You take care of your physical health – but what about your emotional and mental health? Are you taking the right steps to wellbeing?
[Can’t find your way to wellbeing lately? And need support? Our new booking site helps you find an online or phone counsellor quickly and easily, no matter your budget or where you live.]
The steps proven to improve your psychological health
First things first – wellbeing is not ‘being happy‘ all the time. It’s more about being balanced and resilient (we recommend you read our article, ‘The Wellbeing Test‘).
According to the National Health Service (NHS) here in the UK, there are five evidence-based (proven by research) steps to wellbeing. These are:
But what does all this really mean? And how much work is it? What things do you need to know so you don’t waste effort for no results?
Let’s look more closely.
The 5 steps to wellbeing and key mistakes people make
1. Connecting with Others.
Key mistake: packing your social schedule to overwhelm.
Surrounding yourself with people is not the same as connecting with people. In fact you can have many friends and not really be connecting at all. This is why there is an expression, ‘lonely in a crowd’.
Connecting means you see and appreciate someone for who they really are, and allow them to see an appreciate you for who you really are. Sound confusing? Read our article ‘Connecting With Others- What It Is And Isn’t‘.
2. Keeping Active.
Key mistake: Forcing yourself to do exercise you hate in the name of wellbeing.
Exercise is now proven to improve moods.
But using exercise as a tool to ‘punish yourself’ can have the adverse affect, lowering your self-esteem or even causing anxiety. This could look like obsessively exercising every time you eat more than a controlled amount, making yourself go to a gym you feel uncomfortable at, getting up at 5 a.m. to exercise when you aren’t a morning person, and doing exercise you hate.
The more you can make staying active a joy, the more you’ll do it. There are so many ways to exercise nowadays, from arial yoga to climbing centres to daytime raves to endless free youtube dance routines. Be brave and try something new.
And remember it doesn’t even have to be ‘fitness’. Walking to work instead of taking the bus, exploring nature on the weekends, and gardening are all ways of keeping active.
3. Keep learning.
Key mistake: Learning things you think you ‘should’ or trying to learn everything.
Learning keeps us interested and engaged in life. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment, which improves our confidence. And certain things like learning a new language and dance are also recommended for maintaining brain health.
But feeling under pressure to learn everything can mean we feel overwhelmed.
And trying to learn what we thing we ‘should’ can mean we get plain bored. We end up quitting and feeling turned off trying anything new.
Learning works best when we follow a spark of interest we feel compelled to follow. Yes, this means you might have to go to a class without your partner or friend, but it also means you might end up meeting new friends altogether.
Key mistake: Giving out of obligation.
Giving because we think it’s the right thing to do and then sitting around waiting for others to appreciate our generosity or pay us back in kind leads to one thing – bitterness.
Giving should never be a transaction. It should be an impulse. When we give just because we want to a strange thing happens – we immediately receive a return. We feel connected to others, and we sense our own value.
In fact research connects things like volunteering to better moods, less depression, and raised self-esteem (read our article on the Benefits of Volunteering for more).
5. Be mindful.
Key mistake: seeing mindfulness as meditation (and you aren’t into that).
Mindfulness simply means being present to what is happening right here and now. It means dimming down all your judgements on the past and worries about the future and seeing what is right in front of you.
Yes, meditation is one of the most powerful and evidence-based forms of mindfulness.
But mindfulness can be found in anything that helps you be more present-focused. It might be doing origami, it might be gardening, it might be fishing. It’s in the moments when your brain turns off and you are just ‘being’.
Or try just taking two minutes to breathe deeply, focussing on your breath and bringing your attention to your body and current emotions. Do that several times a day, and you will see a difference.
[Want to try mindfulness today? Try our free, easy-to-read “Guide to Mindfulness“.]
Further steps to wellbeing
The above steps are the basics of wellbeing, but they are certainly not the only ways to improve your mental and emotional health. Here are a few more we recommend:
The last one is especially important if you feel you can’t get on top of emotional wellbeing. Sometimes we need some unconditional support and someone to listen to us, and to help us see the ‘wood for the trees’.
A coach, counsellor or psychotherapist can help you identify just how we are sabotaging your wellbeing without realising it. They can support you in making goals for wellbeing and then help you achieve them.
Harley Therapy connects you with top London therapists in central locations. Not in London, or even the UK? Try our new sister site harleytherapy.com and talk to an online or phone counsellor quickly and easily.
Still have a question about key steps to wellbeing? Ask in the comment box below. Note that we moderate all comments to protect our readers.