Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: The Five Pillars to Wellbeing
Feelings of wellbeing are fundamental to the overall health and enables us to successfully overcome difficulties and achieve what we want out of our life.
Wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It’s a complex combination of a person's physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Wellbeing is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction. In short, wellbeing could be described as how you feel about yourself and your life.
The five pillars to integral wellbeing are:
Part 1: Connect
So, to start of let us look at connecting at work and supporting one another with our wellbeing.
Connections are a corner stone to our wellbeing and investing time in building and developing them is a crucial step to healthy support network. You can share both the good times and the difficulties times you face.
Talking about mental health at work
Starting a conversation about someone’s wellbeing at work can be difficult.
Sometimes it can be daunting to start the conversation as we might worry that we could make the situation worse and worry that we are overstepping professional boundaries.
Remember, no one expects you to be an expert at this. But, if you can simply listen and then sign post a colleague to extra support or information, you are actually making a difference.
The right conditions
Choose a place and time where you can speak privately - maybe you could suggest a brief walk outside, a quite meeting room or you go grab a coffee together.
Choose the right time – maybe during a break, lunchtime or perhaps a private meeting where you won’t be interrupted.
Create the right conditions for active listening – give affirmative physical and/or verbal nods.
Ask open questions
Ask them “how are you today?” – Making it about the person can sometimes prevent the automatic “I’m fine response”.
“I’ve noticed that you haven’t quite seemed yourself lately, tell me how your feeling”.
“What support do you have in place?” “Are there people you can talk to?”
Reassure them that’s it’s ok to talk
“I want you to know that I’m here to listen and help if you need me to”
Part 2: Be Active
Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to significantly reduce levels of anxiety and depression across all age groups.
People who take part in regular exercise reduce the risk of anxiety and depression by 30%. Exercise has been sown to have a huge positive impact on the quality of life for those affected by mental health difficulties.
Exercise improves our overall mood, eases the stress response (we live in a world that’s packed with psychosocial stressors), alleviate anxiety and reduce frustration and anger, and its been shown to slow cognitive decline.
You don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to boost your wellbeing through activity.
You could simply go outside and get those green fingers going in the garden, go for a walk, run, cycle or swim.
Perhaps take up hiking and camping in your spare time – really connecting back with nature.
The most important thing is to find out what type of physical activity you enjoy and which suits your mobility and fitness.
During working hours, you could get your colleagues to go outside for a walk during a lunch break or schedule an outdoor ‘walking meeting’.
Any form of exercise releases hormones that make us feel good.
Part 3: Take Notice
Be mindful and take stock of your surroundings. Be curious and catch the sight of naturally beautiful things.
Being in a state of ‘mindfulness’ has been repeatedly shown to be associated with a positive mental attitude. Mindfulness can reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and tension. Mindfulness to reduce anxiety Meditation can be as easy as finding a sliver of space and opening up an app.
Go for a walk – being outside does wonders for anxiety, depression, and stress. Simply pay attention to all those sounds around you, the feeling of the wind on the skin, the smells permeating the air around you. Switch off your phone and do your best to stay present in the moment by focusing on all your senses.
Savour the moment – whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends or colleagues. Be fully present to your feelings and the environment.
Reflecting – on your experiences are a great way to be still and process information. Reflecting like this helps you to really appreciate what matters to you.
Part 4: Keep Learning
Learning something new is extremely good for the brain as it leads to a net increase in new neurons developing.
Discovering new things, rediscovering an old interest or signing up for a course on something you’ve often thought about doing can improve self-confidence, bolster self-esteem and widen your skill set.
Perhaps challenge yourself and take on more responsibility at work, try some art and crafts or pick up an untried recipe in the kitchen.
The challenge, enjoyment and personal gratification of learning new things provides us with a sense of fulfilment that is very rewarding.
People who carry on learning after childhood report higher levels of wellbeing and a greater ability to cope with stress. They also report more feelings of self-esteem, hope and purpose. When we are learning we are often focusing our mind's attention on the here-and-now.
Research has shown that setting goals and working towards them plays an important role in the way learning influences well-being. Setting targets and hitting them can create positive feelings of accomplishment and achievement and can also be motivating to do more.
Part 5: Give
Giving encompasses many things – from giving presents and showing good will to generosity of spirit and giving up our time.
Research suggests that ‘giving back’ or helping others promotes wellbeing but also boost the bodies natural immune system for all ages.
So, why not do something nice for a friend, work colleague or a stranger. Thank someone.
Perhaps you could even volunteer your time with a charity you favour or join an online community to give and receive peer support in equal measures.
Volunteering has been shown to have huge positive effects on the immune system.
The key to giving is to look outwards, what can you do for others, as well as looking inwards.
Seeing yourself ‘giving back’, and your overall happiness, linked to a wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates quality connections with the people around you.
I personally can vouch for all these positive benefits as I still ‘give back’ at a local rehab, as that’s where many own journeys of wellbeing began over 7 years ago.
For me, it’s all about gratitude which is integral to my happiness, health, and social bonds and it promotes feelings of self-worth knowing that you're offering much-needed resources to a great cause for those in need.