One of the most common reasons why people come to see me, is to ask for help in improving their mental health. The truth is that everyone goes up and down to some degree mentally. Outside influences such as short daylight hours, the end of holidays, pledging new year diets and so on can be enough to make any of us feel especially down at this time of year. The trick, is to learn how to feel up, rather than down, as often as possible.

Here are a few of my top tips which may help you to improve your mental health this year:

Don’t Bottle It Up

In all my years working with clients, one of the most common traits I have noticed which affects people’s emotional health, is the bottling up of emotions. Bottling up can be defined as, “Holding back what you are feeling about a situation or refusing to deal with something that is on your mind”.

Essentially it means holding in your emotions.

By keeping our emotions inside, we lock away our feelings relating to a situation. But where do these feelings go? Can we just ignore them? I think not. I believe that these feelings stay within us, and if they are left unattended they can lead to major health problems over time, not only mentally but also physically.

Bottling up is never a good idea for our health, so avoid it if you can by getting support.

Trust your instincts to find someone who you can talk to honestly about what you are feeling. Perhaps a sympathetic friend or a kind relation, who will listen to you with empathy. True friends don’t mind acting as a sounding board for your problems to help you move forwards.

If you prefer not to talk to someone you know, maybe try getting professional help from a therapist. Therapists are impartial and can give a new perspective. This sometimes feels easier as they have no vested interests or knowledge of you personally. Being brave enough to get support can be a real help.

Above all, remember to be gentle and kind to yourself. This process is hard enough without giving yourself a hard time too.

Simply talking about our problems in an open and honest way can make all the difference to how we are feeling.

Go For What You Want

If you are not feeling great about life try asking yourself:

“What do I really want?”

This simple question is capable of getting to the root of so many problems. Not going for what we really want, or know we are capable of, is arguably one of the most common reasons why people are unhappy. When we deny or block what we want, unhappiness is often the end result.

I have found our emotions are intrinsically linked to respond best when we are doing what we love. The creation of that buzz and internal excitement by going for what you really want, will certainly improve your happiness levels so do more of what you love, starting today.

Thought Pick ‘n’ Mix

Do you remember how exciting it was to go to the Pick ‘n’ Mix section in the sweet shop as a child? You had your empty bag ready and there before you were hundreds of sweets and treats to choose from. You could choose all the ones you wanted the most: the ones that made your tongue tingle, sweet or sour, chocolate or jelly, choosing all your favorites made you feel good. If you ended up with a sweet you didn’t like, you simply didn’t choose it again the next time around.

We can apply this same principle to our thoughts, picking our favourites as often as possible and letting go of the ones that taste sour. We need to choose our thoughts wisely, because while happily the good ones make us feel great, we should try to avoid going back to the ones that make us feel stressed, annoyed or drained somehow.

The more thoughts we can choose that feel good, the better we will feel. Make a list of topics that feel good when you think about them and leave it somewhere to remind you if that helps. After time it will become second nature to choose the better feeling thoughts and push away the bad.

Become Your Own Mind Bouncer

Imagine that there is a big burly bouncer standing at the door to your mind. Can you picture him there? Now give him some power… he is going to be in charge of both the quality and quantity of the thoughts that you think from now on. He is going to choose which thoughts he will allow into your head to create the best atmosphere. He will stop negative thoughts from entering and try to ensure there is a steady flow. Some thoughts are going to have to wait for another day to be allowed in, some won’t get in at all.

Sounds like a bit of a silly analogy, but try to remember him the next time you feel bombarded by ideas zooming into your brain… let him help you to filter, so only the best thoughts join the happy party going on in your head.

Life today is full of so many different inputs coming at us constantly via social media, newspapers and TV. We are bombarded with information on our phones and other devices all day and night, and unfortunately more often than not, the media seems to focus on the sad or depressing stories. Too much negativity and bad news can drain the life force out of us empathetic humans, playing on our minds and making us feel guilty or sad. Try going cold turkey (now Christmas is over!) switching off alerts and deleting negative apps.

Hire your own mind bouncer and start to feel better by removing negativity from your life. Only allow into your head what suits you, and more importantly what feels good to you. This this will make a world of difference to your mental health.

And finally…

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

Comparing yourself to others and feeling jealous is such a negative trap to fall into. It somehow gives you the feeling that you can’t create your own brilliant life. Get inspired by what others are up to yes, let them motivate you even, but more importantly get excited by your own potential and plans, because they are the plans that matter.