I’ve been thinking a lot about a quick little wellbeing reference – a piece you could come back to as a check-in to remind yourself of the things that boost your wellbeing. Lockdown seems like a good time for this. So today we are posting an A – Z of wellbeing – 26 things that can give you a boost – and also that need to be protected for ultimate mental health and balance.
As these by necessity will be short, I have linked where I can to relevant articles so you can find out more.
A – Artistry
Finding a way to be creative or to express a part of yourself that isn’t connected to your job or the other roles you play in life can be an important part of your wellbeing plan. Expressing yourself can be a way to be mindful and it can also be time for you that you carve out in a busy world.
B – Books
I am a firm believer in the power of reading – not only because reading is quiet, mindful time that can re-set us, but because reading provides us with information. We can learn about the world and about the experiences of others and through this we develop empathy. Stories are an important part of that. Non-fiction reading is just as important as it helps us learn about the inner workings of ourselves. This Wellbeing Hive Article expands on these ideas.
We all need to feel a part of something, and belonging plays a huge role in our wellbeing. What is your community? Family may be community, a sporting club, an interest group (even if on the internet) and schools also play important roles in young people finding a sense of identity and belonging.
D – Diet
Our diet has a greater impact on our wellbeing than we would like to acknowledge. And although a glass of wine and a block of chocolate will often seem like a great idea, these are short-term fixes that do not really contribute to our long-term wellbeing (although they do help in the moment!). Our bodies are like steam engines and in order to work at top potential, we need to feed them appropriately. We also need to ensure we are well-hydrated!
E – Exercise
Like the above, if we want our bodies to work well, we need to give them what they need. And everyone needs exercise. Exercise has obvious physical health benefits, but mental health benefits abound too. Let’s not forget that endorphins are the feel-good hormones that exercise releases, so sometimes when you are down, working up a sweat is not a bad idea!
F – Friendships
Sometimes, we take the people closest to us for granted. But lockdown reinforced for us the crucial power of connecting to others – even in new ways like zoom calls. Protect and invest in your friendships and this will return to you two-fold.
G – Gratitude
Research tells us that an attitude of gratitude is one of the key indicators of a happy life. People who use their character strength of gratitude take time to appreciate the small things and to focus on the positive. There are many ways to do this, either formally through gratitude journals or informally. Many families like to practice gratitude around the dinner table each night, having each member express something that was positive and significant for them about the day. Try a gratitude practice for just 30 days and you will see a difference.
H – Help
Here’s a handy wellbeing tip – help others where you can. Much like gratitude, service to others is a powerful way to create meaning in your own life, and construct positive emotions. It’s one of the reasons why Service is the Wellbeing Theme at Senior Boys this term.
I – Idols
Our idols and role models help us shape ourselves into the kind of person we want to be. Always be on the lookout for a hero, or an everyday person who embodies qualities we admire. Tell the story and recognise the good. Here’s an article that talks about how we use this strategically in our school wellbeing programs.
J – Jokes and Humour
Humour is a wonderful thing to utilize in stressful times – which is why it was a wellbeing theme in 2020. Laughter has the power to improve moods and connect strangers – never underestimate its importance. Those silly little YouTube videos that make us laugh may actually play an important role in our wellbeing!
K – Kindness
Kindness costs us nothing. But it makes the world a better place. Sprinkle random acts of kindness everywhere and choose understanding, charity and empathy where you can.
Be kind to yourself too. Forgive your mistakes and don’t forget to consider your needs amongst the others around you.
L – Listening
We are terrible listeners. And it is not our fault – our brains work so fast that we always have multiple things going on. But listening is important to creating connection, so try to focus on the conversations that you have, and the people around you.
You can also listen to the signals your body gives you. If it is tired, rest. Notice the signals and try to act on them.
M – Mindfulness
We all need a mindfulness practice in a busy world – and to acknowledge that mindfulness is not just meditation. Yoga, reading, puzzles… many things that require full concentration are mindful.
N – No!
