In this week’s blog I thought I would look more holistically at wellbeing and see how Mindfulness is a core component of keeping us mentally well.
In 2008 the UK Foresight Challenge Report aimed to enhance the understanding of how to achieve the best possible mental health and wellbeing for people living throughout the United Kingdom. It commissioned the Centre for Wellbeing at the new economics foundation (nef) to develop a set of evidence-based actions to improve personal wellbeing.
According to nef the concept of wellbeing comprises two main elements: feeling good and functioning well.
A positive experience in life is reflected through feelings of happiness, contentment, enjoyment, curiosity and engagement.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 14% of people in the UK have a high level of wellbeing – often referred to as “flourishing”. The equivalent number, 14%, have low wellbeing (not including those with a diagnose mental disorder), what some would call “languishing”.
So what influences wellbeing? Evidence is reliably pointing towards what we do and the way we think. The consensus within the fields looking at wellbeing seems to be that a holistic approach to improving one’s wellbeing is important.
nef’s role was to develop a set of actions that enhance wellbeing, however positive psychology research has indicated we quickly adapt to repeated activities. Therefore it seems that variety really is the spice of life as it keeps us fresh and interested, and more likely to continue to achieve success.
Acknowledging that different approaches suit different people, nef developed five actions that can be varied according to age, lifestyle and culture.
Those five areas are now known as the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, encouraging us daily to explore how we connect, be active, take notice, learn and give.
Connect – social relationships are critical to wellbeing. Social participation is the biggest factor between those with and those without mental health.
Happy people have stronger social relationships than less happy people. Life goals associated to a commitment to family, friends, social and political involvement promotes satisfaction with life whereas life goals associated with career success and material gains are seen to be detrimental to life satisfaction.
To Connect you can build connections with those around you; smile; make eye contact; greet others; share; enjoy – basically invest in personal relationships.
Be Active – physical activity is related to a greater sense of wellbeing, lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.
Research is exploring the types of activity which is most beneficial, however it has already identified that physical activity increases perceived self-efficacy, sense of mastery and the perceived ability to cope. Action is central to cognition.
Even small changes in activity levels of people who are sedentary and the elderly has shown to enhance wellbeing.
You can improve your activity simply by stepping outside more; moving; doing whatever energises you to continue to move.
Take Notice – this areas is an emerging field. Increased sensory awareness has been shown to decrease stress and improve overall wellbeing.
Research supports that the practice of Mindfulness predicts positive mental states, self-regulated behaviour and heightened self-knowledge – all contributors to emotional intelligence.
Self Determination theory suggests that an open awareness is particularly valuable for choosing behaviours that are consistent with one’s needs, values and interests.
When we are aware and taking notice we are able to in turn savor moments that reinforce our life priorities.
You can Take Notice by encouraging your own curiosity; noticing beauty and the unusual; notice the changing seasons; savoring the moment; becoming aware of the world around you at any moment of the day.
Keep Learning – learning is an important role in our social and cognitive development.
Life-long learning enhances self-esteem, encourages social interaction and a more active life. It has also been linked to lifting depression in older adults.
Wellbeing is enhanced when goals are self-generated, approach goals and are congruent with personal values. Formal and informal learning are highly desirable .
To Keep Learning you could try something new, rediscover an old interest; sign up for a course; take on a different responsibility at work; fix something around the house; learn to play an instrument; cook something new; set challenges you will enjoy; learn things that will make you more confident.
Give – neuroscience is contributing greatly to how we understand the impact of giving on wellbeing.
Wellbeing is considered to be greatly enhanced when an individual is able to achieve a sense of purpose in society, and contributes to their wider community.
Helping, sharing, giving and team-oriented behaviours are likely to be connected with increases in self-worth and positive feelings.
Offering support to others has been linked with reduced mortality rates.
What the research is saying – individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.
It seems that to improve our own wellbeing we need to be outwardly focussed not inward. We need to look to improve the life of others and in doing so we improve our own.
To Give you could do something nice for a friend or a stranger; thank someone; smile; volunteer your time; join a community or sporting group; perform Random Acts of Kindness often; look outward and see your happiness linked to the wider community; seek reward through giving rather than receiving.
So now you have 5 Ways to Wellbeing. If you like apps you can download the 5 Ways to Wellbeing app, set goals and keep track of your wellbeing in the five action areas.
Remember that you can only achieve wellbeing through you actions in the present, this will set up how you view and act in the future.
Give the 5 Ways to Wellbeing a go and let me know how you go.