Laying the Foundations of Wellbeing
In my last blog I talked about the need to slow down, be less busy. Easier said than done, I know.
Most of us know the anxiety that comes with thinking the plates will all come crashing to the ground if we don’t keep frantically spinning them. Busyness can fill a gap. If we are using busy to avoid feelings we’d rather not face or discomfort in other areas of our life, it can be really frightening to slow down.
Our brains and bodies need more than one setting, if we are constantly working to capacity, we become ill, physically and emotionally.
The Busy Habit
Even if we are not keeping busy as an avoidance, many of us just don’t quite know what to do with ourselves once we stop. We pick up our phone or find another job to do, the moment our brains start to relax.
But our brains and bodies need more than one setting, if we are constantly working to capacity, we become ill, physically and emotionally.
Research shows that in order to build and maintain healthy levels of wellbeing, we need to engage in the following 5 areas. I have added a secret weapon as the 6th element – read on to find out more!
The Six Areas of Wellbeing
Move your body. This was bad news for me. I do not love the gym.
If you are gym bunny, the good news is that as well as improving your physical health, all that activity is also releasing endorphins – the chemical in your brain that reduces feelings of pain and triggers positive feelings.
If you are absolutely not a gym bunny – fear not! The same effect can be found in doing more walking, gardening or other forms of physical activity. In fact, we know that being outside in green space, and especially in the morning light, really enhances the already high benefits of exercise. So, if you have a dog, that early morning walk may be doing more for your health than you realise!
I like my exercise gentle, a morning walk and yoga when I can, works for me. On that note, if you’d love to do yoga I cannot recommend ‘Yoga with Adriene’ highly enough. You can find her on https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene and at https://yogawithadriene.com where she posts hundreds of free and excellent yoga classes.
Yes! Our brains love learning!
Now, when I introduce this area as a means of improving wellbeing in my workplace seminars, lots of professionals loudly profess that they learn all the time! And then they tell me about the learning they have to do as a job requirement.
That’s great, but I don’t mean that kind of learning. Learn something new and different to the day job. It can be anything – Japanese, knitting, how to play the mandolin… something that would bring you pleasure and a sense of achievement.
Notice is the word we use for those who baulk at the word mindfulness.
In truth, noticing is any mindful activity, that is any activity that encourages you to be mentally here, in the moment and not thinking of the future or recalling the past.
Staring at and smelling a beautiful flower can be just as mindful as sitting cross legged on a cushion meditating. The key is being fully present in the moment of what you are doing, with your mind on nothing else but the here and now experience, even if that experience is just a nice cup of tea.
It sounds simple but there is power in that. The brain is brought to its resting state and that promotes good emotional health and lowers stress levels.
With others. We are social animals. It has been an evolutionary advantage. We need human connection like we need food. The epidemic of loneliness is testimony to that.
Make it your intention to really connect to at least one person each day. The beauty is, it doesn’t have to be a deep and meaningful conversation, putting your phone down and smiling at someone or talking to them in the queue at the shop will do it. It’s amazing the wonderful people you meet when you engage with them. My life is enriched every day, literally every day by the little encounters I have with other people.
Again, some theories identify this as having developed as another evolutionary advantage. The human animal has benefited from mutual cooperation. It is hard-wired into us to receive a benefit in the form of good feeling when we give to others.
As with #connect, this does not have to be a huge gesture, you do not have to sacrifice 20% of your earnings in charitable donations or tithes. Giving your attention, a kind word, a compliment, a helping hand – these are perhaps even more beneficial both to us and to the recipient.
So, finally, to my secret weapon. The 6th area of wellbeing.
Sleep is the sea on which all other areas of wellbeing sail.
There is now overwhelming evidence to show that the right quality and quantity or sleep enhances memory and makes you more attractive (seriously)! It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia, wards off colds and flu and lowers your risk of heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes. Good sleep makes us happier, less depressed, and less anxious.
Seriously, if you don’t manage to do a single one of these areas in the next month, I guarantee you that if your sleep is sorted, you will feel better.
More about that and tips for getting better sleep in my next blog.