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New research reveals 11 best ways to prevent common mental health problems

The 11 most effective ways for people to protect their mental health are revealed in a guide by the Mental Health Foundation.

The free guide, Our Best Mental Health Tips is based on the Foundation’s own ground-breaking study on what protects people from common problems such as anxiety and depression.

The innovative study on which the new guide is based combined existing evidence about how we can protect our mental health with experts’ views, alongside the opinions of members of the public.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, who led the research and is a Director of the Foundation, said:

‘Our new guide encourages us to take care of the fundamentals of life – our relationships, our experiences, our bodies and our finances.

‘The evidence shows that this is far more likely to keep us mentally healthy than the gimmicks and miracle cures promoted by some in the ‘wellness’ industry, who prey on our vulnerability.

‘The truth is, there are no quick fixes for good mental or physical health. What works is developing healthy habits in our daily lives, that help us to feel OK and able to cope with everything.

‘For example, in our new guide we talk about getting more from our sleep, learning to understand and manage our feelings, planning things to look forward to and getting help with money problems.’

The full list of mental health-promoting actions suggested by the new guide is as follows:

  • Get closer to nature

  • Learn to understand and manage your feelings

  • Talk to someone you trust for support

  • Be aware of using drugs and/or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings

  • Try to make the most of your money and get help with problem debts

  • Get more from your sleep

  • Be kind and help create a better world

  • Keep moving

  • Eat healthy food

  • Be curious and open-minded to new experiences

  • Plan things to look forward to

Most members of the public involved in the study had experienced their own, or family members’ problems with mental health, so had the benefit of hindsight when assessing what helps most with prevention.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF available on request).

The new guide (and the research on which it is based) acknowledges that people may be unable to follow some of its suggestions, for instance because the place they live makes it impossible to sleep well or spend time close to nature.

Dr Kousoulis added: ‘Enjoying good mental health should be an equally accessible goal for all of us, yet it is often out of reach for many. Government action is needed to create the circumstances that solve problems that are beyond individuals’ reach and help prevent people having problems with mental health in the first place.’

People can download the new guide free of charge from the Mental Health Foundation website. They can also order hard copies by post, with a small charge to cover post and packing.

First published by the Mental Health Foundation July 2022

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