By Suzanne Traynor @Traynors
Associate Professor Mental Health (Practice) at Middlesex University & My Care Academy.
The new year had hardly begun, and we were bombarded with “What is your new year’s resolution?” We can decide to make changes to our lives that will have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing at any point and there is really nothing special about January.
Feeling pressurised by others as well as the media to make changes because it is a new year can result in us attempting changes that are almost impossible to maintain in the long term.
But what if we did want to make some changes – where could we begin?
I came across 5 steps to mental wellbeing before the Christmas break and thought it could be a useful starting point when thinking about new year resolutions.
The 5 steps to mental wellbeing:
- Be active
- Keep learning
- Give to others
- Be mindful
Time spent talking to others and investing in meaningful relationships has a positive influence on our wellbeing.
Our ease of access to social media allows us to connect with others but we know that for some people this can also result in poor self-esteem and self-worth as it can encourage comparisons to others ‘perfect ‘ lives. Having an awareness of how we are using social media is important as well as the effect it may be having on our wellbeing.
However, we cannot lose sight that it can also bring significant positive effects to help connect people who may otherwise be lonely and isolated. On Christmas day using the hashtag #joinin, the comedian @SarahMillican75 welcomed people via Twitter who were feeling lonely and isolated to connect online and offered a kind and friendly support.
Keeping in touch by telephone can provide the personal contact that we need with our friends and families when it is not possible due to distance or other commitments to meet in person. Skype and Facetime enable us to see and hear our loved ones. Organising to have lunch with a friend or work colleague as well as taking up a new hobby could enable us to make some new friends even if it means stepping outside our comfort zone. These are all positive ways of taking care of our wellbeing.
We know that to maintain our physical and mental wellbeing we have to keep moving and adults need up to 150 hours of moderate intensity physical activity such as brisk walking, cycling or dancing. What is important is to find a physical activity that is enjoyable and makes us feel good! If you don’t know where to begin you could have a go at the Couch to 5k and use this step by step guide to increase your physical activity.
Lifelong learning has been shown to improve our sense of optimism and satisfaction in our lives.
Our sense of achievement and the “feel good factor” when we succeed in learning a new skill, as well as the opportunity to make new friends as well as sharing what we have learned with others all have a positive impact on our wellbeing.
Give to others
Small acts of kindness can be a great way of helping others and at the same time helping us to feel good about ourselves. Volunteering to support others can enhance our sense of wellbeing and self-worth. It also enables us to focus on others and gives us a sense of purpose. For some, this can fill a gap in their lives that would otherwise leave them lonely and isolated.
Mindfulness is a skill that anyone can learn that helps us become more aware of what is happening in our mind, body and surroundings.
All new skills need to be practiced on a regular basis and there is growing evidence that daily practice of mindfulness has a positive effect on health and wellbeing.
Your new year resolution may have already fallen by the wayside, but it is never too late to restart and refresh your plans. Look for one small change that you feel motivated to take on and think about finding a buddy, so you can support each other.