When you talk about art or creativity, people’s response is often that they can’t draw, or that they just aren’t good at being creative. At its simplest, creativity is using original ideas to invent something (physical or otherwise) – if you open a dictionary, pick a word and think of everything you associate with it – that is creativity at its core. This is an activity called free association (often used in psychology and therapy to learn about how a person processes information).
We often provide children with opportunities to be creative (both in school and outside of it), and when given the opportunity, we love to do it ourselves – adult colouring books were first successful around 2013 and began rising in popularity from 2015. So, why do we love it so much?
Creative activities can:
- Boost social inclusion and facilitate a sense of belonging.
- Improve mental wellbeing.
- Help reduce physical symptoms and improve physical health.
- Improve self confidence and self-esteem.
- Build resilience.
- Help develop fine motor skills and vision.
- Create focus and aid brain development and learning.
- Promote a sense of agency.
Art and creativity aren’t just painting and drawing. You can get involved by creative writing, scrapbooking, singing, dancing, acting, playing – anything that means you are inspired and that makes you feel good (even just watching or listening provides these benefits). Creativity allows us to express ourselves without judgement. Given all these benefits, why not try and incorporate more of these activities in your day-to-day? Change up your habitual patterns, spend more time outside, or try a different hobby (or start up an old one!).
GCSE Results Day 2013: I don’t ever remember being nervous about my GCSE results in terms of grades – I’d enjoyed the two years and my parents were always telling me as long as I did the best I could, it was fine. I ended up doing pretty well, and the most nerve-wracking part was going to the school hall to collect them and there being some kind of weird tension. It was broken when you got your results, but because nobody had ever done it before and we didn’t know what we were doing, it just created this very nervous atmosphere. My friends all did well too, and so we spent the rest of the day hanging out and enjoying ourselves. I already knew I was going to go to sixth form and had a pretty good idea of the subjects I wanted to take (in hindsight, I should not have picked all three sciences and maths).
A-Level Results Day 2015: I was predicted reasonably high grades, and I’d been revising for months – when I sat the exams, I knew things probably weren’t going to go my way. I was pretty devastated when I realised that even though I’d done everything I could, I wasn’t ‘clever’. School didn’t open until 10am, but UCAS released your university offers around 8am – so I knew I hadn’t got into my first choice, but I had got into my insurance. A lot of tears ensued as I’d built up my first choice to be the only mark of success, and it really affected the way I thought about myself. I went and got my grades and slowly came to terms with the fact I hadn’t done as well as I thought. I remember having a conversation with a friend when we were out that evening who said ‘well, you’re going to show them exactly what they’ve missed out on!’, and it’s something I’ve remembered ever since.
I had two very, very different experiences on my results days. One was pretty great and the other was not so much. I ended up going to university and doing my bachelor’s and a post graduate diploma and I did very well in both. Over time, I learnt that no grade is worth burning out over, and your grades are not necessarily a reflection of you, your intelligence or your academic potential. I’ve always known the kind of path I wanted to go down but even so, it changed over time. It wasn’t until I got to the third year of university that I truly knew what I was going to do. The most important things to remember are don’t think about what anyone else is doing – focus on you; let yourself feel whatever you feel, and there is always a different way to get to where you’re going. You have time to figure it out!
Unfortunately, a significant amount of young people grow up judging themselves by results and outcomes, rather than the effort they put in and the progress they’ve made along the way.
I was one of those people. My self–esteem fluctuated with the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the tasks I was completing. Whether it was academics, sport or other parts of school life that support ‘social status’, I would define my own self-worth by the outcome, rather than looking intrinsically at my values and how I went about getting to the result.
When it comes to exam results, this issue is more prevalent than ever. Many 16-18-year olds are being crippled by the uncertainty that results bring. It’s normal to have feelings of anxiety and to a point, a fear of failure. However, when you are completely focussed on the outcome of a situation, that fear of failure can become overwhelming and completely dictate how you live day to day. Avoiding new experiences for the fear of appearing inadequate, and missing opportunities that could teach them valuable life lessons or more importantly, be some of most enjoyable times of their life.
To me, addressing this problem begins with redefining what we interpret as failure and how we then decide to move forward. Feelings of failure tend to stem from the difference between our expectations and the outcome itself. I’m not proud to say that I was disappointed with all my results, but now looking back, I can say this was entirely unjustified. What could have resolved this?
