‘Prevention is better than cure’ so the old adage goes…and it was never truer than with mental health. Fortunately, there are actions that we can take in order to keep ourselves psychologically well and resilient.

It concerns me that the focus for some organisations is on providing Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA’s) rather than ‘Wellbeing Advocates’

Mental Health First Aid is about responding to someone exhibiting signs of distress or changed behaviours. It is, by its very nature, the equivalent of offering a sticking plaster when someone is on the edge.

And how do we look after the MHFA’s?

–       Is their training thorough enough?

–       Who supports and supervises them?

–       Don’t they need an appropriate background to deal with mental health?

–       What happens if they get called outside of working hours?

–       What happens if their conversations turn into counselling, where does the professional liability lie then? And what responsibility does the organization have?

–       If your MHFA is put into a situation where they need to support someone who is struggling what can they realistically do?

If an employee is really struggling they’re often going to need more than signposting.

‘Why would we wait until this critical point’?

…why wait until someone is struggling when we know right now what actions and interventions can help individuals?

Why wouldn’t we put in place a programme where the employee takes responsibility for their own mental health and wellbeing and can follow a programme proven to support them and keep them well. This is available right now.

Small changes make a really big difference. The research shows us that these interventions can keep us healthy, enable us to live longer, build our relationships, improve our mood and even reduce the risk of depression.

What do we need to do to build our wellbeing and avoid running into mental health difficulties?

We have a wealth of research, information and interventions from the field of Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology that can guide us through this.

There are numerous models of wellbeing but broadly they fall into the following 5 categories;

 

An active body

Managing our own physiology is key. Movement and exercise helps with activation, it gets us out of our heads and into our bodies, stops rumination and gets the endorphins flowing and that always feels good, (think the runner’s high and the yogi’s tranquility) The NHS guidelines on activity are that we aim for 30 mins a day 5 days a week.

What can I do?

In a nutshell, anything that gets you moving.

–       Join a gym

–       Run

–       Swim

–       Gardening

–       Walk

–       Use the stairs

 

An active mind

Lifelong learners are some of the healthiest, happiest people around.

Keeping an active, curious mind is important. Whether its keeping up to date with new technology, being politically curious in these turbulent times or taking a course- they all help.

What can I do?

–       Read

–       Learn to play an instrument

–       Take up Taiko

–       Take that course you’ve always wondered about doing

–       Learn a new language – the research shows that learning a new language helps us to learn other things more quickly too.

 

Contributing (to something bigger than ourselves)

Understand our meaning and purpose in life isn’t always easy but finding a cause to support and contribute to can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.

Volunteering and being involved connects us to something bigger than ourselves, giving us perspective, and that’s important for our psychological health. If you’re not sure what your purpose is in life start with something that simply appeals to you…

What can I do?

-Complete a charity challenge anything from walking up Kilimanjaro to helping with a local beach clean or litter pick up.

– Volunteer for a charity close to your heart.

-Offer to give someone a lift.

-Fundraise for a worthy cause.

 

People focus

Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert connection with people is critical. Good relationships with friends and family can add years to our lives. From a simple coffee and a catch up to a good networking event or the party of the year, they’re all beneficial.

What can I do?

-Go networking

-Connect with different people that you meet

-Reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with.

-Plan a party

-Meet up with people for a coffee and a chat.

 

Being in the now

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 5 years you’ll have heard of or experienced mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to press the ‘pause’ button, slow down and gain more clarity. It’s proven to reduce our heart rate and reduce stress. It gives us chance to step back for a period and literally catch our breath.

What can I do?

-Practice mindfulness for 5 mins every day to start with.

-Really notice what’s going on around you… like you’re looking at it for the first time.

– Try meditation, either via an app or ideally with others.

-Walk in the woods if you can – ‘forest bathing’ is very rejuvenating

– Listen to music

All of these simple interventions can help us to maintain our levels of wellbeing.

Getting the balance of all of the categories above is absolutely key.

Ideally you’d measure your wellbeing levels prior to starting your programme and if you’d like to do that, look at running wellbeing workshops, and get involved with other positive psychology interventions and resilience practices do get in touch, I’d be delighted to help.

 

About the author: Janette Kirk-Willis

 

‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

 

 

 

 

 

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