Mental Health Month 2020

The theme for this Mental Health Month is ‘Tune In’. Tuning in means becoming present and aware of what’s happening within ourselves and in the world around us. Our senses are responsible for all of the information that we take in from the outside work. Our perception effects emotional processing which can cause changes in our mood and mental health. Therefore, it is important to consider all of the ways that we can improve wellbeing through information from all of our senses.

Sight

Light is processed through our eyes and signals to our brain when it is time to become active and to wind down. Previous research has demonstrated that natural light can alleviate some symptoms of depression. You can improve your wellbeing with sight by:

  • Going for a short walk in the morning for exposure to light.
  • Dim your lights in the evening to help your brain know it is time to wind down.
  • Avoid screens a couple of hours before bed.

Smell

Smell is the sense that links straight into the limbic system which is responsible for emotional processing and memory. Consider when you have arrived home and someone is making your favourite meal, or when you have smelt a distinct smell relating to your past. Some small ways that you can improve your wellbeing with your sense of smell is through:

  • Taking a walk to get some fresh air.
  • Cooking a dish with smells that you love.

Taste

The food that we choose to eat can directly impact the neurochemistry in our brain, which can improve or hinder our mood. It is well-known that certain foods can increase dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter which can improve your mood and general wellbeing. Food such as salmon, eggs, bananas and almonds are known to increase dopamine, improving your mood. Consider:

  • Eating foods that can increase dopamine such as salmon, eggs, bananas and almonds.
  • Eating slowly to enjoy all the flavours in a meal which can help you become aware of portion size and experience taste more thoroughly.

Touch

There are studies that show touch signals safety and trust, and can help to soothe someone who is feeling stressed or down. Touch can influence both mental and physical health as it improves mood and increases trust. The boost in oxytocin, another feel-good hormone also known as the “cuddle hormone”, can reduce anxiety and stress through boosting both serotonin and dopamine. The boost in serotonin and dopamine can increase immune system function and even lower blood pressure. Some practical tips for increasing touch sensations include:

  • Booking a massage or hugging a pet or loved one.
  • Savouring the feeling of a warm tea or coffee in your hands during a cold day.

Sound

Listening to music can help change our mood and overall wellbeing, helping us to relax or increase energy depending on the type of music that we choose to play. It is believed that listening to music can help individuals recover quicker from illness, increase overall life satisfaction, and can even improve organisational thinking, focus and motivation. Consider increasing your mood by:

  • Incorporating music into more areas of your life, while you go for a walk or drive.
  • Calling someone you care about and listening to them share information.
  • Become more mindful when you start to feel stressed; what are 5 things you can hear right now.

The best way we can start to improve our wellbeing is by becoming more self-aware of the warning signs that we are about have our emotions take control and enter fight or flight mode. As we begin to become more aware, we can intervene before we enter this mode. One thing we can do to bring ourselves back to the present moment, is to focus on how we can be perceptive with each sense.

What is one way that you will improve your wellbeing with one of your senses this week?