A-Z of Wellbeing
Everybody is different, and everyone finds a different way of improving their general wellbeing. If you are looking for inspiration, or are just curious, feel free to flick through our alphabet of strategies and helpful definitions of all things linked to wellbeing. This list is in no way exhaustive, but we hope you have fun reading it anyway!
Animals. Not for everyone, due to reasons such as allergies and personal likes and dislikes. Yet research shows that animal-assisted therapy can lead to more positive outcomes in a range of mental health settings. For more information contact us or visit: www.psychologytoday.com/gb/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy.
Art. Art-therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is becoming more and more popular as a way to fight stress and anxiety. For more information you can visit www.verywellmind.com/what-is-art-therapy-2795755, and to find out about courses you can do yourself to become an art therapist visit: www.baat.org/About-Art-Therapy
Affirmations. Repeating certain phrases over time will make your head start to believe them. Your head will actually ‘rewire’ itself depending on what it’s absorbing from its surroundings. So, let’s choose wisely what we tell ourselves!
“I am good enough” “I can do this” “I am strong” “I am brave” …what are your favourites?
Behaviour. Behaviour is closely linked to feelings and thoughts. This is the basis of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This means by changing your behaviour you can influence your thoughts and feelings. If you are not in a good place, this is one way to start changing things, with the help of a trained specialist.
Boundaries. Being able to set boundaries is important both in a professional and personal setting. If we spread ourselves too thinly, the work we do is not of the quality it could be, and we are resentful that we have too much to do. Ways that could help you put in place boundaries are discussed here, here and here.
"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. We can't base our own worthiness on others' approval (and this is coming from someone who spent years trying to please everyone!). Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say "Enough!"" Brené Brown, PhD.
Breathe. “Counting to ten” has been used for a long while anecdotally to help people respond to situations when they are angry. However, using your breath has been proven scientifically to be able to help in many situations: yoga, the army, or specific techniques such as the Wim Hof method to regulate emotions. The founder, Wim Hof, uses deep breathing exercises to enable him also to tolerate extremely low temperatures, amongst other things. For more information visit: www.wimhofmethod.com.
Connection. Humans are hardwired for connection, and suffer in isolation from a range of health problems such as heart disease and opioid addictions. Scientist have discovered that we have a ‘social brain network’, that expands with use. The more we interact with people, the easier it gets and the more effective we get at explaining ourselves and getting people on board with our ideas and points of view.
Communication. A very complex subject, which is important if we want to build connections with people, or achieve our goals. Being clear is being kind when it comes to hard conversations, but it also isn't an excuse to be rude or to dish out 'hard truths' in a blunt way. To make it even more interesting, people may respond differently to the same sentence depending on their personal experiences, their culture, their beliefs...or the same person may respond to a request differently depending on how their day is going or if they are hungry!
What is key is to develop empathy, in order to be able to sense how and when to exchange with people. Although not specifically on communication, an in depth book on The Laws of Human Nature is an interesting read on how to develop relationships with the people around us. Another angle on the importance of communication is presented in a podcast by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, on the subject of "what makes love last". Yet another angle is how we listen, which is of course very important if we want to successfully communicate with someone. For more information on how to listen to learn, as opposed to listen to fix or to win, check out a talk by Jennifer Garvey Berger.
Dreams. Having dreams and aspirations gives us hope, and something to aim for. This has been shown scientifically to have a positive impact on our health.
Emotions. Understanding our emotions can help us heal wounds, and generally thrive. There is a lot of research available on this topic, some of which has been translated into some interesting books. ‘Permission to Feel’ by Marc Brackett describes a tool that can be used for understanding our emotions is RULER. This involves recognising, understanding, labelling, expressing and regulating our emotions.
Empathy. Having empathy is very important in order to be able to be there for someone. Brené Brown, a social worker and professor, has put together a lovely Youtube video explaining what it is, and how it differs to sympathy: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw&vl=en-GB.
Freeze, flight or fight. An instinctual reaction to being faced with a stressful situation. It is possible to prepare a different response, by engaging a different part of your brain which helps to remain calm. Interested in being a better speaker in public? Do certain situations or people press your buttons? Read about mind management tools such as the Chimp paradox for more details on staying calm and in control.
