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6 Vital Mental Health Lessons 2020 Taught Us

For most of us, 2020 was a year that we’d like to forget for more reasons than one. Without listing all the negative things that happened as a result of the global pandemic, it’s fair to say that most people’s lives were turned upside down.

However, they say that with every cloud there’s a silver lining - and if you look for the lessons 2020 taught us, you might just find some. Here’s just six vital mental health lessons 2020 taught us that we mustn’t forget.

6 vital mental health lessons from 2020

1. Spend time with family and friends

Spending time with friends and family was likely something you were already grateful for, but may have taken for granted prior to 2020. Sometimes you truly don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and those face-to-face social connections with loved ones was one of those things.

Spending time with friends and family is incredibly beneficial for our mental wellbeing, helping to improve overall happiness and sense of belonging. Studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a huge difference to our happiness, even for those who would consider themselves introverts.

2020 taught us what it feels like without these connections and it’s certainly something we don’t want to take for granted ever again.

2. Exercise has physical AND mental benefits

We have all been told time and time again how effective exercise is not just for our physical health, but for our mental health, too.

When gyms shut down in 2020, we learnt pretty quickly the value of exercise. Sure, we’re constantly told about the positive effects of exercise, but when we go a few days without it we realise just how much of an impact it has on our mental wellbeing.

Just 30-minutes of exercise a day can help us release those feel-good endorphins, which will in turn improve our mood tenfold. Sometimes exercise might seem like the last thing you want to do, but force yourself to get outdoors and go for a walk or do some light training in your lounge room.

3. Sleep shouldn’t be a luxury

Sleep is so underrated and yet it’s probably one of the most important ingredients for our psychological wellbeing. But what happens in our waking lives can often negatively affect our ability to sleep, causing a vicious cycle.

The truth is, sleep is a very underrated tool and many people don’t realise the damaging effects lack of sleep can have on us. Sleep can affect our sensitivity to negative emotions, thus compounding any of these feelings we might have.

Studies have observed that sleep deprived people can fail to recall pleasant memories and recollect gloomy memories easily. This is a valuable lesson to take into 2021 and beyond – get those zzz’s in whenever you can!

4. Get outdoors

Those that had to spend 2020 mostly indoors will know the importance of nature on their mental health.

Nature can boost our wellbeing in phenomenal ways, both physically and mentally. It has a positive physiological effect on the body, helping to reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels, which are linked to stress. It can help to improve our productivity, focus and creativity, plus reduce mental fatigue and help fight depression and anxiety. What’s more, being in natural light is an instant mood elevator and can help us to sleep.

5. Gratitude for the simple things

We’ve often heard that giving thanks can make you happier - and science actually proves it. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness for most people, allowing us to feel positive emotions and relish good experiences.

2020 definitely taught us to be grateful for the little things. Ask anyone who spent two weeks in hotel quarantine, and they’ll tell you how grateful they were for fresh air and a home cooked meal once their 14-days were over. Taking pleasure in the simple things like going for a walk, dinner with friends or being able to see family face-to-face are lessons we’ll take with us for years to come.

Remember, a more grateful state of mind can help us achieve a sense of happiness, whilst also allowing us to deal with adversity. Use daily practices of gratitude in the morning to start your day off in a positive frame of mind (which can often last the entire day).

6. It’s OK to ask for help

The challenges that 2020 brought us proved that it’s always OK to ask for help. As humans, we value social connections and we’re not meant to do life alone. Services like Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer free over-the-phone counselling and can be integral in providing support and strategy needed to manage any emotional issues. Services like Lysn provide access to psychologists over the phone or video chat, which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home for a fee.

It’s important to be aware of these types of services available to not only be able to point someone else in the right direction, but know the avenues to turn to if you ever feel the need. It’s always OK to seek out professional help when you’re not feeling OK, just like visiting a doctor if you’re sick.

Noosha Anzab is a clinical psychotherapist & psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.

Here's how to implement colour therapy into your life to improve your mental health this year.

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