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Our wellbeing continues to be tested
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to test us all mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. We could not have predicted that in 2022, we would still be enduring uncertainty and stress in so many ways.
Australian research in particular talks about the increased prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms in individuals who have never had mental health diagnosis before (Dawel, et al, 2020). And recent research has found more people are reaching out and using mental health services during the pandemic than in previous years.
As 2022 gets underway, let’s look at 5 simple ways you can improve your wellbeing.
A fresh start and the 5 ways to wellbeing
The “five ways to wellbeing” is one of the more simple, yet well-researched frameworks to enhance our psychological and emotional wellbeing. Developed in 2008 by the NEF (New Economics Foundation) this framework was established through research spanning 400 scientific articles on the concept of wellbeing.
The five ways to wellbeing are behaviours that are centred around 5 domains:
- Be active – being active can involve activities such as a walk, gym visit, cleaning, gardening or swimming. It can also be as simple as taking the stairs instead of a lift or parking at the end of the car park.
- Connect – we can connect with others in a lot of different ways. Connection is about your close friends and family, as well as those in the community. Even those who live alone can find ways of connecting with others. It might be calling or facetiming friends or relatives on a regular basis; catching up face to face with friends or relatives. At a broader level its more about a sense of belonging and community which might mean having a conversation with the barista at your local café or the person who serves you at the local supermarket
- Keep learning – learning can take many forms. While some of us may be engaging in a short course or university study, there are plenty of other ways we can keep learning. This might include learning a new recipe, learning a new sport, learning to play guitar or learning something about a particular area/topic, that you can apply at work.
- Give – think about ways you can give to others. It doesn’t need to be money. You can give in many different ways, contributing in some way or volunteering to community groups. Do something nice for friends or family for no reason. Even just the simple act of smiling or saying thank-you to someone is a good way to give.
- Be aware – Some of us like to practice yoga and mindfulness as a part of being aware, but it doesn’t need to as formal as this. Noticing what’s going on in the present rather than thinking of what’s ahead or what’s behind is how to practice being aware. Take notice of your surroundings and engage with them…noticing smells, sounds and sights.
It is recommended that we engage in at least one behaviour from each of the five domains daily, to have the greatest impact on our wellbeing. So get going!
How to make it a part of your day
For some it might be easy to incorporate the 5 ways into their everyday. For others it might seem like more of an effort. So here are some tips to help you on your way:
- Consider ways that you can incorporate the 5 ways to wellbeing through engaging in one activity. For example, if you took up running; that would be “keep learning” and “be active” immediately. You could then practice being aware of your surroundings while running; you might participate in a charity run as a way to give; and you might connect with other runners through joining a local running club, or running with a friend or colleague
- Try and make the behaviours a daily a habit – think of ways you can easily integrate the habits into your everyday life. For example, take a daily walk; call your best friend after work; read a new article on a topic you know little about; smile at a stranger and finally, have lunch at the park while just being aware of the surroundings – not scrolling through your phone!
- Buddy up – get a friend or your partner to do it with you so you can hold yourself to account
- Have a little competition with your work team – create a little worksheet where you can tick off your activities daily. The person with the most activities each week could win a prize
- Dawel, et al. (2020). The Effect of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Wellbeing in a Representative Sample of Australian Adults, Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 1026. DOI=10.3389/fpsyt.2020.579985