When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, we often rely on our mobile phones or tablets to calm us down (with some music, or a movie, for example). Many of the techniques for achieving and maintaining mental health, however, involve being outdoors or being active and social. Our phones and tablets are good at distracting us for a little while, but for lasting change have a go at some of the following activities:
Yoga is amazing for stopping anxious thoughts. You’ll find that once you get into class and start doing some poses (asanas), your mind will start to clear, and you’ll just be focused on what you’re doing. Watching yoga videos at home is okay sometimes, but it helps to be in a yoga class so you can talk to real people. Who knows, you may make some new friends as well. Leave your phone in your locker or at home, as you won’t need it during class.
Get Outdoors & Exercise
Whether it’s walking along the beach, at the park or even just being in your backyard, being outdoors is great for our mental health in so many ways. You can even do gardening if you love helping plants to grow. Getting fresh air and sunlight is helpful, as are the benefits of exercise. You can set an alarm on your phone and only check messages at a certain time so that you can really focus on the activity that you’re doing without distractions. Check out my previous post about spending time in nature for wellbeing if you want more inspiration.
Spend Time with Friends
When we’re feeling down, we tend to self-isolate. However, being around friends is beneficial for our mental health and a great excuse to get out of the house. Social media messaging and emails don’t count as time spent with friends – you need to have real face to face contact with them. You can combine time spent with friends with exercise – for instance, you could go for a walk together or go to yoga together.
Those of you who are familiar with my blog posts will know that I’m a fan of good old-fashioned pen and paper! Yes, there are plenty of apps that will let you journal but again that’s more time staring at a screen. Ditch the screen for paper and a pen, and write about what scares you, what excites you, what your hopes and dreams are. When you’re done you can put it through a shredder if you don’t want anyone else to read it. Now, that’s something you can’t do with a phone!
Focus on Your Food
When we’re stressed or anxious, we tend to just gobble down food without paying attention to what we’re eating or eating slowly and mindfully. Really focus on the quality of the food that you’re eating. You can’t go wrong with having fresh fruit and vegetables. When you’re eating, make sure you’re sitting down comfortably, turn off your phone or other devices so you won’t be distracted, eat slowly and savour each bite. Your mind and body will thank you.
This is just a small list of things you can do to unplug and improve your mental health. What’s key here is getting your eyes off your device and engaging with the world as much as you can. Getting those important essentials our body needs like sunlight, socialising, exercise, time for reflection, and nutrition can make all the difference. See if you can come up with some ideas of your own for how you can unplug and improve your mental health today.
Samantha Bane has qualifications in psychology and has experience working as a Mental Health Support Worker. She has written a book called “The Little Book of Self-Care: 100 Ideas to Help Nourish Your Mind, Body and Soul”. She blogs monthly for I Matter Foundation and develops her public speaking skills at Toastmasters.