Say no sometimes without worrying about disappointing someone. Boundaries can be important. No-one can do everything. Say no to things that seem like good ideas, but might make you too busy to rest or spend time with family. Don’t be afraid to say no!
O – Outdoors
Green spaces are magic. Another lesson from 2020 was that you should always live near somewhere that you can retreat into nature. Nature revives us and centres us – and even indoor plants can have a similar impact. Read more about the power of the outdoors here.
P – Purpose
A sense of purpose brings meaning and reason to everything. Should we not have been looking to defeat COVID19, could we have locked ourselves in at home for 16 weeks last year? Definitely not. But as Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “he who has a why, can bear any how”. What this means for us on a day -to-day level, is to find purpose in all that we do – to seek the greater reason why we do it. We don’t just go to school – we prepare to be whatever future aspiration we have. We don’t just work – we support a business or a family or provide products and services that make others’ lives better. Read more here.
Q – Quiet
Do you make sure there are enough moments of quiet in your life? We turn computers off and on to make sure they are working properly and rest – and I think quiet performs that function for us too. We often fill our minds with radio or social media but need to remember that sometimes the brain needs quiet moments too. Sometimes allowing ourselves this can also produce moments of great creativity!
R – Ritualisation
Recently I wrote an article about self-care that talked about the need to create plans and rituals. To look after ourselves, we have to do more than the occasional chocolate binge or bubble bath – we need to really firmly embed in our routines that which promotes continued balance, wellbeing and mental health. I cannot stress how important this is.
S – Strengths
Focusing on our strengths is a wonderful way to help us appreciate the unique things we have to offer the world. One tool we use for this at St Margaret’s Berwick Grammar are the VIA Character Strengths. This helps students develop an appreciation for their own strengths and creates a vocabulary around these which is essential for emotional literacy. There are numerous articles on the Hive about this, but for teachers and parents who really want to embrace this as a part of their day-to-day practice, I would recommend Dr Lea Waters’ book, The Strength Switch.
T – Technology
Technology gets a “bad rap” in wellbeing terms, but provided we are conscious of over-use and mis-use (like any tool I suppose!), technology can be a tremendous wellbeing support. Music is a mood booster, Zoom and social media help us connect with others and YouTube is a source of learning and inspiration for us all. Read more about the possibilities for technology to integrate with wellbeing here.
U – U-Turns
Don’t be afraid to make a U-Turn if something in your life isn’t working. Each year we make resolutions or start new routines to meet a goal – but sometimes part of that routine or resolution doesn’t work for us. When we abandon these things, we abandon the goal too. Keep focused instead on the goal of better nutrition or feeling stronger and change the strategy instead!
V – Vulnerability
Ask for help when you need it. Suffering in silence is needless in a world where we are more conscious of mental health than ever. I firmly believe our world is becoming one that recognizes admitting vulnerability is a strength rather than a weakness.
W – Wellness
Do whatever it takes to be well – mentally and physically. Invest in your own wellness above all else. Many of the readers of this article will be parents or teachers, which means we spend a lot of time supporting others. You need to prioritise YOU in order to do that effectively. Make choices that help you get enough sleep, nutrition, vitamins, fresh air, exercise, head space, quiet time, connected time and so on. These are not options. These are priorities.
X – Xenomania
Yes, I had to look up a word for x. But what a word it is! Xenomania is the love of strangers – it is looking forward to meeting new people and embracing opportunities for this. Although research is showing us many of us are feeling emotionally drained and less likely to connect during lockdown, a positive interaction with a stranger does actually always make us smile. Treat everyone you meet like a prospective friend and appreciate the little moments a person brightens your day.
Never stop dreaming and looking forward to things. A yearning or a dream is an investment in the future, and a sign of positive mental health. Keep learning new things and setting new goals.
Z – Zest
Zest is one of the character strengths most attributed to happiness – much like gratitude. Zest is an enthusiasm for life – people who are full of zest get readily excited about all life has to offer. They are also the best people to be around. Seek them out! You can always also look to develop your character strength of Zest to be that person!