Exploring your path to mental health
There are many different and relevant ways to foster and maintain good mental health. As we navigate these difficult times and changing COVID-19 protocols, you may be feeling stressed, worried, or isolated.
Research consistently points to five ways that can help promote a healthy mind. We call these the Thrive 5, and they are simple, easy-to-implement ways to help support your mental health.
The Thrive 5 Are:
And while these are oft-cited ways to learn to thrive, they are not the only ways. That's why we encourage you think about the Thrive 5+.
Check out the Thrive Calendar for events and workshops based on the Thrive 5 and more!
Adding activity to each day can help you manage stress and can boost your mood. While many of us are returning to in-person work or classes, this is especially important when working or learning from home when we may tend to be more sedentary.
Check out exercise classes online and in-person: UBC Recreation wants to keep you moving whether on campus or at home with Instagram Live Movement Breaks (led by the Move U Crew) and in-person and Virtual Fitness Classes.
Stretch it out: Try taking a stretch break (or two) during your day. Try out these Move UBC tips from the Kinesiology Undergraduate Society.
Dance: Bust a move to your favourite song.
Take a brisk walk in nature: Take a break from classes or work and get outside to enjoy some time in nature.
Take a stand: While working or learning from campus or home, try standing for five minutes at the beginning of each hour. Or, make it a habit to stand during meetings; you may enourage others to do the same!
Abdin, S., Welch, R. K., Byron-daniel, J., & Meyrick, J. 2018 U.K., Finland, Australia, Spain
- Incorporating physical activity into the workplace, specifically, walking, yoga, or an exercise program, showed to increase well-being of individuals who participated
- These interventions showed participants to be less anxious, confused, depressed, stressed, and tired.
Getting enough quality sleep can help you tackle work, classes, and life’s everyday challenges. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per day also helps boost your immunity and maintain your physical health.
- Try to get 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night: The Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines recommends this as optimal for ages 18-64.
- Turn off your screens before bed: This is especially important if you find that information in the news and on social media is causing you stress. Stay informed by visiting accurate sources.
- Establish rest routines: It may be tempting to sleep in or to go to bed later than usual for those of us still working or studying from home, but waking up and going to bed at your regular times can help with better-quality rest.
- Take a nap: A 20-minute nap during the day can leave you feeling more refreshed and well-rested.
Short, M. A., Gradisar, M., Lack, L. C., & Wright, H. R. 2013, Australia
- Poor sleep quality and/or more evening chronotype were also more likely to report worse grades
- Students reporting with low alertness during the day had higher levels of depressed mood, associated with reduced academic performance.
- Good sleep quality can be maintained by practicing good sleep hygiene
H.C. Woods, H. Scott, 2016, Scotland
- Those with higher social media use experienced poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of anxiety and depression
- Constant incoming alerts contribute to sleep disturbances
- Fear of missing out may contribute to the inability to relax at bedtime due to a fear missing out on notifications
- Putting away phone at nighttime may provide a better sleep
Eating a balanced diet can help fuel your body and mind; many studies have shown a link between a healthy diet and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
During stressful or challenging times, it can be particularly difficult to try and eat well, but fueling your body with nutritious foods can help you eat your way to better mental health.
- Eat your fruits and veggies: Mom wasn't kidding when she said they're good for you; research has shown that greater consumption of fruits and veggies may be correlated with greater happiness and positive well-being. Adding extras to each meal will help you meet those daily needs.
- Practice intuitive eating: Listen to your body when it tells you that you are hungry or full. And don't be afraid to eat certain foods; there are no good foods or bad foods.
- Try the power of plant-based: Try incorporating one plant-based meal into your diet each week. Tofu, chickpeas, lentils and canned/dried beans are great plant-based, protein-packed foods to try.
- Eat breakfast: It's the most important meal of the day and will help you maintain alertness and focus, whether you're working or studying.
- Stock your pantry with nutritious staples. Nut butters, canned beans, oatmeal are all healthy nonperishable options to have on hand.
Faculty and staff may be able to access nutritionists through their Extended Health Benefits.If you are concerned about food security or need to access emergency food supplies, there are resources available.
