Today (21st June) marks the beginning of World Wellbeing Week, an international awareness campaign highlighting the various aspects of wellbeing that contribute towards a happy and fulfilled life.
Over the last few years there has been greater emphasis placed on the importance of wellbeing and its link to positive mental health, but what does it actually mean?
Wellbeing is how we think and feel about our lives. Our overall wellbeing is influenced by several different elements which include physical, emotional, social, economic, work and environmental.
Positive influences such as a good social network, financial stability, and good physical health enhance our overall wellbeing, whilst negative influences such as being unhappy in our job, substance abuse, or problems at home degrade our overall wellbeing.
In 2008, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) conducted a research project to develop a set of actions that would improve personal wellbeing. Based on the idea of wellbeing being made up of two essential elements – feeling good and functioning well – NEF used evidence-based research to establish five actions that everyone should adopt into their daily lives to promote positive wellbeing:
Forming relationships and connecting with other people is critical to personal wellbeing. Humans are social animals by nature and the need to feel valued and be part of a community is an intrinsic part of who we are. Taking time to nurture relationships with friends, family and acquaintances helps to build a secure and supportive social network and elicits a sense of belonging.
2. Be active
As well as being good for physical health, regular activity is also beneficial for mental wellbeing. Physical activity increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain which elevate our mood. Physical activity for wellbeing doesn’t have to be strenuous, it can simply be anything we enjoy that gets us moving.
3. Take notice
Being ‘present’ at any given time, being aware of what is going on around us and savouring the various thoughts, feelings and sensations in that moment is also known as mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is said to increase self-awareness, helping us better understand ourselves and appreciate the things that matter to us most.
4. Keep learning
Even as adults, setting and attaining goals and learning something new leads to feelings of accomplishment, increased self-confidence and a sense of purpose. Joining a course, learning to play an instrument or taking up a new hobby can also encourage social interaction and making connections with new people.
Neuroscientists discovered that when humans collaborate with one another, the reward areas of the brain are stimulated. This is why doing something nice for someone, volunteering time for a good cause, or simply offering a smile to a stranger, can make us feel good. Research shows that those who spend time helping others are generally happier and experience increased wellbeing.
These five actions are an excellent starting point for those who want to improve their overall wellbeing. Making small and manageable changes can have a significant and lasting impact on our life, making us happier, healthier and more in tune with our needs and aspirations.
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