Leading health experts have come up with a list of ways to stay mentally well.

Avoiding illegal drugs and debt, as well as “prioritising fun”, were among some of the actions people can take to help stay mentally fit, according to the research compiled by the British charity, Mental Health Foundation.

Spending time in parks and gardens can help, as can “remaining curious for new experiences”, it found.

The research suggested people can also help maintain their mental health by keeping physically fit and eating healthily.

The authors said the findings point to the “fundamentals of life that protect our mental health” and they criticised the concept of “miracle cures” billed to improve well-being that “take advantage of people’s vulnerability”.

Researchers wanted to find the best “preventative self-management actions” – or healthy behaviours – people can engage in to help maintain good mental health.

They asked a team of 23 international experts to come up with a list of behaviours which can help people sustain good mental health.

The actions were then put to a group of almost 1,500 people who had lived with a mental health condition who voted on the “most appropriate” actions that people can take.

The list of behaviours, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, included:

– Avoid illicit drugs

– Avoid unmanageable debt

– Improve quantity and quality of sleep

– Learn to understand, regulate and manage your mood

– Prioritise fun or have something to look forward to

– Spend time in green spaces

– Seek help

– Remain curious and open for (new) experiences

– Have a healthy diet

– Help others, contribute to something bigger

– Engage in physical activity

– Practise gratitude and cultivate hope

– Strengthen social connections

– Get support for good parenting practice

The authors said the list “should be used in public messaging and campaigns to protect and promote good mental health”.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Mental Health Foundation director for England and Wales, said: “We know that the means to practice this advice are not readily available to everyone.

“For example, poverty, low education and isolation may mean that for some individuals it is not possible to avoid unmanageable debt.

“Now that we have this clear evidence, governments should take action that empowers people to better look after their own mental health.

“Our research shows that it’s the fundamentals of life that protect our mental health: our finances, our relationships and our experiences.

“Time and time again, we’ve seen a powerful wellness industry taking advantage of people’s vulnerability to offer ‘miracle cures’ in exchange for improved well-being. Our evidence challenges the notion that this is what most people want.

“The majority of people in our study, with the hindsight of their experience of poor mental health, told us that getting some support to avoid illicit drugs and unmanageable debt, to sleep better and to regulate their emotions, is what would have made the biggest difference to them.”

According to RTE

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