How positive change could improve your mental health

Three young people share their stories of how being brave enough to change an aspect of their life, or try something new, positively impacted their mental health. Feel inspired? Give it a go yourself...

positive change and mental health

Change could be exactly what you need to break out of a mental health rut

Change can be daunting. However, when your mental health has you feeling stuck in a rut, change could be exactly what you need to break free. We spoke to three people who believe positive change made a beneficial difference to their mental health.

“Creative hobbies can give you a new confidence” Andy, Brighton 

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life. When my Dad died suddenly eighteen months ago, the shock of grief quickly got cosy with those predispositions, and I felt my life shrivel up on itself. I took some time out from my studies and for six months did nothing.

Then I decided that I needed to do something that wasn’t sitting around at home. So, I started learning how to throw pots on the wheel. I hadn’t made art for years. I’d never considered myself a practical person who could make things with their hands. My first pots were terrible, but I’ve been doing it a few times a week for about a year now, and they’re coming along.

Most importantly for me, it involves working with my emotions in a nonverbal way.

It can be hard to talk about things, but expressing your fragility in a wonky bit of mud is more cathartic and helpful than you might think. That said, I have also spent the past year in regular psychotherapy, through which I have found the words to understand how exactly pottery has helped me, and what I use it for (other than for making crap vases).

Creative hobbies can give you a new confidence. They can help you see the world differently and give you a space for self-expression. They’re great – but they’re not magic, and they can’t fix everything. Sometimes you need to compliment them with other mental health practices. But what both pottery and psychotherapy have had in common for me is a feeling that I have made active choices to improve my mental health, as far as possible, and in a small way this has let me regain some sense of control over my life.

“Volunteering gave me a sense of purpose” Liv, Devon 

A couple of years ago while living in London I was working a very exciting but stressful job with lots of responsibility. The stress built up to a point where it was pretty unbearable. Anxiety was something I started to experience for the first time. 

I decided something needed to change but I wasn’t sure what until I saw an advert for Dorcas Befriending – a befriending charity set up to offer companionship to older, socially isolated people living in North London. I put it off for a while thinking I didn’t have the time to commit. After speaking to my boss, he was actually really understanding about my anxiety. He agreed to let me leave work a little early on Tuesdays so I could sign up.

I was paired with an elderly gentleman and visited him every Tuesday for the next couple of years. We got on like a house on fire! He was so grateful for the time I spent with him. It made me so happy to know I was making a difference to his life. What he didn’t realise, is that he was making a big difference to my life too. Volunteering gave me a sense of purpose that my day job didn’t. It definitely helped me feel happier, and played a part in overcoming my anxiety.

I didn’t realise sport could improve my mental health” Robbie, London 

My mental health wasn’t great before I started focusing on getting fit. I was in a bit of a rut, and my job was really full on. My way to relax was always getting pissed in the evening and on the weekends. I drank a lot, and ate badly. As a result, I put on quite a bit of weight. I wasn’t happy with the way I looked. I felt sluggish and as a result didn’t feel happy in myself.

After a serious chat with my GP about my weight, it was clear that I needed to change my lifestyle. That’s when a friend recommended trying CrossFit – a team based exercise class which involves high intensity interval training. I found the classes really hard to begin with, but I liked the challenge and actually it became an effective way to release stress. I still like going to the pub, but I find the stress releasing effects of CrossFit to be more effective and long lasting than drinking. I’ve now been going to Crossfit for over a year. I’ve lost a fair bit of weight and have met some really cool people. Most importantly, my head is in a much better space. CrossFit has helped to grow my confidence. I now have a healthy outlet for my stress.

Are you looking for a new year challenge? If you want to boost your fitness and help other young people, have you considered running a marathon for The Mix in 2019? We still have places available here.

Next Steps

  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • YoungMinds are the voice for young people's mental health and wellbeing.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Olivia Capadose

Updated on 10-Jan-2019