Five Ways to Wellbeing

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are widely known and recognised in the UK. They were developed by the New Economics Foundation in 2009. The underpinning concept is that wellbeing is comprised of two main elements: feeling good and functioning well. The Five Ways to Wellbeing are evidence-based public mental health messages. They aim to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the UK population.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are:

Image result for five ways to wellbeing UK

If you want to know more about their development, you can read the full report here.

I love this great two minute video on the Wheel of Wellbeing website from the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 

Globally, we have been plunged into a challenging situation, where many people’s lives hang in the balance.  Quite simply, it’s tough. I can’t see my mum at the moment and people I work with have had relatives pass away. I know that staying at home in this moment is vital and will save lives. Nevertheless, in the West we are not used to this. The aim of this blog is to provide information, reassurance and guidance about how we can keep ourselves mentally well during this time.

How to implement the Five Ways to Wellbeing during physical distancing

Here are my ideas for adapting the Five Ways to Wellbeing during a time of restriction and physical distancing.

Connect

As I always say, humans are pack animals. Ideally, we need to connect face-to-face. We have all become acutely aware of this right now. I talk about this in greater detail in my blog Four ways Love can improve your mental health. Social relationships are critical to our wellbeing and sense of self. Persistent loneliness has the equivalent effect on our bodies of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

How can we connect during this time of physical distancing? Here are some resources which will help you to do this.

  • Send a (handmade) card. This is a rarity now and it’s a lovely physical gesture to show someone that you care. [The caveat is please seal envelopes with tape and/or make sure you wash your hands when making/writing cards to reduce any potential transmission].
  • Schedule times to speak to people over the phone to keep in touch. Sounds simple but the number of image and text messaging services, this often gets forgotten. The phone is our friend, don’t be afraid to pick it up!
  • Video call using online apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom, House Party . I hosted our book group on Zoom and it was much better than not meeting at all!
  • I am finding social media a very helpful way to connect. There are some great support groups on Facebook including Coronavirus Support for Workers, Time In Isolation (from Time Out) and Anti-Viral Work for Freelancers are a few that I have found helpful.
  • This Guardian article shows how placing a painting of rainbows in windows in Italy has spread joy and created connection with children who are not seeing their friends at school.
  • Take a break from social media and connect with your pets and/or family around you in person or virtually. Why not play games like pictionary, consequences or charades for a laugh?

Keep Active

You will know that regular physical activity lowers the feelings of mild to moderate depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is also essential to slow age-related cognitive decline, whilst increasing social engagement. When we are socially isolating/distancing and staying indoors this can be tricky.

There have been an amazing number of physical trainers, coaches, dancers and celebrities putting on free classes. Here are a few ideas to keep and stay active during this time.

  • Do some gentle exercises after you wake up, like stretching, yoga or pilates to wake your body up.
  • Go back to the 90s and do some step-ups if you have stairs with your favourite tunes on.
  • Go for a short brisk walk at lunchtime in a park solo or with one person from your household and keep at a minimum of 2 meters away from others
  • Join an online class, my friend Versha Patel of Birth and Beyond Fitness is doing this and it’s great. You can also listen to her on the Diverse Minds Podcast.
  • The Body Coach Joe Wicks will be running online PE classes for kids from Monday 23 March at 09.00.
  • Movement for Modern Life have some great free yoga classes for you to do at home
  • Cycling UK have put together a great Q&A about cycling during this period and how to do so safely. It is also being updated regularly to ensure Government recommendations will be met.
  • Have a kick-about in a local park with your family [but do keep your distance from others].
  • The NHS has an online fitness studio you can access here.
  • Steezy has a good range of Hip Hop dance classes.
  • This guest blog Moving Together Alone lists additional online dance classes.

Take Notice

Taking notice links to the principles of mindfulness and being in the moment. Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.

“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” he says.

When news of death, illness and pain are all around us in the media this is challenging to practice. Here are a few ideas that may help.

  • Action for Happiness have a great Coping Calendar you can download for free with daily activities to keep you grounded.
  • Keep a gratitude diary or add to one regularly to highlight what’s going well during a challenging time.
  • If you have houseplants nourish them and watch them grow, blossom and change.
  • Take some time to declutter and offer things you no longer need to others who may require it via a local service.
  • Take notice of how you are feeling and write it down in a journal.
  • Eat your meals in a considered way and savour the moment.
  • Read magazines and books that you have been meaning to for a while and relax.
  • Listen to music you enjoy knowing you have nowhere else to be.

Learn

It is vital that we keep learning and stretch ourselves to reach our potential. Setting small goals in our personal or professional lives is linked to higher levels of wellbeing. Learning new skills, experiencing new things and managing challenges, no matter how big or small will help us feel better about ourselves.

With theatres, museums, universities and art spaces closed where can we go? Here are some ideas for you and any dependents.

Give (Back)

As humans it is a vital part of our species to give back. Whether that’s our time, our words or our presence. When we take part in volunteering or random acts of kindness it releases endorphins. We feel better as do the recipients of kind acts, making the world a more positive place.

So, how can we give back at this time? Here are some ideas:

  • Please don’t panic buy and leave toilet roll, fresh produce, canned goods and cleaning products for others.
  • Buy a few extra things if you are able to for food banks who struggling at this time.
  • If you feel financially able donate money to Crisis, Shelter, your local food banks, hospices, NHS funds and international charities like Medecin Sans Frontiers or Doctors of the World 
  • Set up calls for isolated groups. Ask your local Age UK how you could help.
  • Join your local Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group.
  • Support local businesses by buying vouchers for future use if you can/feel able to.
  • Check out Patreon and support our artists, writers, crafters and musicians.
  • Knock on your neighbours’ doors (but do stand at least 2 meters away if and when they answer) or pop a note through if you can help them.

If things are getting to much, this article about Coronavirus and protecting your mental health may be useful. Mind have put together this guide to support anyone who is feeling mentally unwell at this time.

How I can support your wellbeing

I would love to connect with you and support you at this time. Why not book a FREE 30 min call with me here to talk about your wellbeing: https://calendly.com/leylao/30min.

If you would like more support individually or with your wellbeing strategy, feel free to book a Power Hour with me here: https://calendly.com/leylao/60min. 

Alternatively, you can download my FREE e-Book The Mentally Healthy Leading Manager with tips and ideas to help you now and in the future.

Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on mental health and inclusion.

Thank you for reading this, I hope you have found it useful. I am here to talk or help, please do get in touch with me. Stay safe, stay home.