‘SMARTER’ or more appropriate goals, a better awareness of my own strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly, not comparing myself to other people. Is this easy while you’re stood in a room full of your peers, discussing and comparing grades? Absolutely not. However, try to remind yourself that you’re on your own personal journey. Four years into life ‘post exam results’, I haven’t followed any of my best laid plans. They’ve always found a way to become unstuck, and usually this has been completely outside of my control.
Try to see failures as an opportunity for growth. Try to see rejection as ‘redirection’. It could be from sixth form, college, or university, but remember, when one door closes, you tend to focus on it. Always remember more doors than you can even comprehend are still wide open and waiting for you.
Play is defined as engaging in an activity for enjoyment, rather than a serious or practical purpose. It is decided upon and controlled according to an individual’s instinct, imagination and interests, as part of an experience. We often think of play as being something children do to foster cognitive, social, emotional and physical wellbeing and development – but its benefits mean that we should all be trying to play a bit more.
- Play relieves stress – it triggers endorphin (feel-good chemicals) release
- Play improves brain function – challenging the brain prevents memory problems and the social interaction helps protect our mental wellbeing
- Play boosts creativity – everyone learns best when they’re relaxed and having fun, and it helps you adapt, and solve problems
- Play improves our relationships – sharing a playful experience fosters empathy and trust, helps us form new relationships and deal better with stress
- Play gives us energy – it boosts your energy and can even promote physical health
- Play promotes important skills – it builds confidence, resilience, independence and our ability to cope. It develops our social and physical skills too
Outdoor play is particularly good – it is a protective factor for our mental wellbeing. For our young people, it is important we enable independent play opportunities as these are often being diminished in the present day. You can spend time playing with children to share the benefits. Play isn’t just toys and games or using our imagination – it’s reading books, art, films, music, comedy, singing, dancing, trying something new and even daydreaming. ‘Play is the purest expression of love’ – Stuart Brown, MD
We all know how much better we feel after spending some time with our friends. In fact, social support is often one of the first things we think of when discussing mental health – ‘have you talked to someone about that?’. Social support is defined as the view that you, as an individual, are cared for, respected, and supported by a group of people. It also has positive effects on our physical health – which is linked to our mental wellbeing too. The effects of social support are seen across the whole life span – social support is just as important for young children, elderly people and adults.
Despite this (very obvious) relationship, there isn’t a whole lot of research that’s been done on the role of social support in mental wellbeing, or how we can boost it. However, what we do know is that good quality social support can enhance our resilience to stress. We don’t exactly know how this happens; we think it’s because social support moderates our genetics and our environment, having both psychosocial (for example, using effective coping strategies) and neurobiological (for example, increasing oxytocin – the attachment or bonding hormone), which make it more likely that we have good mental wellbeing.
We know that for people who are struggling with their mental health, improving social support systems can help this too. Not only can it help to alleviate psychological distress, it can foster hope in communities that struggle (like economically deprived areas). For people who have been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, higher perceived social support (how good we think support from our social circles is), there are better outcomes in terms of symptoms, recovery and social functioning.
What’s clear from this is it’s not the quantity of our friendships, but rather the quality. Not only this, it is critical how we view our support systems. Make sure you reach out to a friend today – even if it’s just a 15 minute phone call, a video chat, meeting up in person or just a quick text – you never know what difference you might make.
When we hear a child making negative, self-critical comments, our first instinct can be to rush in and contradict them. We try to reassure them and begin rolling off examples of their talents and beauty. But no matter how sincere or well-meaning our comments are, they almost never seem to sink in when a child is struggling with low self-esteem.
Research has shown that when you map self-esteem against age, you find self esteem rises slightly between the ages of 4 and 11, then remains stagnant from 11 to 15, increases markedly from 15 to 30 and then rises slowly to a peak at about 60 years old before tailing off slowly again past 70 and then dropping drastically past 90. So, depending on the age of the person whose self-esteem you are trying to build, you could find various barriers to that or indeed periods where it is easier to build. Take comfort in the fact that self-esteem will naturally improve throughout our life, sometimes children just need a bit of a helping hand to get things started.
Children and young people with high self-esteem often:
- Have a positive image of themselves.
