Five ways to nurture good mental wellbeing

Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK
09 May 2017

Everyone goes through ups and downs – that’s just the pattern of life. Our moods change all the time and we all have good days and bad days. But is there a secret to having overall good mental health, whereby you generally feel positive and content, and able to cope with potential stressors?

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It helps to start by knowing exactly what good mental wellbeing means.

What is ‘good’ mental wellbeing?

It means that, in general, you feel comfortable and confident; you’re able to express your thoughts and feelings, nurture good relationships with other people, and be resilient. This means you can bounce back quickly when things go wrong, adapt to change and cope with the stresses of everyday life.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? So what things can you build into your life that can help you achieve this? Here are some ideas.

1. Make a daily wellbeing recipe

Have a think about some of the key things you know you need to do or to happen every day to make you feel fulfilled. This will be unique to you and factors in your emotional, social and physical needs. It could be exercising, doing something creative, reading or spending time with a friend.

Make a list and then use it as a checklist throughout the day over a week or so to see where your needs are being met, or where there are gaps. If you’ve got some gaps, you can start to build the things that are missing into your day.

It’s easy to miss what might actually be affecting you mental wellbeing when your days and weeks are so busy. Therefore, a wellbeing ‘recipe’ or checklist could be a good place to start.

2. Learn something new

Learning new things throughout your life opens doors, boosts self-esteem and builds social relationships. These are all great components for good mental wellbeing. Furthermore, setting goals and working towards them is linked to higher levels of wellbeing.

Learning doesn’t have to stop after formal education. There are opportunities everywhere to expand your mind and horizons.

  • Read a book you wouldn’t normally read. For example, if you always choose fiction, choose a non-fiction book, or if that’s not to your tastes, choose a novel in a different genre for a change.
  • Do the mind games in the newspaper – crosswords and Sudoku, for example. Learn how to do the cryptic crossword if you’re already a dab hand at the standard ones.
  • Sign up for a course – it doesn’t have to break the bank. Lots of places offer free courses such as Future Learn, which runs dozens of different courses, from the role of football in today’s society, to how to start a business. If you’ve got a dream, there are books, courses and tools to help you make it a reality. Or just learn about it for the fun of it.
  • You can even look a bit closer to home and find out something new about your colleagues or partner.

  • 3. Be mindful

    Taking notice of what’s going on around you is a good way to be in the moment. Mindfulness is the regular practice of this – you don’t think about the past or the future, you just stay in the moment, observing it without any judgement. This can help you to stop dwelling on the past, which can lead to unhappiness. Research suggests that focusing on what you’re doing – even if it’s washing the dishes – increases present moment awareness which can promote happiness.

4. Practise self-compassion

With all the pressure that comes with modern life – from work, peers and social media – you need to be your own cheerleader. People who are kind to themselves are more likely to bounce back after a setback. This is essential for building up your resilience.

A good way to tune into your inner voice is to sit quietly and listen to your inner monologue. Do you speak to yourself with kindness or are you harsh and critical? Next time something goes wrong, make a conscious effort to speak kindly to yourself – you’re only human and you’re doing the best you can. Think about how you’d talk to your best friend and apply the same tone to yourself.

5. Make a gratitude list

When life moves fast it’s easy to bypass the good stuff and forget to take a moment to be thankful for the things you might sometimes take for granted. Even the first cup of coffee of the day can bring you a lot of pleasure, if you remember to notice it. For example, you might be grateful for the person who smiled at you today, the sunshine and blue sky on your commute to work, or the meal you ate at dinner. It can be the smallest of things.

Another good technique is to think of three things you’re looking forward to about your day ahead. This can help you get into a positive frame of mind at the start of your day and gives you something to look forward to.

Fatmata Kamara
Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK

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