Connect with the people around you. No matter what age we are, probably the most important factor in improving our psychological health and well-being is our relationships and connectedness with other people according to Northern Ireland’s interim Mental Health Champion, Professor Siobhan O’Neill. “A huge amount of research has shown the positive effects of relationships on our physical health, like blood pressure, cardiac illness, cancer, as well as our mental health, including reduced levels of stress and depression.”
If you need some time on your own this busy season, reflect, spend some time doing what you enjoy. Connect with your mind and body, try some mindfulness and stay in touch with how you are feeling.
Be Active. Whether you prefer walking or running, cycling, playing a game, gardening or dancing, exercising makes you feel good. Find something you enjoy, dedicate some time to do it (start with 10 minutes at a time) and work up to 30 minutes of physical activity for the day.
Take Notice. Stop, pause, and take a moment to look around you now. What can you see, smell or even taste? Look for beautiful, new, unusual or extraordinary things in your everyday life and think about how that makes you feel without judging or trying to change them. Take a few deep breaths, feel the rising and falling of your chest, and take notice of the chair under you or the weight of your feet on the floor. Try apps like Headspace or Calm for guided meditations, and you’ll learn how to notice and release tension you didn’t even realise you were carrying. Sit in your garden or go for walks with those you live with, notice nature, the birds singing and the sound of life.
Keep Learning. Variety is the spice of life and if you keep learning new things, it will make you feel more confident, will boost your self-esteem and improve your overall well-being. Use any spare time to unwind, start to learn a skill you were putting off – cook, learn a new language or exercise or get stuck into that books that have been sitting on the shelf for ages. Or why not try your hand at a spot of gardening – a pastime much reported as being beneficial to people’s well-being.
Give. Look outward as well as inward. Linking yourself and your happiness to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and will create connections with the people around you, even if you can’t physically be there. Giving can be something as simple as using social media in a positive way to share messages or support. Give a friend, older relative or someone living on their own a call or text – it might just make their day to know that someone is thinking of them.
Lastly, give yourself a hug. You can only do so much and you’re doing the best you can. Try to love yourself – you can’t pour from an empty cup, so give yourself time to relax and think of all the things you can look forward to with family and friends.
Based on the Five Ways to Well-Being which were developed by the New Economics Foundation.