- Are confident.
- Can make friends easily and are not anxious with new people.
- Can play in groups or on their own.
- Will try and solve problems on their own, but if not able to will ask for help.
- Can be proud of their achievements.
- Can admit mistakes and learn from them.
- Will try new things and adapt to change.
Children and young people with low self-esteem often:
- Have a negative image of themselves, they might feel bad, ugly, unlikeable or stupid.
- Lack confidence.
- Find it hard to make and keep friendships and may feel victimised by others.
- Feel lonely and isolated.
- Tend to avoid new things and find change hard.
- Can’t deal well with ‘failure’.
- Tend to put themselves down and might say things like “I’m stupid” or “I can’t do that”.
- Are not proud of what they achieve and always think they could have done better.
- Are constantly comparing themselves to their peers in a negative way.
It’s important to recognise the role that social media has, and continues to play, on self-esteem. Especially when it comes to body image. Many young people follow a large number of celebrity, or fitness/body inspiration accounts. Every time they open up an app like Instagram, they are confronted with images of people (often photoshopped or posed purely to accentuate certain attributes) that we deem ‘beautiful’ or attractive. They then compare themselves to this unrealistic, unattainable standard and inevitably come up short. As 99.9% of all of us would! Encourage children (or maybe yourself!) to evaluate the accounts that they follow. Does the content on your feed bring you joy? Does it add something to your day or teach you something? If the answer is no, consider unfollowing the accounts that you find negative. There are so many accounts and individuals that foster a positive environment and encourage self-acceptance, as well as offering helpful bits of advice, often from their own experiences. Even if its just an account that posts cute or funny pictures, try to follow more profiles that bring a little bit of joy to your feed.
Trying simply to protect a child and their self-esteem can sometimes backfire, setting them up for failure when someone or something contradicts the beliefs that you have tried so hard to instil in them. For example, if you tell someone repeatedly that they are really smart and talented, this can actually push them into avoidant behaviours when they are confronted with a difficult situation. Imagine a test that this person is nervous about, they may put off studying so that if they don’t do well on the test, they can convince themselves and others that this is because they didn’t have time to revise. We often do this subconsciously in order to try and protect the image we have created of ourselves.
A better area to focus on is to encourage them to engage fully with situations, task, challenges and interactions that they undertake. We’ll look more closely at ways to achieve this shortly.
The real key to increasing self-esteem is to move beyond focusing on oneself. Real self-esteem isn’t about believing that you are this incredibly special and wonderful person. Real self-esteem means letting go of that question; “Am I good enough?” And knowing that in fact yes, you are good enough. Don’t hold yourself to the standards of others. Compete with yourself.
So, how do we begin to move beyond the self-focus and harsh self-evaluation? Research shows that the key lies in addressing the fundamental needs of connection, competence and choice.
Connection involves building meaningful relationships that foster a sense of belonging.
Competence is about embracing learning and pursuing improvement.
Choice is allowing children to develop their own set of personal values and make decisions that reflect those.
Show your child lots of love and be positive about them as a person – tell them about the positive traits they possess that make them a loveable, rounded person.
Set an example of having a positive attitude when faced with challenges and using positive coping strategies to deal with stress/worry etc.
Let them know you value effort rather than perfection. Children can miss out on lots because they don’t try, because they are fixated on not ‘succeeding’.
Encourage them to try new challenges and celebrate them for it. Phrases like “Well done, that was hard, and you still managed it,” are good. Start with small, manageable challenges, and then increase the difficulty as you begin to feel more comfortable. The same as you would with any training, it’s about small steps and small improvements.
Help them set attainable goals and make plans for things they’d like to accomplish. Keeping track builds good feelings about each milestone achieved. It’s good to have both long- and short-term goals in order to highlight progress.
Let them know they should not be afraid to voice their ideas and opinions. It’s ok when people disagree, we all see things differently. Encourage discussion rather than just debate.
Give praise for their successes, and don’t focus on areas where they have not done so well. Get into the habit of asking them about three good things that they feel went well today. These could be things that they achieved, situations or challenges that they overcame or even just a positive comment that someone made towards them. Sometimes it can help to list those positives from each day.
