Mental health is how you think and feel about yourself and your role in society. It is also how you cope when times get tough. Problems you may encounter will range from general everyday worries to serious long-term conditions, all of which affect your wellbeing – the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy.
With modern life becoming increasingly hectic, the UK Government commissioned a report on the challenges we would face over the next 20 years and how they would affect our wellbeing. The resultant report, The Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing, also set out to discover what needed to be done to ensure we have the mental wellbeing to face these challenges and devised the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’. In other words, five ways to improve your wellbeing:
- Connect – do you connect with people around you? Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours? At home, work, school, in your local community?
- Be active – do you exercise? Do you get outside, go for walks, potter in the garden? Have a sustainable pattern of doing more rather than being active one day and not the rest
- Take notice – are you aware of the world around you: sights, smells, sounds, temperature? Do you take time to notice how you are feeling? Do you savour the moment?
- Keep learning – when was the last time you tried something new? Have you set yourself a challenge recently?
- Give – do you see yourself and your happiness in relation to the wider community? Have you tried volunteering? When did you last do something nice for a relative, friend or stranger?
In practice, take the example of someone who is feeling lonely and doesn’t have anyone to talk to about their anxieties and worries … perhaps they need to reconnect with those closest to them. Perhaps setting new challenges or starting a class to learn something new may also help.
Understand your wellbeing – where are you now?
The everywoman workbook, 60 minutes to wellbeing – your personal action plan (member login is required to download), takes this advice further to help you understand your wellbeing and guide you through how to apply the ‘5 ways’ to your life.
To start with, you should reflect on your current state of wellbeing by answering the five questions below and rating yourself 1-to-5 against each one, 1 being ‘not so brilliant’ and 5 being ‘doing great’.
Make a note of any you rated yourself 3 or below on, as these are areas you need to pay attention to for the dale of your wellbeing. Next, examine those that you rate a 4 or 5 for to work out why you scored them so highly. Make a note of the reasons you have done well in these categories.
Wellbeing is frustratingly transient, so your state of physical, emotional and mental wellbeing will change depending on your experiences, your perception of those experiences and the methods you use to cope with their positive or negative effects. Therefore, you should revisit this exercise from time to time to determine how you have changed and which of the areas to work on that are pertinent at that time.