Life&Style Writer Kelsey Baxter-Sibley talks us through her top tips for boosting your mood

Images by Jill Wellington

Content warning: this article contains mention of mental health conditions.

It’s well known that university can be a place where many people suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health problems, whether they’ve experienced them before or not. A 2019 survey found that over 20% of students polled had a mental health diagnosis and the number of students that had considered self-harm had nearly doubled since 2017. With the constant pressures of coursework and exams alongside the stresses of living with new people, being away from home and expectations of what university ‘should’ look like, it’s no wonder students’ mental health is shouldering the burden. This can often spiral amongst students as they may not know who to turn to, especially away from the familiar support networks of family and home friends. However, there are some easy ways to boost your mental health with minimal effort that can even enhance your university experience.

1. Regular exercise
It’s a widely reported fact that any form of exercise can release endorphins and make you feel happier, so trying to get into a routine of exercise even just one or two times a week could help improve your mental health in the long term. Depending on your preferences you could make the most of the leafy surroundings of Edgbaston to get out for a run, buy a gym membership for one of the university gyms, try out the pay as you go classes at the sports centre or join a sports team or society – if BUCS sport isn’t really your thing, there’s also loads of casual sports societies like Benchball or Campus League teams to try out!

2. Spending time with other people
When your mental health starts to dip, it can be easy to hide away inside and not talk to anyone, which often makes you feel even worse. Try spending more time in communal areas of your house or flat, cooking with friends or flatmates or studying with coursemates to try and get some social interaction – anything that stops you from getting trapped inside your own head is likely to make you feel better!

3. Maintaining a healthy diet
University can be one of the toughest places to stay healthy, with the newfound freedom to eat whatever you want and seemingly every takeaway you could ever want easily found on Bristol Road. However, an unhealthy diet can often be having an unseen effect on your mental health. Instead of splashing out on Uber Eats every week, try and find ways to make your own takeaway-style dishes at home – not only will they be healthier, they’ll save you money and cooking them could be a fun way to spend time with housemates!

4. Trying some mindfulness
Mindfulness – a form of self-awareness and meditation – has grown in popularity over the last few years, and is even recommended by the NHS to help lift your mood. Best of all, it’s completely free to try out – there’s loads of free apps (two of the most popular are Calm and Headspace) that allow you to try out different ways of practising it, and it can be easily incorporated into your daily routine to make a big difference on your mental health with minimal effort.

5. Trying a new hobby
University is the perfect place to try out a new hobby, with almost every society you can imagine ready and waiting for you. Joining a new society is the perfect opportunity to get out and meet new people, do something fun and also distract yourself from a bad day or low mood. Depending on your interests, you could try a relaxed society like Tea Society or the Social Introverts Society, something more niche like Cocktail Society or even give volunteering a go with one of the many groups like Student Action for Refugees or Buddy A Granny.