(Please note these are not substitutes for those of us who may need professional support and diagnosis for mental health illnesses. These are tips on managing mental health written by a contributor to Amaliah.)
At times, your emotions have a funny way of being overwhelming and leave you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut. Whilst it’s important to address what you’re feeling and why, there are some things you can do for an instant perk-up. Sometimes a change in routine or reorganising your environment might help get you in a much better headspace.
Here are some mood-boosting tips that work for me and are a great way to begin change:
I try to make a habit of clearing out my wardrobe every six months because I feel that too many belongings weigh on me spiritually. Let’s face it, how many things do you have in your wardrobe that you don’t even wear or haven’t worn since you bought them? Like me, at times, I can imagine you don’t know. A classic scenario is to buy something impulsively and never wear it, because at the time of buying you envisioned it perfectly for an occasion. However, that occasion never arrived. My guess is, if you haven’t worn it thus far, you’d probably be better off getting rid of it. Take some time out to go through your wardrobe and be honest with yourself about what you need instead of what you imagine you’ll make use of one day. You may fill up a refuse sack or two ready for the charity shop, and you’ll feel like a huge weight has lifted. In the past 6 years, I’ve moved homes 6 times (one of which was abroad) and each time I packed my things, I found so many items I didn’t use or need. I had to decide whether to keep, donate or bin these items, and I can honestly say I feel better as a result of owning fewer things. Next time you’re out and about, check out your local area for clothes recycling banks where you can deposit your unused clothes/shoes – quite a few mosques have them outside in their car parks as well.
This is also something I like to do every six months and although it may not sound like a lot, you’d be surprised how quickly six months fly by. Studies show that the straightening out of your physical surroundings can also increase mental clarity. Take some time to check expiry dates of things like spices and sauces that get buried at the back of your cupboard and fridge once the novelty has worn off. Clear your cupboards of tinned goods that you probably won’t use – this might be a good time to donate some food to your local food bank; do ensure of course that these are still in date!
When you get around to digging out your kitchen cupboards, you’ll probably notice (now that you’ve read this) how much plastic is lurking in there. In the western world of convenience, we are literally drowning in plastic. Pasta, rice, lentils, spices, bread and vegetables are some of the few things at the supermarket that unnecessarily comes with plastic packaging – one of the things we can definitely use less of. You may want to invest in some nice kitchen containers to store your food, like glass jars for pasta and rice for example, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can pick these up at TKMAXX or Wilko for less than £10, depending on the size and design. I recently bought a couple of Indian Spice Containers from Amazon to create some free space from all the little herb and spice bottles in my cupboard. My apartment is tiny, so I need to be creative with my storage space and as a result, I can now buy herbs and spices loosely which also saves me money. Other things that you can buy loosely and store in tins or jars are tea, coffee and legumes. You can even buy a pretty fruit bowl for your kitchen table to entice you into your 5 a day. Check out Flying Tiger if you’re looking for something new, they have lots to choose from and at decent prices and will leave your kitchen organised and clutter-free.
This is the one which brings me the most peace and probably one of the most important remedies for a good night’s sleep. Our phones are constantly buzzing with notifications trying to keep us fixated to the virtual world and away from reality. Take the decision to turn off your notifications and only check in when you feel like it, not just when something new pops up. When I first signed up to social media, I became overwhelmed with the number of notifications on my home screen from Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube and WhatsApp! I am surprised I actually had time to do the things I needed to do in real life like cook, clean and shower! This is also a good opportunity to review your subscriptions; unfollow and unsubscribe as you see fit. We don’t need to be in the know all the time and let’s be fair, half of what goes on on social media isn’t of huge benefit. However, we tune in to these channels for a distraction from real life. You may even want to go on a social media fast for a week and notice how your productivity levels soar as a result of all the extra time you will now have on your hands! A friend recommended a self-help book called “How to break up with your phone” by Catherine Price which has been on my reading list since the beginning of the year. If only I could get off my phone most of the time, I’d have read it already!
If you’re part of the 9-5 gang, you’ll probably notice that we spend half of our lives sitting and staring at screens like I’m doing right now. How much exercise do you get other than the walk between platforms on the underground or to the next bus stop? Or the walk from the car park to the office? I recently started commuting again after a long period of using my car to get to work. Although I thought this was a luxury at first, I didn’t realise how lazy and inactive I was becoming and as a result, my fitness levels dropped rapidly. As I began my commute on the first day to my new workplace, I was shocked at how quickly I became out of breath! I tried to walk up the escalator for good measure but by the time I reached the top, I didn’t have enough breath to say my own name! Lack of exercise takes a heavy toll on our mental health and overall wellbeing, so even a 30 minute walk each day can make a huge difference. If you usually work from home, take some time out to walk around your area or even use the bus to get to your next destination. This is also a good opportunity to walk and catch up with a friend. Walking is easy, free and something that we take for granted when in good health.
