Whistle while you work: Tips for mental health in the workplace

Five suggestions to help improve your mental health at work. ​

We've all experienced how the workplace affects our mental health: the ups that come with feeling useful and productive and the tension that follows conflict or frustration. There are many little things we can do while we're at work to boost and maintain mental health-and none of them require contorting yourself into a cross-legged position and levitating above your desk.

Here are some tips from Candace Nykiforuk and her PLACE Research Lab on how you and your colleagues can support each other's mental health, while having fun at the same time:

  1. Hug a tree.
    Spending time in nature is strongly associated with robust mental health. Don't worry, you don't need sap on your shirt to feel the benefits. Even views of nature, indoor plants and designs that mimic naturally occurring patterns, can have relaxing effects.

  2. Unplug and catch some Zzz's.
    Sleep is fundamental for mental health but many of us aren't getting enough. Avoid checking work emails in the evenings before you go to bed and support your colleagues' sleep efforts by not emailing them about work-related issues late at night, if possible.

  3. Spread the love.
    A bit of altruism goes a long way both for yourself and the people you're helping. Gather some co-workers and volunteer as a group for your favourite local charity.

  4. Open your circle.
    Feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance is very important in maintaining mental health. The nature of many workplaces is that there are groups and sub-groups, newbies and veterans, and it can be difficult to navigate a complex social hierarchy. A simple "good morning" or "come sit with us" are small gestures that can go a long way.

  5. Get physical.
    Physical activity is great for mental health and is easily combined with the tips for getting out into nature and socializing. Many people benefit from a work-out buddy to keep them accountable. Why not recruit your colleagues to join you in a lunchtime walk or after-work yoga?

Remember, mental health isn't a one-time achievement. Your mental state fluctuates and maintaining mental health is a lifetime practice. Take advantage of recent social media campaigns like Canadian Mental Health Week and Bell's Let's Talk to normalize conversations about mental health in the workplace. Now, #getloud and have a wonderful spring!

This article originally appeared on The Sandbox, a blog space for healthy school workplaces created by the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan.

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