Mental Health Awareness Week: Tips For Improving Your Mental Health
May 10-16 is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, for the last 21 years it has been an opportunity to talk about all aspects of mental health, and raise awareness of issues and the things that can affect us.
Research has shown that listening to music can help support mental health and lift moods. In one study, levels of dopamine – a chemical in the brain that has a key role in setting good moods – were up to 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music they enjoyed.
Similarly, last year a group called the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) released a new report on World Music Day that showed music's positive effect on emotional wellbeing, including decreasing anxiety and managing stress.
A 2019 study by the British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST), commissioned by Deezer, found that just five minutes of music each day can help listeners feel happier – but the ‘recommended daily amount’ is 78 minutes of different types of music, for a balanced audio diet.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘nature’ and we’re all encouraged to get outside and try to make a habit of connecting to nature every day. From enjoying fresh air to actively noticing the animals and plants around you, it can have massive benefits.
For an extra boost, get music involved in your trips outdoors too. Go for a run in your local park with an upbeat playlist in your ears, or catch up with friends at a picnic with a Bluetooth speaker to share what you’ve been listening to lately – exercise and socialising are also key ways to support your mental health.
If you’d rather enjoy great audio at home, one of the recommendations in the GCBH report included ‘deep’ or active listening. Instead of putting on music as background noise, set aside time to concentrate on what you hear. If you have a record player, pick an album that means a lot to you and listen to it from start to finish. Think about what you love about it, what it reminds you of, and even have a singalong if you want to.
Radio and podcasts can provide another voice in the room if you’re feeling lonely or isolated – particularly during the pandemic. And if you want some visuals to go along with that audio, you can put your favourite film on for a bit of escapism.
Much as we all love it, we know that music isn’t going to be a cure-all for mental health issues. There are services that offer help and support if you’re having problems. Find out more at www.mentalhealth.org.uk