An expert has revealed the best ways to get a mental health boost in 2023 — including playing ping pong.
Dr Zoe Williams, the Sun's resident GP, shared ways to boost wellbeing and reduce anxiety — such as with niche sports like ping pong, axe throwing, darts and shuffleboard.
She said: “Everyday life – the news, relationships, jobs, or a big life change can all take its toll on our mental wellbeing.
“That’s why it’s so important to make sure we all take time in our day to do something that benefits our mood.
“The research shows that connecting with friends through sport and games, especially those that encourage friendly competition and focus, such as a game of ping pong, can have a very positive impact on our mental health.
“It helps us improve mental clarity and also strengthen connections with those you’re playing with. Whether you win or lose, it’s a guaranteed game of fun.”
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It comes after research of 2,000 adults, commissioned by Bounce, the home of ping pong, found 56 per cent find sport a stress relief with 62 per cent saying competing with friends can help them blow off steam.
But 53 per cent of Brits aren’t spending as much time in social groups as they’d like, even though 72 per cent get a boost in happiness levels from doing so.
More than four in 10 (41 per cent) of those who use sports or games to destress believe concentrating on one action allows you to ignore other things.
For 34 per cent, however, the joy is simply found in winding up friends when you win the game, while 40 per cent love the increased focus.
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With 40 per cent saying they feel happier and more relaxed (39 per cent) after a game with friends.
Just over six in 10 (62 per cent) also feel activities such as ping pong, axe throwing or mini golf make a night out more fun and engaging than simply going out to eat or drink.
Some of the key reasons adults aren’t spending as much time together as they’d like include being too busy (40 per cent), friends living too far away (36 per cent), or it being too hard to get schedules to match up (33 per cent).
Respondents feel lonely (32 per cent), disappointed (29 per cent) and sad (27 per cent) when they aren’t able to spend as much time with friends as they’d like.
But more than half feel good (56 per cent) and a sense of belonging (43 per cent) when they do.
And it emerged 66 per cent of those aged 18-34 talk about their mental health more so now compared to five years ago.
The average adult who feels the need to blow off steam, gets the urge around five times a month, according to the data.
And sports is a great way to boost wellbeing as more than half (57 per cent) said they are good at focussing and concentrating when it comes to physical activity or a game.
Those who struggle to focus do because they’re easily bored (46 per cent), they’ve got a lot on their mind (43 per cent) and they’re too tired (39 per cent).
Toby Harris, CEO of State of Play Hospitality, operator of Bounce, which is supporting Charlie Waller Trust during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond, said: “I was delighted that our research shows that whacking a ball with friends is a great way to relieve stress.
“Unlike those sports which are more of a solo act, there is a unique joy to ping pong generated by the connection between players.
“Your game, and enjoyment, is directly and physically linked to your opponent's game – and it’s amazing how players surprise themselves with their skills. It's simple, fun and makes you feel great – we all need to play more ping pong."
Helen Franks, corporate partnership manager from the Charlie Waller Trust, said: “Connecting with friends and family over a game which is active and fun can be good for both your physical and mental health.
“And learning the skills to play a new game can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. Being active, learning, and connecting with others are three of the ‘Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing’.”
DR ZOE WILLIAMS’ WELLBEING TIPS:
Physical activity releases endorphins and other mood boosting chemicals in the brain.
Whether it’s a brisk walk in the park or a quick ping pong game, physical activity and exercise reduce stress and anxiety, as well as boosting self-esteem.
Take breaks from technology
Swap the socials for serves and find the time to do activities that do not involve screens, work or social media.
Taking breaks is key to improving well being and helping us stay grounded and not overwhelmed.
Give yourself at least 10 minutes a day to step outside and breathe in some fresh air away from technology.
Spend time with friends, family, colleagues, or even find a new social group, as connecting with others and strengthening relationships can improve your mood.
Get into the competitive spirit
Socialising and getting into the competitive spirit is great for blowing off steam.
Playing sports built on focus and concentration will increase cognitive awareness, mental alertness and get your heart rate up and blood pumping, which all have a very positive impact on your mental health.
Be kind to yourself
Being kind to yourself can help to reduce levels of anxiety and depression as well as improve your ability to cope with everyday life.
It can also boost your self-esteem which in turn improves relationships with others and equips us to deal with new experiences.
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