Press release

Mental Health Awareness Week - five tips to help yourself

Published on 14 May 2024

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. For many of us, mental health often takes second place to our physical wellbeing, but this year’s event aims to highlight how movement and mind complement one another.

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The University of Dundee’s School of Health Sciences has arranged two walks – at its campuses in Dundee and Kirkcaldy - throughout the week to get everyone moving and to think more about their own mental health.

The University is home to several experts on the subject. Here, Dr Mike Ramsay and Paul Smith have come together to provide some simple tips that we can all strive to incorporate into our daily routines to help us increase energy levels, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost self-esteem.

1: Movement

Movement is the theme of this year’s event, with people urged to take some steps – literally – that will improve their mental wellbeing.

“We all know that movement is good for our mental health, but this can mean different things to different people,” says Paul.

“Movement doesn’t necessarily have to be a workout in the gym, playing a sport or going for a run. Just getting up and moving around has so many benefits. Even a gentle walk can change our mood dramatically and if you want to exert yourself a little further then do so by all means.

“We have a lift at our Fife campus but I always take the stairs. It makes my heart rate go up and cardiac output go up. It also increases my steps. Recent evidence suggests that people who climb stairs regularly as a simple form of movement are at a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

“We are blessed to have so many places to get out and about – beaches and coastal walks throughout Fife and Tayside, the Lomond Hills, promenades at Kirkcaldy, Broughty Ferry and Leven – which are easily accessed and open to all.”

2: Self Compassion 

There is nothing selfish about taking time to look after yourself. Focusing on the things that make us happy make us stronger, happier individuals.

“Being in the present - or mindfulness - helps us to build resilience and can be an outlet to relieve stress,” says Mike. “Finding ‘me time’ in a busy lifestyle is vital. My own doctoral studies explored this, proposing that we better maintain healthy relationships when we are self-compassionate. It is not selfish but helpful. I rewarded my study efforts with bike rides, personal time or football, so I consciously, periodically refocussed so I could recharge.

“Learning to relax or to mindfully make time for yourself assists with relieving stress, helps to promote better sleep and can help reframe our thinking onto positive things. Just a few moments to do this can have significant benefits.

“Try and do more nourishing activities,” continues Paul. “These are actions which give us pleasure, boost our energy and improve our mood. Continue or consider restarting hobbies, go out with a friend, or finish a task you have avoided doing. Another thing to try is writing down five things that are important to you. Is there anything on that list that surprises you?”

3: Connect

While society is becoming increasingly digitised, that and the pandemic has served to highlight the importance of our personal relationships.

“Being connected socially is generally associated with good mental wellbeing,” says Mike. I cycle weekly with friends, meet another group to watch football, enjoy badminton and sing in Dundee Gaelic Choir, which all engage me socially with different people and offer varied, meaningful social outlets.

“Coming together with others gives us a feeling of self-affirmation and while it makes us feel good, it makes those around us feel good too.”

Our brains flourish with healthy relationships,” adds Paul.

“It’s the quality of relationships that matter, not the number, so make time to invest in good relationships.”

4: Cut back on social media

Reaching for our phones and tablets is a reflex for many of us, with social media platforms often our first port of call. But doing so exposes us to content that can be potentially damaging for our mental health.

Paul says,Much of social media is aspirational and can induce feelings of inadequacy or failure. It can also promote insecurities about our lifestyle, or way we look. 

“Social media does have many positives – it allows us to easily keep in touch with our peers and wider community – but limiting our exposure also protects us from the nastier side of these platforms, which can negatively impact our mental wellbeing.

“I rarely post on my news feed now. I keep most of my social media posting to a private mental health community group. Doing this makes me feel I might be able to make some small changes within a positive and supportive community. This boosts my self-esteem and keeps me connected to people who have an interest in mental health.”

Research shows that there is an increased risk of mental ill-health when a person’s daily screen time exceeds seven hours,” adds Mike. 

“Additionally, younger people are more distractible, less able to complete tasks, and more emotionally reactive when they have excessive screen time.”

5: Eat well

Enjoying a healthy, nutritious diet not only nurtures our body, but our mind as well.

“Eating a healthy diet – including avoiding too much alcohol and caffeine - boosts our sense of wellbeing in every way,” says Mike. “This increases physical wellbeing which assists with de-stressing and mental wellness. 

“Thinking about five-a-day fruit and veg dietary intake and limiting alcohol to 14 units a week can all really help.”

A good rule is to look at the list of ingredients of the food you buy,” says Paul. “If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it’s probably processed or something that won’t be good for either your body or your brain. The traffic light system that you see on UK foods offers a clear message whether food has high, medium, or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Eating lots of saturated fat is associated with a heightened risk of anxiety and depression and can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.”

Get involved

The University’s School of Health Sciences is encouraging everyone to get moving as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, with two walks arranged for members of the public, as well as University staff and students. Even pets are welcome to get involved, with full details below:

Dundee – Thursday 16 May, 12:30pm, School of Health Sciences, Airlie Place. The walk will leave from here, heading to Magdalen Green before returning approximately 30 minutes later.

Kirkcaldy - Friday 17 May, 12:00pm at Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy. Please meet at the main car park.


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489