Reassure them it’s OK to make mistakes, it’s all part of life and we all make them. Getting it wrong is not the end of the world, try to learn from those mistakes so you can improve next time you find yourself in the same situation.
If you are unhappy with their behaviour, tell them, but make clear that you still love them. Discuss with them why they behaved in that way, not to be confrontational, but simply to understand each other better.
Acknowledge their feelings and help them to express those feelings in words. For example, encourage them to say, “I’m upset because…” or “I feel happy when…”
Challenge them when they criticise themselves, so that they start saying things like, “I know this is difficult, but I also know that I possess the skills and strength to complete it,” instead of “I can’t do this”.
Help children discover and develop their talents, through clubs, groups and activities. Finding something they are good at provides a huge boost to their feelings of self-worth. Encourage them to express themselves creatively, through art, drama, writing or music. Even if they feel they aren’t ‘good’ it’s all about self-expression. Whatever they create is perfect.
Get them involved with voluntary or community projects that make a difference to someone else to develop a more positive opinion of themselves. Helping others almost always makes us feel better about ourselves.
Allocate 20 minutes each day or every couple of days, to chat, laugh, and do something together. Try to use this time not to talk to them as a parent to a child, but to a friend. Maybe choose a topic that you both interested in to discuss, come up with a quick art project to do together or individually and then compare. Even going for a short walk.
All of us, especially children, will have dips and variation in self-esteem as we go through life. Different stages of life, the challenges we face as well as a number of other factors will affect our confidence. But with support from parents and the support networks of friends and other social groups, children will almost always come through these periods.
Boundaries are something we’ve all become hyper-aware of over the last few months. But what exactly are they?
Boundaries are the limits or rules that we set ourselves. They are some form of separation between what you will accept and what you wouldn’t. They can be in relationships, behaviour, states of mind or body and attitudes. Generally speaking, there are five types of boundaries:
- Physical – relates to personal space and physical contact
- Intellectual – relates to thoughts and ideas
- Emotional – relates to feelings
- Material – relates to money and possessions
- Time – relates to amounts of time
We can have a few types of boundaries. On one end of the scale are rigid boundaries; these keep us protected by shutting ourselves off. On the other are porous boundaries; these are having no real limits and getting too involved with things. Healthy boundaries are somewhere in the middle; being able to say ‘no’ if you need to, but not being afraid to open up either – knowing what and how much to say or do and when. You might have all of one type, or a mixture.
Our boundaries can change over time – what we accept when we’re 14 might be different to 34, which might be different again to 64. They are often shaped by our experiences, and the circumstances we’re in; as our values and lives change, so do our boundaries. For example, what’s appropriate with your friends might not be in a work scenario.
Ultimately, the goal is to have healthy boundaries that protect ourselves, facilitate our emotional and relational development and to be able to voice what we need. If our boundaries are continuously breached, we can end up feeling pretty rubbish about ourselves; if we continuously breach other people’s boundaries, we will likely end up with very few positive relationships. The easiest thing to do to keep this from happening is ask the questions. Is this okay? Do you need some time or space alone? What do you need? What can I do? Would you mind if…? I need …, could you do …?
It can be difficult to raise these questions – you might feel silly for asking too much. Remember some of the key rules about communication – actually listen to the other person, don’t just plan your reply. Use ‘I’ statements – you can’t speak for the motivations or feelings of another person, but you can speak about how you feel about something. Be assertive, not aggressive. There’s no need to raise your voice or be rude to get your point across – try to remain calm, and if you’re worried about saying something you’ll regret, walk away. Respect the other person, but don’t forget to respect yourself too – give the same weight to both opinions and come up with a compromise.
There is a belief in psychology that suggests humans are always motivated by self-interest (called psychological egotism). If it’s relevant or good for you, you’ll probably do it. However, there is an opposing belief; that humans can do nice things for others purely to benefit others (psychological altruism). Cultivating good interpersonal relationships can be both self-serving and altruistic. It makes us feel good and provides us with benefits we may not otherwise get – but it also does that for the other person. By setting up boundaries, and asking the right questions, we can help ourselves and other people.
A synonymous trend that has developed alongside the growing importance of wellbeing in recent years is ‘mindfulness’, closely tied to practices of meditation and yoga, to benefit both physical and mental health.
