It makes sense for your body to feel good whether life is hard or not, to be the best you can physically as well as mentally.

If you feel well, you can deal better with the things which might get you down, stress you out and even make you depressed or suicidal. If you've been paying attention to the stuff about your mental health being affected by your body, that's another good reason to look after it better as it might be causing the stress or depression.

And if none of that rough stuff gets too close, you can just get more out of life and feel good anyway!

So how can you help your body feel good?

Understanding it, and how it works for a start. Teenshealth has a straight-talking section on Body - from growing up to getting braces, popping pimples to catching some ZZZs, giving you the basics on your changing body - from head to toe, and how to look after it.

If you think there is something wrong, get it checked out and treated. If you have a physical illness or disability you have special considerations for how to be as well as possible.

Bodies have basic needs including getting the right amount of food, exercise and rest. 

All things in moderation (not too much) are ok , and we won't go on about bad habits as you can read all about why smoking, alcohol and drinking, drugs and substance abuse and eating disorders are not very good for your health. And clearly self harm is extremely bad for it. So getting all those sorted out is a basic step.

NHS Choices has a lot of sensible advice on how a healthy diet can help you look and feel great. Don't follow the latest food fad: find out the truth about eating well and what your body actually needs.

Did you know good food is good for your mood? It's not just your body you're feeding - your mind is affected by what you eat, too.

Youngminds.org have great advice on looking after yourself by getting better eating habits and they explain why this helps your mental health. It doesn't have to cost a fortune either. The Royal College of Pyschiatrists gives tips for brain food on a budget :

  1. Avoid ready meals and takeaways. They are usually bad for you and poor value for money.
  2. Crisps, ice creams and sweets should be kept as an occasional treat.
  3. Buy fruits and vegetables in season, when they're cheaper. Check what's in season here.
  4. Buy fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables and meats in small amounts and more often since they go off easily.
  5. Avoid tinned foods as they're usually more expensive. For example, dried beans and pasta are less expensive than canned beans and processed pasta.
  6. Avoid fizzy drinks and fruit juices. They are often quite expensive. Use water and fruit instead.
  7. Compare prices in local shops and supermarkets and take advantage of special offers.
  8. Use “generic” supermarket brands instead of classic brands. They often contain the same ingredients but are cheaper.
  9. Cook and eat together with others and share the costs.
  10. Make a shopping list and plan your food budget every week. If you feel you cannot do this on your own, ask for help.

Everyone knows that exercise is good for your body - but did you know that it's important for your mental health, too?

That is, if it's done properly. But laughing is good for you anyway...

Scientists have discovered that exercise makes your brain release chemicals that make you feel good - the same chemicals that you get from antidepressants. For mild depression, research shows that physical activity can be as good as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). So exercise makes you feel good and can even help you feel better if there is something wrong.

Doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week could include things like walking the dog, or cycling, or walking instead of catching the bus.

If you live in or near Cambridge or Peterborough the YMCA have a great price for using their gyms and lots of fitness and exercise classes at an extra cost per class. They also offer courses for qualifications including fitness instructor.

The right amount and quality of sleep is important, too.

Part of looking after yourself is knowing when to stop and learning how to chill out. It's about feeling good and recharging your batteries, not just switching off from stress. Learn how to chill out. Learn how to relax.

Failing to take time to recharge your batteries and relax leave you stressed and exhausted and also can contribute to some mental health problems such as anxiety or depression or make existing mental disorders worse.

Relaxation is vital to help our minds and bodies switch off from the pressures we all face at times whether or not things are particularly rough. So it's a good habit to cultivate to keep you feeling well not just to get you up when you've been feeling down.

Chilling out doesn't mean just doing nothing! Anything you enjoy doing makes a change from doing the stuff which has to be done, and it can wear you out without stressing you out. Youngminds suggest :

Top tips – ways to relax

  • Taking up a hobby – people who have stressful jobs often find that taking up a hobby can help them switch their brains off from work pressures once they are away from work. For example, if you are knitting, you are concentrating on what your fingers are doing rather than thinking about that essay that needs handing in next week that is stressing you out. Often when you go back to the thing that you were finding stressful, you can cope better having taken a break from it and switching off.
  • Aerobic exercise – exercise where the heart rate is increased releases endorphins which make you feel good. Exercises could include going to the gym or sport such as football or netball but could also include cycling, skate boarding, surfing, riding a horse, swimming – think about the type of things you are interested in and build your exercise around that.
  • Walking – walking also releases endorphins but can also help you to switch off from pressures as you take in the scenery around you and get into a steady rhythm  – and can be a far more pleasant way to travel than on a stuffy tube or busy loud bus which in itself can be stressful. Getting fresh air also helps you to relax and sleep better.
  • Yoga – yoga, tai chi and pilates are designed around relaxation and breathing techniques which can all aid relaxation.
  • A warm bath – it sounds simple but a nice warm bath helps the muscles relax and encourages a general feeling of relaxation. Aromatherapy candles or bubble bath could also help your mind to relax and some people find listening to chilled music while you are having a soak helps.
  • Watching a film or reading a book – escapism is a great way to switch off from reality for a while and help the mind to relax.

Spending quality time with friends or family can also be a great way to enjoy your free time.

If you enjoy massage, aromatherapy or find acupuncture, hynotherapy, EFT or any other alternative treatments help you to feel better and to relax, make the most of them too so long as you have a reputable therapist.

Your mind and your body affect each other so they both need caring for, so you can get more out of life.

The page was last updated on 18 June 2014 by andrea.bateman.

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