Branchflower, D.G., Oswald, A.J., Stewart-Brown, S.2013, United Kingdom
The greater the consumption of fruits and vegetables, the greater happiness and positive well-being reported
Association peaked at 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
Bruce, L.J., Ricciardelli, L.A. 2016, United States of America
Intuitive eating is an eating practice that encompasses a positive attitude towards food, body, and physical activity
Review showed that intuitive eating was related to less disordered eating, improved body image, and higher emotional functioning
Helping others adds to your sense of purpose, connection, and wellbeing. Although changing COVID-19 protocols may impact volunteering in-person with others, there are still many ways to let people know you care and give back.
- Donate to causes that are near and dear to your heart: Did you know UBC has been supporting the United Way since 1976? And donations to the AMS Food Bank help support food-insecure students who may be particularly vulnerable during this time.
- Show your nurturing side: Whether you're caring for a pet or a plant, being nurturing can be a great mood booster.
- Lend a helping hand: If you're going grocery shopping, offer to pick up essential items for friends or neighbours who may not be able to do so themselves. Be sure to stay safe and healthy by washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and arranging for contact-less drop-off.
Akinin, L.B., Barrington-Leigh, C.P., Dunn, E.W., Hwlliwell, J.F., Burns, J., et al. 2013. Canada
- Prosocial spending is associated with higher levels of happiness
- Evolution of altruistic behaviour was essential in creating large social networks, which supported the growth of early human groups
Dunn, E., Aknin, L.B., Norton, M.I. 2014, Canada
Spending money on others rather than yourself may lead to greater happiness
Greater happiness can occur when the money being spent allows for connection with people, the ability to see how donations make a difference, and the option to choose to give or not
Spending time with family, friends, and community, whether in-person or remotely, can reduce stress and provide a sense of belonging. While being responsive to changing COVID-19 protocols, there are still many ways you can connect with others while still protecting your health and the health of others.
- Join an online community! The Wellness Centre Online is a great resource for students who are feeling stressed, worried, or isolated. Learn more about health-related resources, access tips and strategies for your wellbeing, and talk to a Wellness Peer.
- Join an in-person event or meet with friends and family, while following COVID-19 protocols- While indoor in-person gatherings are becoming more common, we encourage you to get vaccinated, follow your personal comfort level, and stay informed of local health guidelines. Check out the Thrive calendar for in-person and remote ways to join an event.
- Reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with. Give them a call or send them a text to let them know you're thinking of them!
- Set up "Skype dates" with family and friends - you can share a meal, a movie, play games, or do an exercise class together. Plan to share an experience together, even if you're apart.
- Feeling Zoomed out? Try a walk and talk! As many of us return to in-person classes and work, online gatherings are still common practice and Zoom fatigue is real. If you're having a check-in or discussion that doesn't require you to be at your computer, try lacing up your running shoes and taking it outside. You'll get a bit of a movement break, and possibly boost your creativity.
MacIntyre, J.C., Worsley, J, Corcoran, R., et al. 2018, United Kingdom
- Loneliness and academic assessment stress are strong predictors of mental distress
- University social groups were the strongest protectors against mental distress
Whillans, A.V., Christie, C.D., Cheung, S., et al. 2017, Canada
Individuals in new social environments tend to perceive others as more socially connected than themselves
Individuals who perceived their peers as more socially connected reported lower well-being and belonging but over time showed a higher association with friendship formation
Mental health is diverse–and so are ways to support it. While the Thrive 5 are some of the most oft-cited ways to foster and maintain mental health, they are not the only ways. Mental health is different for everyone—and so are the ways to support it. Thrive 5+ acknowledges that what works to support some people, may not work for everyone. It is important to discover the things that help you build resiliency and cope during challenging times — whatever they may be.
For some it might be engaging in arts, culture or music, for others, meditation, or connecting with spirituality— whether that be through religion, meditation, or practicing mindfulness—might help. Many people find being in nature restorative and relaxing, while others practice gratitude. Engaging in cultural tradition can also be a great source of mental health support.
Whatever your path to mental health may look like, we hope that you will explore ways to support it at UBC—during Thrive month and beyond!
MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING SUPPORTS
As our community navigates these unprecedented times, it is important to consider ways to support mental health and resilience. If you are experiencing fear, stress, worry and isolation, please know that these feelings are natural when facing threats that are beyond our control.
If you need help in coping with these feelings, there are resources available.
Thrive 5 Infographic
Share the Thrive 5 with your colleagues, classmates, students or staff!
Want to Learn More?
If you are interested in learning more about research and literature that supports the Thrive 5, please contact Levonne Abshire (firstname.lastname@example.org), Thrive Committee co-chair.