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Five ways to mental well-being

Moving from physical health to mental well-being, there are plenty of straightforward things people can do. A recent UK Government report into well-being commissioned a team at the new economics foundation to find evidence for things individuals could do themselves to achieve greater well-being. They concluded that we would be well-advised to follow a well-being equivalent of the 'five fruit and vegetables a day' rule.12

Be active ...

The links between physical activity and increased well-being are clear, so taking part in physical exercise on a regular basis obviously makes sense. Activity improves our mood as well as making us healthier and increasing our psychological well-being. It changes our brain chemistry, boosting levels of the neurotransmitters that make us feel good. Exercise, in fact, is a good example of how biological factors can influence our psychological processes. However, it is also important to remember that people differ in their levels of physical fitness and health. Any advice on keeping active and fit has to be tailored to each individual. It is a good idea to take advice from professionals such as a fitness coach, a physiotherapist or your GP. But all of us can take steps to ensure we keep physically fit and active every day: going for a walk, or perhaps taking the dog out for a walk (if you don't have a dog, get one!). If the opportunity is there, go to the gym. Try going for a run, a swim or a cycle ride. Even just doing the gardening or DIY is great, it ensures you stay active and will raise your mood as well as keep you fit. Dancing is very good ... although personally I have to confess that I am far too self-conscious even to contemplate dancing. Regardless of what exercise you choose, the point is that activity makes you feel good.

Activity also helps with our sleep. Sleep problems are very common, and can have a significant impact on well-being. People who are sleep deprived often feel miserable, irritable and, of course, tired and lethargic. Evidence suggests that sleep is important for your physical health - especially your immune system. Sleep is important, and exercise is a good way to help ensure that you sleep well. As I will explain in a moment, our relationships are important for our well-being, and many forms of physical activity are communal - people join sports clubs or teams. For example, my son is engaged in football teams and cycling clubs. So a commitment to physical activity can have knock-on benefits.

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