Your mental health is as important as your physical health. There are a wide range of pressures on young people these days. Doing well at school, being part of a family, making friends and being on social media can all be stressful as well as fun.
More and more young people are developing mental health problems as they grow up. These can range from eating disorders to depression and anxiety. Taking care of your emotional wellbeing can help you develop resilience and be happier and more confident as you get older.
Mental wellbeing is about more than just feeling happy. It’s about having engagement with the people around you. It’s about enjoying life and being confident. It’s about being content with yourself and where you are in life.
Taking care of your emotional wellbeing doesn’t mean you won’t experience difficult things in your life. What it does mean is that when you do go through hard times you will have the resilience you need to cope.
Research has found five things we should all be doing to boost our emotional wellbeing.
Connect: This means developing strong relationships with other people. That can be family members, friends or others in your community. When you have strong relationships you will have support and people to share your feelings with. It’s also important to share positive experiences with other people in your life.
Be active: There is a lot of research that shows doing regular physical activity reduces feelings of anxiety and depression. It can help improve your confidence and the chemicals released by our brains when we are active can make our mood more positive. There are loads of ways to be active. Find something you enjoy and build it into your life.
Learn: You might feel like you’re always learning at the moment. When you’re at school or college learning is a big part of your life. It’s important to keep that as you get older. Learning something new doesn’t have to mean getting more qualifications or studying. It can be picking up a new hobby, learning to fix something at home, or reading a new book.
Give: Giving to others can do a lot for your mental wellbeing. You might offer your time or support to someone else. It could even be something as small as telling someone they look nice today. Acts of kindness will make you feel good about yourself and help the other person, so they’re win-win. Helping someone with a project, holding a door open and spending time with a friend who is having a hard time all count.
Be mindful: Being mindful is all about taking notice of the world around you. It is also about understanding how you feel and what you’re thinking at a given moment. Developing this awareness is often referred to as mindfulness. Taking five minutes each day to just observe can be really good for you. Notice all the sights, smells and sounds around you. Be aware of any thoughts you’re having without judging them.
I’m shy. How can I make new friends?
Starting a friendship can feel like a challenge sometimes. This is especially true if you have recently moved schools and everyone else seems to know each other. The best way to start a friendship is to find something you have in common with the other person. You might like the same music, play the same sport or even walk the same way to school.
Start by talking to that person about something you know they’re interested in. Pick a time when they’re on their own and not in a big group so you feel less nervous. When you go up to them smile. And if someone new comes over to you make sure you smile as well.
Remember that friendships take time and effort. But having a conversation with someone can open the door for you to talk more and become friends over time. It’s ok to be nervous about talking to someone new. The more you do it, the easier it will become. But it’s not about the number of friends you have. Making connections to help your mental wellbeing is about the quality of those friendships.
I don’t enjoy sports at school. How can I be more active?
The kind of sports you play at school won’t be for everyone. But the great thing is that there are so many ways to be active. The key is to find something you enjoy. Think about what you like and dislike about the sports you’ve tried. You should also think about any other hobbies you have. If you love music, dancing could be a better activity than football for you. Check out what’s available through your local youth club to see what other options you have.
If you have a dog at home you could volunteer to walk it a couple of times a week. Even making small changes like going up the stairs instead of taking the lift can make a difference. Or you could get off the bus a few stops early and walk the last part of your journey.
To help improve your emotional wellbeing you should try to spend 30 minutes doing moderate exercise five days a week. This means that you’re raising your heart rate and breaking a sweat but that you can still talk while you’re exercising.
School isn’t my thing. How else can I learn?
At your age you will be learning a lot all the time. Remember that learning isn’t only what you can read in textbooks or hear in classrooms. Learning something new could mean learning how to plait your hair or mastering a new trick on your skateboard.
Once you leave school you can feel like you don’t have the chance to learn new things. But there are lots of ways you can keep learning. It could be picking up a new hobby like knitting. You can get to grips with basic DIY like how to put up a shelf, or make a new recipe and develop your cooking skills.
If you try something new with your friends it can also be a good way to build lasting friendships.
Why does giving improve your mental wellbeing?
Giving something, no matter how small, makes you feel good about yourself. Developing positive mental wellbeing is about feeling good within yourself. When you do something nice for another person the response you get will make you happy.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend all your free time doing good deeds. Big gestures are great but small acts of kindness are good for your emotional wellbeing too. They can include helping someone who’s struggling to get on the bus, holding a door open for the person walking behind you, or picking up something that someone’s dropped.
If you want to do more you can always volunteer in your local community. There are all kinds of charities that need help. Don’t forget that giving can also include supporting your friends or family. Listening to a friend’s problems or helping your younger brother with homework all count.
I’m worried about my emotional wellbeing, what should I do?
If you often feel low then remember that you are not alone. We all go through times when things feel difficult. With the right support you will start to feel better. Try reaching out to a friend. Talk to them about how you’re feeling.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend you could speak to an adult you trust, like a teacher. You could also go to see your doctor if you are feeling depressed. Speaking to a counsellor on a helpline like Childline may also help. Sometimes talking about problems and feelings can help you understand them.
However you’re feeling, it’s ok to ask for help. You shouldn’t feel like you have to go through hard times alone. If you do have a mental health problem like depression or anxiety, the sooner it is diagnosed the better support you can get.
Did you know?
-75% of mental health problems start before someone turns 18
-Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 75% in the past 25 years
-1 in 10 children and young people experience mental health problems
Please be aware that this is NOT for emergency help. CLICK HERE for information on emergency help.