There are various schemes being ran through schools and leading corporates, promoting mindfulness (and quite rightly) as a treatment for the issue of stress, anxiety and general poor wellbeing.
The physiological evidence supporting the practice of mindfulness is overwhelming, and from a personal perspective I’ve reaped the benefits across multiple facets of my life. However, there’s an overwhelming misconception that this practice needs to revolve around a meditation, yoga, scented candles and relaxing music.
Many of us are already experiencing the benefits of a mindfulness practice, but just don’t realise it. It’s important to acknowledge this to break down barriers to make the benefits more accessible to those that don’t appreciate being told to visualise a view of mountains and breathe out negative emotions.
My first question: Can you think of an activity that facilitates you to be aware of your own movements, thoughts and emotions?
It’s important to understand that there are many ways to get the same outcome and rewards that are promoted through yoga, meditation or other more spiritual mindfulness practices. A great comparison is food and nutrition, there are many techniques and methods to become a healthier version of yourself, it’s just about working out which is best suited to you. This takes practice, so it’s important we enjoy the activity and are comfortable in the environment to allow us to be consistent.
For many, this comes from hobbies such as drawing, painting, physical exercise, or playing a musical instrument. If you make the time for these activities every day, and they leave you feeling calm and clear minded, you may already be seeing see the benefits of a direct mindfulness practice.
If you know there is a certain activity that leaves you feeling calm and clear minded, but you can’t access it daily, do you have the opportunity recreate this environment in a different way to find the same benefits? This can take some trial and error, but it’s worth investing the time for your wellbeing.
The reason mindfulness practice through apps and other guided breathing practices has become so popular is that the barriers to participation are so small. You can do this type of practice pretty much anywhere, at any time. We recommend trying one of the free guided meditation apps, such as ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’, if there’s nothing that jumps out to you that I outlined previously.
The final thing I’d like to acknowledge is that this practice doesn’t need to be about ‘treating an issue’. It’s to allow you to be the best version of yourself, improve your communication with others, make better decisions and generally feel on top form as much as possible!
As humans, our brains work in a constant state of predicting what’s likely to happen. In cognitive neuroscience, this is called the ‘predictive brain model’. Generally speaking, we’re pretty good at this. We tend to know what to say and to who, when to do certain things and when not too – often without consciously thinking about it. We compare what we thought would happen (our internal model) to what actually did (environmental input). We use this to reshape our internal model, so we’re better prepared for next time – our predictions become more finely tuned. This is often why young children appear to be so blunt or can’t seem to share – they haven’t quite learned social etiquette and have limited internal models. As we grow and have more and more experiences, our brains learn what is likely to happen, creating more complex internal models.
As humans, we’re not great at making mistakes – we all know what it’s like to accidentally say something you didn’t mean too and thinking about it every night for weeks. We do this so it doesn’t happen again, and our internal model adapts. Evolutionarily speaking, this is hugely beneficial. Those who could make better predictions would often survive longer. We could cope with ‘interference’ at any level – meaning we were less surprised when something different happened, and we could adapt our internal model much faster, leaving us better prepared. Those with more rigid internal models couldn’t adapt as quickly, leaving them much less well prepared.
Yet, for many of us, we’re living in a state of uncertainty. This, coupled with the fact our brains like to predict the future, leaves us in turmoil. We have no way of knowing for certain what will happen, and we have very little previous experience to go on, so we make our best guess. When it’s wrong, we beat ourselves up about it. Making one-off mistakes is great for learning; but making them all the time can really affect our mental wellbeing.
There’s evidence to suggest that a blow to our self-esteem leads to something called ‘social pain’ which activates the same brain circuits as physical pain – no wonder we can’t stand making mistakes, being rejected or being criticised. When we perceive a threat, whether that be physical or to our self-esteem, a part of our brain called the amygdala gets triggered. The amygdala governs our fight/flight response and is seen as the emotion centre of our brain. It diverts signals away from the cortex (the logical part of the brain responsible for higher executive functions – think forward planning and problem solving), which leaves us immediately on the defensive. Beneficial in terms of actual threat – not so much when making a simple mistake. It’s part of why we find it so hard to apologise, because our brain is convinced we’ve acted correctly.