Grief. There are different stages of grief that are important to traverse, in order to find inner peace. There are 5 main stages proposed by common literature: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A sixth stage was proposed by David Kessler, an expert on grief that has his own lived experience with the subject. More information can be found in his book called ‘Finding Meaning’.
Healing. A very important process, that will be completely unique for every individual as their own personal journey is completely different. Often we need to heal both physically and spiritually. Sometimes we find someone who is able to help us on both fronts relatively easily, and sometimes it will take a while to find a professional that can reach us at a time when we are ready to listen. For more information, you can check out Oprah Winfrey's chat on trauma, resilience and healing on the podcast "Unlocking Us".
Hobbies. Taking the time to perform our hobbies is one of the main ways to release stress from our stress container. Everyone will find a different activity that will suit them, and this is absolutely fine. The key is to ‘allow’ yourself the time to do it!
Inner voice. Our inner voice can be our best friend or our worst enemy. It is in our own self-interest to aim for an inner voice to be our cheerleader. To encourage us, to keep us going when morale is low, and to help us make the right decision for the right reasons. An interesting book on the subject is “Mastering your mean girl”, by Melissa Ambrosini. A similar concept is also advocated by Amelia and Emily Nagoski in their book "Burnout", where they discuss how to befriend your inner critic and how important being kind to yourself is. They discuss this in quite a few podcasts if you would like a sneak peek of what is in the book!
Journaling. Daily, weekly, or at random…it doesn’t matter. It is an outlet for your thoughts and feelings, and an opportunity to reflect. Many tools can be incorporated into this, in order to organise and reshape our thoughts. One of those tools is practising gratitude, so writing down 2-5 things for which you feel truthfully and deeply grateful. There are also a range of resources on prompts, which help us start to write if we feel stuck. Kris Carr is a life coach and gives her favourite 7 prompts here. A similar practice is 'morning pages', which is focused more on helping you release.
Knowledge. Knowledge is power (Sir Francis Bacon). In terms of mental well-being, it can be interesting to read and listen to self-help books, to give ourselves more tools on being happier, more successful, more aware…There is a huge range, both written by academics such as ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth, and more spiritual healers such as “You can heal your life” by Louise Hay.
Language. What we say, and how we say things can effect quite strongly how we feel and act. There are many practical examples of this. NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is used by psychologists and other therapists to look at patterns of thought and behaviour, and how we can change to get the outcomes we desire. More generally, how we speak can really impact our feelings, for example the word 'should' can make us anxious. In a spiritual sense, how we talk to ourselves can really impact our self-esteem, for more info scroll up to 'inner voice'.
Love. Loving others as well as ourselves can be learned throughout our lifetimes. Observing ourselves with curiosity, attention, compassion and kindness permits us to develop self-love. Why is this important in the grand scheme of things? Once this is learnt internally, it can be directed externally at family, friends, pets, activities, places…the list is endless.
Meditation. It has been scientifically proven to have many health benefits, both mental and physical. There are many different styles of meditation. Some people prefer guided meditation where someone talks to them on a given topic such as ‘letting go of fear’, whilst others prefer to sit in silence and focus on breathing. Of course, these styles are not mutually exclusive.
Mindfulness. Being in the present moment, and finding out you are not just your thoughts but can in fact calmly observe them and choose how to react. There are many different methods linked to mindfulness, of which the most common is meditation. The benefits of regular practice are numerous, from feeling more calm and at peace to eventually physically changing the structure of your brain. More information can be found here. For a more in depth conversation about effortless mindfulness based on the study of quite a few different cultures and traditions, there is a really interesting conversation by Loch Kelly on The Knowledge Project podcast.
Nutrition. Putting aside fad diets which never seem to work long term, a balanced diet is based on eating a range of foods that are in all the colours of the rainbow. Some more guiding principles are avoiding refined sugar, eating wholegrain and seasonal fruit and vegetables, and focusing more on what we COULD be eating to nourish ourselves rather that what we SHOULDN’T. For more information about this principle and a ‘food pyramid’ that we could aim for in order to achieve this check out: https://ameliafreer.com/2019/11/09/what-is-positive-nutrition/.
