Keeping our minds resilient and strong is important no matter the time of year, but in the winter months, especially as our days grow shorter and the sun slants lower in the sky, we need to put in more effort.
A good place to start if you are keen to boost your psychological wellbeing is with the Mental Health Foundation recommended Five Ways to Wellbeing, originally stemming from the UK government driven Mental Capital and Wellbeing project. For a quick slideshow on the five ways to wellbeing click here.
Let’s have a closer look at what the five ways are actually all about.
Connect, me whakawhanaunga: Connect with people.
Human beings are social by design. We languish in the absence of love and connection, and the literature will back us up on this showing links of both social isolation and loneliness with cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression, lowered immune function, cognitive decline and obesity. Yes, you may be an introvert who would, given the option, opt for a solo night in, but in this case your choice is in fact a choice, not your only option. In other words, us introverts may choose to spend time alone while secure in the knowledge that we belong. We have a tribe. A community. A family. Someone, should we suddenly change our minds about our Saturday night in plans, to call.
Give, tukua: Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger.
In a previous article we wrote about the many benefits of the act of giving, that extend well beyond the ‘givee’ and the moment of giving. Giving comes with physical and psychological perks such as reducing the risk of dying and depression (need I say more?), that don’t occur when the recipient of our giving is…ourselves! Giving is also just a little contagious, and can spark generosity in others. Before you know it you can become the object of a run-away philanthropist’s focus. Yay!
Take notice, me aro tonu: Be curious, engage your senses in the world as it is, right now, around you. Right now!
When we allow ourselves the courtesy of slowing down, we start to become aware of smaller, often unnoticed things around us – the layers of sound; a bird in a tree outside our office window; the humming of a faraway digger (I live in the country near a sand extraction zone…), the different scents in the air, and even the crick in our neck that we’ve just become accustomed to. When we become really good at taking notice our body learns to tap into the more healthy and restorative rest and repair nervous system state, instead of constantly living from cortisol explosion to cortisol explosion.
Keep learning, me ako tonu: Try something new or take up an old interest or hobby.
Keeping the brain ‘on its toes’ so to speak by continuing to learn throughout life has been shown to be great for our mental health by contributing to our self-esteem and confidence, our positive feelings, sense of purpose and buoyancy towards life. Stimulate your brain, and grab a piece of happiness (and even stave of neurodegeneration) by learning the names of different plants in your area, or a new language, or a new recipe, or a new anything! Maybe even dig out that old guitar and see if you can summon up a few chords by memory.
Be active, me kori tonu: Just move.
The research has been in on the benefits of movement and exercise for a long time now. Moving around and building up a sweat has been linked to the growth of new brain cells, improved memory, better sleep, reduced anxiety and depression and a good old hit of dopamine and serotonin (yes please!). We do not need to rely solely on sugary delights for a feel good high.
I’ll leave you to pour some creativity into what these might look like in winter. For me, I like snuggling under a blanky (Connect), with a good documentary (Keep Learning), sitting in my rickety rocking chair watching my chickens in the morning (Take Notice), and spending time with my loved ones (Give and Connect). The Be Active is where I struggle a bit, so it’s important to do something that doesn’t feel like a job, something I enjoy. Time to make a plan and lock in some yoga.
Blog by Ance Strydom