for better mental health

How to improve your mental wellbeing

Explains how to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing, whether you have a diagnosis of a mental health condition or not.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) is impacting all our lives, and we know that the usual advice might not quite apply. Some ideas for looking after yourself may feel unrealistic right now. And some treatment and support options will be harder to access, or may be unavailable for a while. But we hope that you can still find information here that helps you understand what you're going through, and find a path forward.
You can also find lots of resources in our coronavirus information hub. And our page of coronavirus useful contacts can direct you to more support.

How can I improve my mental wellbeing?

Mental wellbeing describes your mental state – how you are feeling and how well you can cope with day-to-day life.

Our mental wellbeing is dynamic. It can change from moment to moment, day to day, month to month or year to year.

If you have good mental wellbeing you are able to:

  • feel relatively confident in yourself and have positive self-esteem
  • feel and express a range of emotions
  • build and maintain good relationships with others
  • feel engaged with the world around you
  • live and work productively
  • cope with the stresses of daily life
  • adapt and manage in times of change and uncertainty

This page covers some ideas to stay mentally well and develop your ability to cope with the up and downs of life:

How are wellbeing and mental health problems connected?

If you experience low mental wellbeing over a long period of time, you are more likely to develop a mental health problem.

If you already have a mental health problem, you're more likely to experience periods of low mental wellbeing than someone who hasn't. But that doesn't mean you won't have periods of good wellbeing.

Below we look at steps you can take to manage your mental wellbeing, whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not, and what support is available if you need it.

"Mental wellbeing is essential for me to function and be happy."

Think about what is affecting your wellbeing

We're all different. What affects someone's mental wellbeing won't necessarily affect others in the same way.

But we all have times when we have low mental wellbeing, where we feel stressed, upset or find it difficult to cope.

Common life events that can affect your mental wellbeing include:

"Stress, loneliness, inactivity, lack of sleep are all negative [for my mental wellbeing]."

Other times there is no clear reason for why we feel the way we do - which can be frustrating.

There are some factors that may make you more vulnerable to experiencing a period of poor mental wellbeing. These may have happened in the past or might still be happening now:

  • childhood abuse, trauma, violence or neglect
  • social isolation or discrimination
  • homelessness or poor housing
  • a long-term physical health condition
  • social disadvantage, poverty or debt
  • unemployment
  • caring for a family member or friend
  • significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, being involved in a serious accident or violent crime

No matter the reason, it can be helpful to remember that you deserve to feel good and there are steps you can take to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing.

"I find extremely supportive friends and family help [as well as] finding a fulfilling hobby: horse riding, walking the dogs and yoga."

Build positive relationships

Connecting with others can help us to feel a greater sense of belonging and can help to challenge feelings of loneliness.

  • Make time for the people you love. Keeping regular contact with friends and family, whether it's face-to-face, on the phone or by text, can strengthen your relationships.
  • Join a group. Think of the things you like to do, such as drawing, gardening or sport and look for local groups. Meeting others with a shared interest can increase your confidence and build your support network.
  • Talk about the way you feel. Opening up to a trusted friend or family member can help you to feel listened to and supported. Just acknowledging your feelings by saying them out loud can help.
  • Use peer support. If you're finding things difficult, talking to people who have similar feelings or experiences can help you to feel accepted. This could be online, such as Mind’s Elefriends community, or at a peer support group.
  • Volunteer at a local school or hospice. Giving your time to those that need it can be extremely fulfilling and can help you to look at things from a different perspective. See the Do It website for volunteering opportunities in the UK.

How volunteering helped to break the cycle

"Volunteering at Mind has been instrumental in helping me get out of my secluded routine."

Take time for yourself

At times you may feel guilty for spending time on yourself. But it's essential for your wellbeing and can help you to be more resilient.

  • Try mindfulness. Being present can help you to become more aware of, and manage, your thoughts, feelings and surroundings. It can help you to enjoy life more and accept the world around you. See the bemindful website for further information and details of local courses.