No. Being able to say ‘no’ is incredibly hard, but in certain situations is necessary to maintain boundaries, integrity, and strength to be able to be there in the long run for the people that need your support. Of course, being able to say ‘yes’ also requires courage, and opens up a world of opportunities, so the context is important to consider before taking a decision on how to react to a given situation.
Open mind. Keeping your mind open to new ideas, arguments, and information has many benefits. Being able to see things from different perspectives can help us grow, or be more effective at persuading others why our original point of view is better. It is not necessarily easy to practice, but the result is a calmer, more confident person who doesn’t get defensive and angry when challenged.
Positive Psychology. This is a branch of psychology founded by a psychologist called Martin Seligman. He realised that with his work, he was able to bring his clients to a neutral place after being in a negative place, but he wanted to go further. He wanted to bring them to a place where they felt positive.
Question. Being curious is so important. It keeps our mind active, open to new ideas and activities, and is crucial in a world full of people trying to control others for a range of reasons. When we know why we do what we do, what our values and beliefs are, it also gives us a feeling of certainty, and confidence. If you are more interested in curiosity this article is worth a read.
Reflection. According to John Maxwell in a podcast called The Knowledge Project …"To grow yourself you need to know yourself”. Reflection is one of the main tools of journaling for example, and it is also the basis of some counselling techniques. Psychodynamic therapy for example relies on the therapist being incredibly self-aware, seeing their own therapist, and keeping a reflective journal.
Sharing. Everyone’s life is unique, however we all may go through similar experiences often without even knowing about it. Being able to share your story and talking to others who can relate to what you are going through can be supportive to everyone involved. There are many groups set up for people with similar issues, from ones that deal with specific issues such as Alcoholics Anonymous to the more general, such as Men Walk Talk.
Therapy. There are many different types of therapy available, which is good news as what works for one person may not work for another. Some people may benefit from a psychologist, others prefer a counsellor. Even in counselling, there are different approaches depending on the ideology of the counsellor. There are also alternative therapies such as art therapy, animal-assisted therapy. Therapists are also people and vary, and it may be that you have to try a few people before you find a good ‘fit’. It is worth it though.
Universe. The idea that the universe is listening and can help you if you send out the right signals is repeated throughout literature. For example, many people are firm believers of the Law of Attraction, where your thoughts can help attract what you want from the universe. The idea is also discussed in books, for example in "The Alchemist" by Paolo Coelho : “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Small disclaimer with this one though: just because you want it doesn't mean that the universe 'owes' it to you. This is actually a pitfall. Interested why? Check out the Ted talk by Amy Morin on mental toughness. Or a podcast with Oprah Winfrey and Gwenyth Paltrow called "Power, perception and soul purpose": "Don't hold anything too tightly just wish for it. Want it. Let it come from the intention of real truth for you and then let it go. And if it's supposed to be yours it will show up and it won't show up until you stop holding it so tightly."
More on this in the next topic on Visualisation!
Visualisation. Visualising something that we want can help us achieve it. It can be taken in a more spiritual sense, or a more practical sense. Some people believe that visualising events makes them more likely to happen: sending out a message to the universe if you like. More practically, research has shown when we visualise an act, such as throwing a ball, the same neurons are fired in our head as if we were doing the act. It is a very useful technique in terms of sport, for example.
Water. It is so important to stay hydrated. Your body is made up of 50-60% water, and not getting enough over time can lead to dehydration. This can affect both your mental and physical health without you even realising it. For more information: www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/hydration/adults-teens.html
What to avoid: alcohol, drugs, bad nutrition…All of these things can have a strong negative impact on our mental and physical health in the long term. More specifically, everyone has a stress container which defines what level of stress they can handle before they are completely overwhelmed. Certain actions help empty the container, and others stop stress levels going down, such as drinking and avoiding connecting to people.
There are many different types of Yoga. Some focus more on technique, and others let you get a good sweat on. You can also choose if you go to a class, or use the internet to practice from the comfort of your own home. A free, beginner friendly website is available for example here: https://yogawithadriene.com/.
Zzzzz…sleep. So important yet very often underrated. Sleep is an important time during which your body repairs itself, and performs many housekeeping functions. A lack of sleep can have a huge impact on for example your weight, brain functioning, and both mental and physical health. For more information: www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important.