In this fast-paced western life, it can be difficult to keep track of your thoughts. Once your alarm clock goes off in the morning, the race begins and before you know it, you’re at your desk staring at a screen and dreaming of being somewhere else in a breezy open space; (or at least that has been the case for me). I barely left anytime for myself and when I wasn’t working, I was either socialising, sleeping or doing housework. Whilst cleaning one Sunday morning I realised how little time I spent at home enjoying the clean and tidy environment because I was always rushing off to another building either to be at work or to meet a friend for coffee. I thought about keeping a diary as it made me wonder about how little we write on paper these days and I remembered the diary that I kept as a teenager. Thinking back to the content of some of those diary entries makes me laugh out loud now but the idea of writing my thoughts on paper is appealing. We are porous beings and absorb a lot more than we think. Think about how many advertising campaigns you see on your journey to work or place of study – whether you choose to focus on these things or not, the mind absorbs them and stores them in our subconscious. Taking some time out to write and offload some of those heavy thoughts can increase mental clarity and an overall sense of wellbeing. Journaling can also be a useful way of tracking your moods by identifying triggers in your daily routine. If this is something that you’ve been meaning to start, begin by buying yourself an attractive notebook that you want to write in and whilst you’re there, you can throw in a nice pen. The thing you will lose by not trying is the opportunity to actually try.
Ever since I was young, I always wanted to do something creative. In school I took dance classes, singing classes, art classes, drama classes, I even enrolled into a school of performing arts until my father reminded me to grow up and get a real job because work in the creative industry “doesn’t pay the bills.” Being stuck in a 9-5 office job rarely allows us to get creative unless you are managing your own projects, but as an administrator, I was always working on somebody else’s project in order to pay the bills. This is where I would use my own time to get creative and allow the colours of my imagination to flow. Think about your hobbies, what is it you enjoy doing? There are tons of free classes and workshops on offer for you to try which might also be a great opportunity to make new friends. A good place to find events in your local area is Eventbrite, I have found many interesting talks and classes on there and its even downloadable as an app on your phone. If you’re not feeling sociable you can even try your hand at a new craft like drawing or knitting (don’t laugh) or even try a new recipe, the choices are abundant based on your interests.
If you’re at home and wondering what to do, have a go at treating yourself. A facemask usually does the trick with a couple of slices of cucumber on your eyes or feed your hair with an oil treatment. If you have olive or coconut oil at home, take some time to drench your locks in oil for a couple of hours. Lie down and relax before washing it out. Maybe you can run yourself a hot bath with some smelly oils or a bath bomb and if your budget permits, book yourself in for a massage. Your body is the vehicle you’ve been given to live this life so it’s important to service it regularly. Self is care is so important, and something we overlook as a solution to a low mood. Some of you might even dismiss the idea of spending money on yourselves but believe me if you can make it work, you will feel better – remember that your well-being is priceless.
Sometimes when we’re alone we can get stuck in a maze of our own thoughts that can be difficult to navigate out of. The more you think, the more angles and layers you create for a situation. Since owning a mobile phone at the age of 18, I noticed how little I spoke to my friends in person. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to live within a short walking distance of a park which meant I would see my friends frequently after school where we agreed to meet for a couple of hours. Since my first mobile phone, I went from meeting my friends in the park on a daily, to frequent phone calls which then turned into texting and thereafter actual interaction with humans gradually decreased. Social media has a funny way of making us feel alone, together. If you’re feeling low, make a date with a friend or simply hit the call button instead of opening up WhatsApp. The human connection of hearing a responsive voice on the other side of the phone can be very comforting, and a lot of the time you will find that we all go through the same struggles at one time or another. You might be thinking; ‘how can I have time for a telephone call when I have a day full of commitments?’ The key is to think of it as therapy; if you were to pay for a therapist, you’d first need to travel to them, pay money for their time and then travel back. You don’t even need to reveal your deep personal matters but just the connection with another sister in humanity may be enough, try it
May Allah grant ease to you. Ameen
A minimalist who enjoys writing and coconut milk lattes. Her greatest discovery was Islam. You can find her on Instagram @TheHalalHippie, InShaAllah.