How to improve mental health – six things to action today

From connecting with others to having a digital detox every now and again, experts advise how you can improve your mental health.

If you’re looking for advice on how to improve your mental health, the first thing to know is that things can get better.

It’s also good to know that you’re not alone. Recent data from a study of 8,000 people by Nuffield Health found that over a quarter of those aged over 55 had experienced worsening mental health in the last year.

External factors such as the cost of living crisis have undoubtedly played a major role in this. Fifty-three per cent of people aged over 55 surveyed by Nuffield Health said the crisis had negatively affected their sense of wellbeing. Mental health charity Mind has also seen a steep rise in calls to its helpline dealing with money issues.

Whilst it’s not possible to do anything about external factors such as these, it is possible to take sustainable and lasting steps to improve your mental health and overall wellbeing. With that in mind, we’ve chatted with several experts to suggest six ways you can take action today.

Older male hiker wearing a backpack smiling while standing on the top of a hillCredit: Shutterstock/Jacob Lund
Regular movement is just one way to help improve your mental health.

Find ways to connect with others

“Humans are a social species whose survival depends on cooperative relationships,” says Gosia Bowling, mental health lead at Nuffield Health. “The need for a sense of belonging is therefore programmed deeply within our biology. This helps us to understand why having meaningful relationships and a feeling of belonging are fundamental to our health and happiness.”

But don’t forget that being social means different things to each of us. For example, you might prefer quieter social situations where it’s just you and a friend catching up over a cuppa. Or you may prefer to chat with several people in a group setting.

A good way to get in the habit of connecting more with others is to try making small talk with someone new while you’re waiting in a queue. Those brief encounters, such as smiling and exchanging pleasantries, can also help to make you feel happier and improve your sense of belonging.

Two friends offering support to one another by cupping hands across a white coffee tableCredit: Shutterstock/ – Uri A
Socialising with others is important for your mental health

Kickstart a daily self-care routine

It’s all too easy for healthy habits to fall by the wayside when we don’t feel ourselves. But it’s never too late to start or reestablish a self-care routine. You can also make progress gradually, just by taking it small step by small step – such as by starting to eat one more portion of vegetables or fruit per week and building from there.

“Routine and rhythm are very important to how we function as humans,” says Dr Ellen Welch, a GP based in Cumbria. “If you’ve not kept up with your routine over recent weeks, work towards establishing a new pattern.”

As part of this, Dr Welch advises trying to maintain a regular sleep routine where you get up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends. She also recommends sticking to regular mealtimes.

Try a daily digital detox

While it’s good to know what’s going on news-wise, it can also get a little overwhelming – particularly when you throw into the mix constantly checking social media too. Stepping away from it all for a period every day is a great way to keep it in check.

“Set aside a specific time every day where you will check the news or social media and then withdraw from them altogether,” advises Dr Becky Spelman, a psychologist specialising in depression and social anxiety. “I would further advise putting your phone away and doing something different altogether – try exploring other interests instead.”

Blonde haired mature woman practising seated mindfulness at homeCredit: Shutterstock/fizkes
Tuning out from news and social media from time to time can also help

Move regularly

Exercise benefits your mental health immensely,” explains Dr Hana Patel, a specialist mental health GP who is based in London. “When you exercise, your brain makes chemicals called endorphins that make you feel happy. It also increases your sense of wellbeing and helps you to feel more relaxed.”

Research has also suggested that regular exercise of any intensity may help to prevent the onset of mental health conditions such as depression.

Find your tribe

Increasing your social circle isn’t always easy, but making connections with other like-minded people can be particularly beneficial for nurturing your sense of belonging. It’s also great for preventing loneliness.

Start by tapping into your interests and have a think about what you have previously enjoyed doing or what appeals to you that you’ve never tried before.

“You can also try looking back for inspiration,” advises Dr Linda Blair, a leading clinical psychologist who has written extensively about stress management. “Look to the past when you were more carefree, such as just before you reached adolescence. That’s the time in life when we’re most truly ourselves and when other interests shine through.”

Group of smiling multiracial male and female friends playing with a rugby ballCredit: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia
Tapping into your interests can be a great way to meet new people

Stay curious and keep learning

While we’re always learning new things, often without even realising it, we also have an innately curious nature. Tapping into this can be very beneficial for your mental health.

“Continuous learning can improve your levels of happiness, increase self-esteem and self-efficacy,” says Sara Jones, founder of the Centre of Excellence, which offers courses on everything from reiki to reflexology.

You can also stay curious by paying more attention when you’re walking outdoors and introducing a little mindfulness moment at the same time. For example, why not try looking out for three things you can hear, then see and then smell next time you’re out for a walk?

Connecting with nature and the environment around you is also proven to be good for your mental health.


Julie Penfold

Written by Julie Penfold she/her


Julie Penfold is a Staff Writer for Fitness and Wellbeing at Saga Exceptional. She’s been a specialist health and wellbeing journalist for more than 15 years and has been a finalist in three prestigious health and medical journalism awards during that time.

She has written for a wide variety of health, medical, wellbeing and fitness magazines and websites. These have included Running, TechRadar, Outdoor Fitness, Be Healthy, Top Sante,, Primary Health Care, Community Practitioner, CareKnowledge and The Guardian’s Social Care network.

Away from work, Julie is a huge Sunderland fan, loves watching football, athletics and swimming (live whenever possible!) and is a long-term vegetarian. She also loves to run, swim and practise yoga.

Previously, she loved to race too but since 2018, this has been firmly put on the backburner due to her having back-to-back sports injuries, both of which required subsequent surgery. Julie was gearing up to a return to racing after five years, but a further injury has hampered her imminent plans. Instead, recovering well is top of her list at the moment.

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