you've heard of the term 'mental wellbeing' and don't know what it is, or you want to find out how you can look after your wellbeing and feel good, we're here to help you learn more.

This page has information on:

"In our hectic lives, we sometimes forget to check in with ourselves. Therefore, we sometimes don't realise our wellbeing is suffering until we are struggling because of it."

What is mental wellbeing?

Your mental wellbeing is about how you're feeling right now, and how well you can cope with daily life. Our wellbeing can change from moment to moment, day to day, or month to month.

Sometimes it changes because of things that happen to us and sometimes it changes for no reason at all. It can affect the way we feel about ourselves and others, and about the things we face in our lives.

Why is my wellbeing important?

Having good wellbeing can help you to:

  • feel and express a range of emotions
  • have confidence and positive self-esteem
  • have good relationships with others
  • enjoy the world around you
  • cope with stress and adapt when things change.

Good wellbeing doesn't mean you'll always be happy. It's normal to feel sad, angry, or low sometimes. But if you have poor wellbeing for a long time you might start to find things more difficult to cope with.

What can affect my wellbeing?

We're all different, so what affects your wellbeing may not be the same for somebody else. But some common things are:

  • difficult or stressful life events
  • your relationships with the people around you
  • the care and support you get at home and school
  • your physical health – how much sleep you get, what you eat and drink, if you take drugs or alcohol, and if you have any health problems
  • your environment – housing conditions, how you are treated by others, money problems
  • being able to recognise and communicate your emotions.

You may experience difficulties in one or more of these areas, or even experience problems not listed here. That's okay. Everyone is different.

How can I look after my wellbeing?

However your wellbeing is at the moment, there are things you can do to look after and improve it.

What helps you now may not be the same as what helps you in the future. Try what you feel is comfortable and right for you, at this moment.

Here are our top tips to look after your wellbeing:

Doing something creative can help boost our self-esteem and our relationships. It can also help us feel less stressed, learn something new, and express ourselves. You could try:

  • drawing, painting, photography or creative writing
  • singing or playing and instrument
  • dance or drama
  • making something out of old materials

… anything using your imagination and skill.

Learning new things can be a great way of improving our confidence and giving us a sense of achievement. You could try:

  • cooking or baking something new
  • your own DIY project
  • going to a local library, museum or gallery
  • a new sport or language.

Regular exercise can improve our mood and self-confidence, increase our energy and help us sleep better. You could try:

  • something small, like a short walk or talking the stairs instead of the lift
  • going for a walk, swim, run, or bike ride
  • a group activity, like tennis, rounders or football.

There are options for you to get your body moving, whatever your ability. For easy suggestions and links to video tutorials, visit the NHS page on physical activity for young people.

Before you start exercising: if you experience compulsive or addictive feelings about exercise, medication side-effects, or other health problems, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor first.

"I feel that exercise releases a lot of tension and gives me purpose."

Healthy eating and drinking can improve our mood, increase our energy and help us sleep better. You could try:

  • eating a balanced diet (especially if you're vegetarian or vegan), but also making sure you eat enough to give your body energy
  • keeping hydrated
  • reducing added sugar and caffeine in your food and drink.

You can download the NHS's page on healthy eating for teens for more information.

If you have an eating problem, or have any worries about food, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before changing your diet.

Getting good sleep, and enough of it, can help us have more energy, feel more positive, and feel less stressed. You could try:

  • going to bed at a time that allows you enough sleep
  • cutting down on screen time before bed
  • using a blue light filter or night mode on your screen in the evening to help you feel sleepy
  • reading a book before bed, or listening to relaxing music.

"I like reading a book before I go to bed so I can switch off from social media."

How can blue light filters help?

The blue light that comes through your screen is similar to daylight, so it makes your body want to stay awake longer. Turning on the filter lowers the amount of the blue light from your screen. That means:

  • you won't strain your eyes as much and feel so tired
  • you're letting your sleep hormone work, which should help you sleep better.

Most smartphones and tablets now have this option built in. You can switch it on from the main menu, or in Settings.

Helping others can make us feel happier, give us a sense of achievement, increase our self-worth, and boost our relationships. You could:

  • offer a neighbour or stranger help if you see they need it
  • volunteer your time or skills somewhere
  • ask a friend how they are, and truly listen to them. If your friend does open up, our page on how to support a friend has tips on how to help them.

Spending time doing something we enjoy can make us feel happier and more relaxed, have fun, boost relationships with others, and even help develop a skill. You could try:

  • a hobby, like playing a sport, baking or cooking
  • spending time with friends or family
  • reading or watching films or gaming.

"Finding time to do things you love or even planning to do things you love in the future is important."

By connecting with other people we can improve our mood, feel more accepted, share experiences, and support each other. You could try:

  • organising something nice with your friends or family
  • visiting a friend you haven't seen in a while
  • meeting new people by joining a club.

Relaxing can give us some time out and a chance to feel less stressed, feel peaceful and calm, and clear our minds. You could try:

  • spending time in nature
  • seeing friends
  • reading, listening to music or watching a film
  • having a bath or shower
  • relaxation exercises, meditation, or religious prayer.

It's normal to want to try and deal with things on your own. But opening up to friends, family or other people you trust can help you feel supported.

Try and remember it's always ok to ask for help. See our page on finding support for more ideas on who you can talk to.

"Having a discussion with family members and close friends about what's been effective for boosting my wellbeing in the past, allows them to act as a prompt in times of need."

"No matter what people say, self-care isn’t selfish. I’ve noticed than whenever I take self-care more seriously, it has a hugely positive impact on how I feel and act."

Stay safe

If you feel overwhelmed, or like you want to hurt yourself, support is available for you to talk things through. You deserve help as soon as you need it.

To talk with someone confidentially about how you feel, you can:

If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or you have seriously hurt yourself, this is an emergency. You can:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
  • Tell an adult you trust and ask them to call 999 for help.

Mental health emergencies are serious. You aren't wasting anyone's time.

This information was published in March 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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