"I just found that I had to make room to be well. Sounds daft but give yourself some space - in my case I used mindfulness to help me gain control."

  • Learn something new. Learning new skills can help boost your confidence and give you a sense of achievement. You could learn a new language, sign up for an art class or try a new recipe. It doesn't have to be something big.
  • Do something you enjoy. Whether it's taking a long walk, playing an instrument or going to the cinema, it's positive for your wellbeing to do something that makes you feel good.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Doing something that you find relaxing, such as listening to music, colouring in or having a bath can help to reduce stress and improve your mental wellbeing.

How to relax – 8 relaxation tips for your mental health

Watch our animation for 8 relaxation tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.

Look after your mental health

If you're living with a mental health problem, taking steps to look after your mental health can help you improve your wellbeing.

  • Tell people what helps. If certain treatments have helped in the past, tell your doctor. Let your friends and family know how they can support you, whether it's listening to you when you're having a bad day, helping you keep on top of your commitments, or being aware of your triggers.
  • Spot your early warning signs. If you can, try to be aware of how you're feeling, and if you can spot any signs you might be becoming unwell. These will be individual to you, but it can be useful to reflect on what these may be so you can get support for your mental health problem as soon as possible.
  • Keep a mood diary. Tracking your moods can help you to work out what positively and negatively affects your mental wellbeing. You can then take steps to avoid, change or prepare for negative situations. You can create your own mood diary or try one available online such as moodpanda.com, moodscope.com, medhelp.org/land/mood-tracker and mappiness.org.uk.
  • Build your self-esteem. Increasing your self-esteem can help you to feel more confident and able to challenge adversity.

Getting 'mental healthy' for 2015

"I was trapped in the day-to-day. It was like trying to look at a massive picture when you’re only inches from it."

Look after your physical health

Looking after your body can help to keep you mentally well. Making small, gradual changes can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing - try to start with one or two things you feel able to do.

Moving

Our mental and physical health are closely linked. Taking up sport or exercise can help you feel better in lots of different ways.

Eating

Exploring how what you eat affects how you view yourself might help you to feel better.

Drugs and alcohol

You may think that drinking and taking drugs boosts your confidence. But these can have a negative effect on your mental wellbeing.

Sleeping

Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big impact on how you feel.

Set yourself a challenge

Find something you like doing and do more of it.

You could take up a hobby, join a class or volunteer your time for something you feel passionate about.

At times it can be hard to find the motivation to set goals for yourself, especially when you don't feel confident or worry about what other people may think. But it doesn't have to be something big.

Making small goals such as trying a recipe or learning the days of the week in a new language can help you to feel more positive about yourself.

"Focus on 'small wins' don't chase big achievements. Do the little things and use it as a springboard whatever you can do be proud of it!"

Ask for help

  • Think about treatment options. If you're finding things really difficult, you might walk to talk to your doctor about any support services in your local area. You might want to try counselling to talk through the things you're finding challenging with a trained professional. See our pages on seeking help for more on how to speak to your doctor about your mental health, and our pages on talking treatments.
  • Don't pressure yourself to carry on as normal. Take small steps and if you are finding it difficult to cope on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, you may need support at work or help with day-to-day tasks, such as cleaning or childcare.
  • Plan for a crisis. When you're really unwell, it can be hard to ask for the support you need or figure out what support you want. Making a crisis plan while you're well can help you can stay in control of your treatment, and mean other people know how best to help. See our page on crisis plans for more.
  • Stay safe. If your feelings become overwhelming, and you have suicidal thoughts or you think you may self harm, remember that you can pick up the phone at any time of night or day and talk to the Samaritans.

Mind offers a few different ways for you to start seeking help:

How dancing helped me cope

"It felt good to be able to move, and so I wanted to savour every moment. "

This information was published in July 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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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