Do you have a physical fitness plan? Most people say 'yes', a few less say that they put their plan into action, but most of us know what to do when it comes to keeping physically fit and healthy. You may go to the gym, do yoga, go jogging or bounce on a trampoline.
Got a mental wellbeing plan? The answer is usually not as definitive. Having asked thousands of people this question - I mostly get hesitation, a few people sharing they see a health professional for a mental illness, and a minority able to answer 'yes' with conviction.
While the physical fitness industry has been excellent in raising awareness and empowering people to proactively care for their health and fitness, the mental health industry has largely focused on treatment and risk reduction. When someone mentions 'mental health' most people's mind races to stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders.
Turns out there is a mental health equivalent of 'fitness' and it is called psychological wellbeing (also referred to as life satisfaction, happiness, thriving or flourishing).
What the scientific literature has made clear is that mental health is so much more than the absence of illness and distress. The World Health Organisation defines mental health as a state of wellbeing where a person has the ability to cope with everyday stressors, work productively, contribute to their community and fulfill their potential.
Mental wellbeing is about functioning well psychologically, emotionally and socially. It is a complex construct made up of positive emotions, a sense of autonomy, mastery, purpose and meaning. It also includes a sense of connection to people and/or place.
Like physical fitness, we are seeing an increasing body of research talking about the benefits of building wellbeing or mental fitness. There is no doubt that looking after our wellbeing is important, so why aren't more people doing it? It turns out they probably are - they just don't realise it.
We all have our own incidental wellbeing workout - each time we connect with another person or move our body or express gratitude or mindfully spend time in the garden - we get a little bit healthier. Unfortunately, when we get busy or stressed we often let go of these activities. The irony is that this is the opposite of what we should be doing, as these activities are vital for good health.
Our mission at The Mind Room is to bring attention to the everyday actions that enhance (and those that undermine) people's health and wellbeing. To help you tailor your own health and happiness plan, so it is sustainable, meaningful and helps you navigate the joys, sorrows, stressors and opportunities that life offers.
My own wellbeing workout involves:
1. Looking after my relationships with family and friends
2. Moving my body
3. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude
4. Knowing and acting in alignment with my values (learning, connection, adventure, integrity, collaboration)
5. Giving back by volunteering my time to social-good enterprises like Band4Hope and Action for Happiness.
What is your wellbeing workout?
Deciding on you own wellbeing plan can be as simple as understanding what evidence-backed wellbeing activities look like, prioritising the ones that fit your current life circumstances, and intentionally choose to integrate them into your life (don't let them slide when you get busy or stressed).
If you want a simple model to get you started use these five wellbeing action themes, from research conducted by NEF and implemented by Action for Happiness. These can help you identify what you already do, or could do more of, to build your wellbeing everyday:
Dr Jo Mitchell, Clinical Psychologist
The Mind Room is a health, wellbeing and performance psychology community. We are home to a team of psychologists, wellbeing and performance specialists, mindfulness facilitators and other friendly, fun and wise people.
Jo is a clinical psychologist who works with individuals and groups seeking to achieve valued life goals, find meaning and live well. She works with professionals experiencing mental illness, burnout, or struggling to manage stress in their lives. She also has a specialist interest in working with athletes, particularly managing athletic and life transitions, mental illness and wellbeing, and has 20+ years experience in the sport industry. Jo also has expertise in wellbeing science - including positive psychology, ACT and mindfulness - and has completed her PhD in this field.