Acknowledging that we’ve been wrong before is the first step. You’ve made a mistake before – and you’re still here. You probably even learnt how to handle that situation along the way. On that same note, remind yourself that not knowing everything is okay. You cannot control everything, so take the time to focus on what you can control – your response to the situation. Apologise if you need too, adapt your behaviours and do something to make yourself feel better.
Making mistakes takes time to adapt to. If, for example, you walked into your office, and your furniture was completely rearranged, and everything was filed differently, you wouldn’t be able to just sit down and get on with it. You’d either have to spend some time getting used to the new system or put everything back how it was before. In doing so, you might realise the new system works much more efficiently, or actually it was just a hassle for you to deal with. All of that doesn’t happen in a few seconds – it would be at least a few days before you reached a conclusion. The same thing happens in our brains with any kind of mistake – we do need time to process, and to let our brain adapt and learn from it. Allow yourself the time and space to grow and do something you enjoy to improve your mindset.
We also need to reflect and learn. Sometimes, our brains can be a bit stubborn and simply will not accept we’ve made a mistake when it’s quite apparent to everyone else. It might be like when you think you did really well on a test, and you get it back and it’s a terrible mark. We tend to blame a teacher for not teaching us well enough, the marker for not giving us enough credit, the room for being too hot so you couldn’t concentrate – but in actual fact, it was probably that you didn’t revise enough, or you had a bad night’s sleep, or you didn’t eat breakfast. Reflecting on why you think these things can be helpful, and then re-evaluate your opinions. Making mistakes isn’t inherently bad, but we have to be able to learn from them. Ask for other people’s advice and look at what you can change in the future, or think about what you’d say to a friend. Changing your opinion in the face of new information is normal – and that’s what we should be doing when we realise we’re wrong or have made a mistake. If you can’t seem to shake the feeling you’re wrong all the time, and you’re struggling to managing the stress and uncertainty that comes with it, reach out and ask for help.
If I asked you to reflect on your time in school, what would come to mind?
Would it be Year 11 prom? Would it be your first night out with friends when you’ve just turned 18? Or would it be the daft things you got up to at breaks and lunchtimes on the daily as you grew up?
For myself, this is certainly the case. Throughout my time at school I was surrounded by great friends, enjoyed my studies and made lots of extremely positive lifelong memories. However, as I’ve become older and had broader discussion about people’s experience in school, I’ve become aware that this idealistic experience is more than uncommon.
It’s not hard to see the reasons why others had a negative experience in school. Some hated studying. Others couldn’t find a group of friends they ‘clicked’ with. But unfortunately, a huge portion of students were unhappy in school as they had to face being bullied.
Individual cases of bullying are incredibly difficult for schools to manage. Pastoral staff are forced into the role of a detective, trying to decipher the truth of a situation that usually lies somewhere between the different accounts they’ve been given by students. Predictably, it ends up being a case of ‘He said she said’, and the culprit walks away without consequence.
If cases of bullying are so difficult to manage or discipline, what is the solution?
It’s commonly acknowledged the cause of unkind behaviour is rooted in the insecurities of the bully, but personally, I see it being an issue of acceptance. Self-acceptance. Acceptance of peers. Acceptance of our personal circumstances, our upbringing, and the reality of our day to day life. This lack of acceptance usually surfaces in negative behaviours towards others, whether it’s nasty comments, deliberate exclusion or physical abuse.
Seeing the developments of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, which resulted in the Isle of Mans biggest ever peaceful protest, it’s hard to deny the aura of change in the air with regards to our political outlook and moral standards. The big question is how can you instil this kind of acceptance from a younger age, and it not take until your mid to late twenties to see our individual differences as something to be celebrated?
Expecting EVERY student to be kind to one another is beyond perfectionistic, but could it be possible to lay the foundations so the next generation isn’t sceptical of and uncomfortable with people of different ethnicities, religions or sexualities to name just a few? Could a significant part of the education process be to work with students to accept and revel in their own individuality, while not being unkind to others of different backgrounds to themselves?
I’m not saying I have the answers, or that we aren’t heading in the right direction. Just that further reflection and change is needed to work with future generations on setting a better precedent that we have previously.
We’ve been working creatively over the past 5 weeks, delivering courses through webinars and utilising a variety of platforms such as Zoom, Webex and BlueJeans. We’ve also sent out e-leaflets to local businesses that cover a range of topics, helping employers to support their staff during this challenging period.
