Five steps to wellbeing
We know that eating five portions of fruit and veg a day can help to keep us healthy. But researchers have found that people who introduce the following five steps into their lifestyles can improve their mental wellbeing too.
|Connect||Be active||Take notice|
See how many you can already tick off - and then try and build some of the others into your daily routine.
Build those connections with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Think of these people as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing these relationships. Building stronger connections will support and enrich your life.
Our modern lifestyles seem to restrict those opportunities to connect with the people around us. But researchers have found that people with stronger social networks reap extra rewards from their relationships by feeling less stressed, by taking better care of themselves and having less risky lifestyles than those who are more isolated.
I like being outside with a lovely mix of people; different nationalities, all different age groups, no matter the diversity of where they come from or what they do, we just seem to gel together. Jill: London
Tips to help you connect
- Make that extra effort to really connect with people that matter to you. Reconnect with a family member or friend, why not organise a trip to a museum or gallery?
- At work, make sure you use your lunchtime and arrange some lunch dates with colleagues.
- Trying to broaden your personal network can be a harder challenge, but just as rewarding.
Step outside. Go for a walk or run. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and suits your level of mobility and fitness.
Doing some regular outdoor exercise can be one of the best ways to build up your mental resilience. Those of us who are more physically active have lower rates of depression and anxiety; and for people with mild to moderate depression, outdoor activities such as green gyms can be just as effective as anti-depressants.
Tips for keeping active
- Join a walking group: this can be a great way to make new connections whist getting more active. There are groups across the country who meet for short walks every week. Check out Walking for Health to find one near you.
- If you’re feeling energetic why not try jogging or running? Jogging can be fun if you can team up with a running partner. Women’s Running magazine has some useful ideas for meeting others.
- If you’re a regular at your local gym, why not swap the treadmill for the real thing and enjoy the benefits that running outdoors can bring.
Be curious. Catch sight of something beautiful today. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking, eating lunch or talking to friends. Awareness of the world around you, what you are feeling and your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
Studies have shown that being more aware of what is taking place around you can promote a positive mental state and helps to strengthen your self-awareness. Being more self aware can help you to make choices that are more inline with your values and motivations. Taking this ownership of your decision making can be important if you want to make lasting changes in your life.
Take notice tips
- On a crisp winter’s day a visit to park can be invigorating, especially if you have children. Look out for signs of spring; you'll be surpirised at what you can spot.
- Take more notice of what you eat. We all know that our bodies benefit from healthy eating, but one of our most amazing organs - the brain - needs a mix of nutrients to function well. Eating more fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds, oily fish and plenty of water will give your mind a boost. Unfortunately, you need to cut back on the amount of sugary foods, salt and alcohol you consume!
Try something new or rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Learning new things is fun and will make you more confident.
Keeping your mind active through learning something new can be very satisfying and boost your confidence too. You don’t have to enrol in college or university either as the internet has opened many possibilities for learning something new.
Since being involved I've learnt an awful lot about bikes and went out and bought my own tools and fix my own bikes now. I feel confident in my abilities and have gone on to try my hand at other things. (Ecominds, Bike Club volunteer)
Tips for keep learning
- Try and learn something new every day - even if it's just searching online for something you’ve heard on the radio or TV.
- Fancy doing some pottery? Most adult education centres have a fantastic range of arts and crafts courses for beginners and can be great for making new connections too. Check your local council's website to see what’s on offer.
- Check out an Ecominds project. Mind has faunded 130 projects across England – use our map to find a project near you. Every project is different, from gardening to fixing bikes – see if there’s something for you.
Do something nice for a friend, or even a stranger. Take time to thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
It might seem odd, but studies have shown that those who help others report that they have higher levels of wellbeing and happiness. Giving doesn't mean having to part with any cash either. It's probably more rewarding to get involved in projects which need your time and mental energy.
I leave the allotment with a sense of satisfaction and contentment, I have such a relaxing night after being on the allotment. I have made friends that I can talk to: that helps my worries go away and I don’t feel so isolated. (Matt, Bristol).
Tips for giving
- Pass on a compliment! This can be an excellent way to build relationships and take more notice of what’s happening around you.
- Get involved in a cause that means a lot to you. Volunteers are often the lifeblood of community groups so your time and skills can be put to good use. Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people and can give you a sense of doing something positive.
Note: The information here is based on Five ways to wellbeing developed by nef (new economics foundation). Nef’s work was part of government’s 2008 Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing.