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Getting started with wellbeing and building resilience

Mental wellbeing is about feeling good and functioning well. Just like physical health, mental health is something we can all look after and strengthen. Doing the things that keep us well can boost our mood and outlook. It can also help us build handy buffers so if times get tough, we’re able to adapt more quickly.

Resilience is more than just bouncing back from tough times. It's about our knowledge and skills in wellbeing and our ability to adapt. It's also being able to draw from resources around us to sustain our wellbeing.

Learning how to practice the skills that grow our wellbeing also builds our resilience. It makes it more likely that we'll adapt positively and grow through the challenges we face.

Five Ways to Wellbeing

In 2008, the New Economics Foundation (UK) analysed international research to discover what builds wellbeing. They produced a list of the top five actions. The actions meet robust scientific standards, and anyone can use them.

Building these actions into your daily and weekly life will enhance your wellbeing and grow your resilience.

Connect/me whakawhanaunga

Creating and maintaining relationships is a powerful boost to wellbeing. Our relationships help us feel valued, loved and give us meaning and purpose.

We should all nurture positive relationships. These can be with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. They can be at home, work, school and in your local community.

Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be active/me kori tonu

Moving is not only good for our bodies, it also makes a real difference to how we feel. It doesn’t always mean getting sweaty. Activities like walking the dog or dancing through the house also work a treat!

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance or stretch regularly. Exercising makes you feel good.

Most importantly, discover a physical activity that you enjoy and suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Take notice/me aro tonu

We're often told to stop and smell the roses. When we take notice, we're giving ourselves space to become mindful, breathe and slow down.

When was your last moment of awe? Be aware of the world around you and what you're feeling. Savour the moment and tune in with all your senses whether you're walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends.

Growing mindfulness will help you regulate your emotions and maintain a calm focus. It will also help you practice gratitude and appreciate what matters to you.

For more active skill development, seek out classes in meditation and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a mental discipline that helps connect you to the here-and-now and regain control. The Australian website This Way Up has a free introductory course on mindfulness. Your GP must first register as a prescriber. They can then email a prescription to you, so you can register for the course. The Smiling Mind app is an excellent free resource to get you started with mindfulness. The American site Headspace has a free app for an introductory 10-day programme.

Keep learning/me ako tonu

Learning helps keep our minds active, which helps our wellbeing.

Be curious about the world around you. Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Learn Te Reo Māori.

Set a challenge you'll enjoy achieving. Learning new things gives you a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Give/tukua

Kindness can give our mood an instant boost. Everyone has something to give, whether it’s a compliment or lending a hand. Kind acts make us feel better and help us build connections with others.

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Seeing yourself and your happiness linked to others and the wider community can be incredibly rewarding. It also creates connections with the people around you.

More Ways to Wellbeing

The five ways to wellbeing are the go-to starter pack for improved wellbeing. But there are some more actions that can be helpful to our day-to-day mental health. You may find some or all these beneficial to your wellbeing.

Return to nature

Being in nature helps us feel good. It reduces blood pressure, heart rate and the production of stress hormones. Getting outside and enjoying green spaces is a proven pick-me-up.

For many, it's also a boost to our spiritual health, bringing a sense of awe, gratitude, meaning and purpose. Ko te whenua ko au, ko au ko te whenua. I am the land and the land is me.

Embrace your culture

Culture includes traditions and identities that we share. For example, ethnic, religious, sexual identity and so on. Understanding your own culture, or cultures, helps you understand yourself and what makes you unique. We all have cultures. Participating in cultural activities and practices helps us connect with whānau and others. It also helps us build a sense of identity, belonging, meaning and purpose in the world.

Keep the faith

Meaning and purpose are core attributes of wellbeing. For many this comes from spiritual practice or faith.

Spirituality means different things to different people. But however you feel about it, spending time in contemplation, gratitude or following other practices on your own or in a group can you help build a meaningful life and be powerfully sustaining.

Feed your brain

There's growing evidence that eating well and mental wellbeing are closely linked. Like our other organs, our brain is affected by how well we fuel it. See Eating well for mood & mental wellbeing.

Sleep

When it comes to sleep, quality is better than quantity. Quality sleep allows our body to repair itself. It also allows our brain to consolidate memories and process information. Sleep affects our ability to use language and sustain attention. It also affects our ability to understand what we're reading and summarise what we're hearing.

Poor sleep can compromise our performance, our mood and our interpersonal relationships. See Tips for sleeping well.

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Written by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created March 2021.

See also:

Getting back into community-based activities

Getting back into work or study

Loneliness and social isolation

Reading in Mind book scheme

Five ways to wellbeing image used with permission from the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

Page reference: 838691

Review key: HIMEN-176608