The content of the courses and e-leaflets can be applied in the home just as easily as in the workplace. Everybody can benefit from learning more about how to manage their own emotional wellbeing as well as how best to support colleagues and loved ones
Normally training is an important funding stream for the charity, but at present all resources are provided free of charge as we want to help as many people as possible at this difficult time – however, donations are always welcome.
If you feel your business or workplace could benefit from our training or from our free resources please email training@il_backup.test
Before we explore the five key components of this concept, it’s important to understand what is meant by the term “Wellbeing”. It’s a word that we both see and hear often, but that we don’t always give the necessary attention to.
Simply, wellbeing is defined as the experience of health and happiness. It includes such things as having good mental health, high levels of life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose and an ability to manage stress. But wellbeing can mean different things to different people. Another way of looking at it, is as being challenged academically, socially, or in other areas, but also being equipped with, and knowledge of how to implement, the skills necessary to overcome those challenges. And if at first you were unable to overcome that situation, learning from it, to better outfit yourself the next time you are faced with something similar. This allows us to feel a sense of growth and achievement which is essential to our personal development and happiness.
Take a few minutes to really think about what the word wellbeing means to you as an individual and possibly what areas you could stand to make improvements in.
Know that we have established what it is we are aiming to achieve using these 5 areas, lets begin to explore what those are, why they benefit us and how they can be easily implemented in day-to-day life.
Social relationships fulfil our fundamental needs of feeling valued and close to other people and contribute positively to the functioning of communities. These relationships are crucial for promoting wellbeing and protecting against poor mental health across all ages.
Here are some ideas for how to improve or make new connections:
- Talk to someone directly rather than sending a text or email
- Speak to someone new
- Ask how someone’s day or weekend was and really make an effort to listen to what they have to say
- Give a friend or colleague a lift to or from work or walk with a friend to school
Physical activity is associated with greatly decreased rates of depression and anxiety throughout all ages. Exercise is also essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and maintaining good physical health, which is a key element of wellbeing.
Exercise doesn’t have to be particularly intense in order for you to benefit from it, slower paced activities like walking can also encourage social interactions whilst providing a reasonable level of exercise. Two birds with one stone!
Here are some ideas of activities:
- Take the stairs rather than a lift
- Go for a walk during your lunch
- Walk to work or school
- Get off a bus one stop early and walk the remainder of the journey
- Organise a kick about with friends
- Do some low stress exercise like stretching before you leave for work/school in the morning
Being aware of what is presently happening around you can enhance your wellbeing and taking a moment to appreciate your surroundings (whether that’s people or a particular place) can help to reaffirm priorities.
Heightened awareness also improves self-understanding and allows you to both make positive choices and to recognise more of the positives that happen each day.
Here are some ways to enjoy the moment and the environment around you:
- Get a plant for your desk or workspace
- Have a ‘clear the clutter’ day
- Keep a gratitude or positive diary and make a note of any good things that happen to you or that you do for others. No matter how small!
- Visit a new place or take a different route to work/school
Continued learning throughout life is important for everyone. It builds self-esteem, encourages social interaction and often a more active life.
There is evidence that suggests those with the opportunity to participate in educational activities at an older age can help to lift people out of depression or low mood.
Setting goals and then achieving them is strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing, but remember that when you achieve a goal, don’t rush on to the next one. Take a moment to appreciate your achievement, and don’t set unrealistic goals!
Why not learn something new today?
- Have a conversation with a friend or colleague and find out something new about them
- Sign up for a class. There are a lot of free options available online
- Read the news or a good book
- Do a crossword/Sudoku or other puzzle
- Research something you’ve been curious about
- Learn a new word
This is an area that has attracted a lot of attention with regards to wellbeing. Individuals that participate in social and community life are much more likely to rate themselves as being happy.
Research into actions that promote happiness have shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing and contentment.
- Complement a friend or even a stranger
- Donate to a charity; this can be with money or your time
- Take 10 minutes to have a conversation with an elderly neighbour
Over the next few weeks, try to do one thing from each of the 5 areas, and see how it makes you feel. See how it makes those around you feel better too. Although some of the options may not be realistic during the current situation, try to think about how you could work those things in to your routine or how you could engage with them better upon your return to work or education.