CONNECT: One of Five Ways to Wellbeing
Note: this blog post addresses strategies to care for personal mental health and the mental health of others. If it triggers anything, please reach out to trained professionals and to people who love you.
Monday October 9 - Friday October 13 marks the Mental Health Foundation's 'Mental Health Awareness Week'. Picking up their 'Five Ways to Wellbeing' printed resource (see photo below) when I was in a workplace facilitating a mindfulness programme last week inspired this blog post. Their fourth way to wellbeing is to 'connect', so this blog post is about the importance of connecting with people who boost you up. Other blog posts will come later addressing the other Ways to Wellbeing. If you are experiencing mental health difficulties I encourage you to reach out to trained professionals and to people who care about you and support you. Know that you are not alone and that people care about you.
The Mental Health Foundation's 'Five Ways to Wellbeing' address important self-care strategies to help feel better. I learned about the concept of 'self-care' while doing Youthline's Volunteer Phone Counselling training in 2014. It's the idea of having things in your life that help you care for yourself. Think about a child: how do you care for them? You give them your time, you feed them, you are active with them, you teach them life lessons and, in return, they grow into a (hopefully) flourishing human being. What about yourself? Can you apply this same care and advice to yourself? That is why self-care is so important: in order to look after others and be in a good state for them, we must also look after ourselves. In essence, to care for or lead others we must first care for or lead ourselves. Jen Y Insights is about the insights and learnings that come from applying the lessons and wisdom in my day-to-day life.
One of my key self-care strategies is to journal and write - it connects me with myself and shifts through all of the mental chatter. To learn more about its benefits check out Psych Central's article on it. It helps me get through the sometimes negative mental chatter and get to 'positive and driven Jen'. This strategy is so important as, I don't know about all of you, but I'm the person that I spend the most consistent time with - so, I really work to make this a positive and supportive relationship. Last week I wrote:
A few years ago, when I first started working, I felt nothing like this (more on this at a later date). Through connecting with people who boosted me up consistently and believed in my talents, dreams and goals, I have been able to get to where I am today.
Jen Y Insight's top tips for connecting with and surrounding yourself with people who'll boost you up:
1) Make a list of the top 5-10 people in your life who are positive influences and who support you
Often a message from a loved one or calling a friend can be enough to boost my mood. During our Youthline Phone Counsellor training we talked about the importance of our support networks, especially if we do a lot of caring work for others. As humans we are social beings - it's in our biology! It's also proven that we learn better in relation to others (think about the last course you went on when you learned from hearing other people's stories versus doing an online course by yourself). Reaching out to and connecting with someone who loves us is one of the best strategies to feel good.
You may be asking: Jen, but what if my friends are all busy or if they're not interested in the same stuff as me?
Don't you worry! I've thought of this one too, which brings me to number 2...
2) Finding people with similar interests: Meetup
Meetup is an online platform and application to meet people with similar interests. You can select what things interest you and meet people who have similar interests - whether this be eating great food, running, learning, meeting new people, etc. People going to these meetups are in a similar boat to you: they want to meet similar-minded people and to be inspired by other people. A mentor said to me that whenever he felt down he would go to a self-improvement meetup as the people who went to these were interested in improving their lives and he consistently took away something that inspired him. If you're not in the mindset to go out and meet new people, why not read an inspiring book or call someone who is a positive influence in your life and is happy to just listen to your ideas? Or, an awesome video that was shared to us at the Pop-Up Business School that I'm currently attending was a video by Prince EA. Inspiring stuff!
3) Energise: Go to the gym or a sports club, or for a walk in nature
Walking (... sometimes running) in nature is another one of my key self-care strategies. Some people may be allergic to the word 'exercise', so I've used the word 'energise' instead. I get it - exercise can have connotations of intense effort, competition and sweat running down faces. For me, I intentionally do exercise that I enjoy - then it's fun! Being active is also #2 of the Mental Health Foundations' 'Five Ways to Wellbeing'. It's proven to make you feel good: it releases endorphins and, I've found this makes people friendlier. Have you ever met a not-friendly dog walker? For me, I love to go for walks up Te Ahumairangi/Tinakori Hill in Northland, Wellington as I'm 70% - 90% guaranteed to meet a dog and their owner (and get a puppy cuddle!) Sometimes this is all the motivation I need for walking up that hill: see the views and cuddle a dog. That to me is #winninginlife. Repeat walkers = new friends (and accountability to keep doing it).
4) 'You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with' - Jim Rohn
This quote has really helped me to evaluate where I spend my time and who I spend my time with. For me, I choose to surround myself with inspiring, driven and compassionate people every day. Currently, I'm attending Aotearoa's first 'Pop-Up Business School' being held in Porirua for 10 days from October 2 - October 13. It's based on the UK model that's been successfully running for almost 7 years. It's an amazing opportunity to learn how to create, build and grow a business, made FREE by amazing sponsors (Porirua City Council, TPK and WREDA) for the first 50 registered. As an aside: funnily enough, today we learned about networking and this same quote came up in the slides! I half-wondered whether the facilitators had read my mind for this blog post that I'd started on Sunday...
I also shared this quote with a coaching client and she found the quote similarly hard-hitting. She then assessed who she was spending her time with and made some intentional changes. She came back to me the following week looking much less stressed as she now had more time to do what she really wanted to do and time to spend with the people who really boosted her up. To this day, when we see each other she still mentions how learning this quote helped her to prioritise her time and helped her more intentionally work on her goals.
Note: I initially intended to mention the context of work environment in this blog post too as we spend 1/3 (or more) of our waking hours at work, however I decided this was a topic in itself. So, I will address it in a future blog post :)
5) Your relationship with yourself
You're the person that you spend the most time with in life, so I encourage you to see where you're at in relationship with yourself. One of my favourite stories about choosing our thoughts and our relationship with ourselves is about the good wolf versus the bad wolf. Learning about this before doing rock climbing, blind folded, on Outward Bound in 2014 was extremely helpful. For me, it was a gradual process: learning about self-care, caring for my physical and my mental health, figuring out what work I really wanted to do, pushing myself outside my comfort zone consistently and choosing who I surrounded myself with...to finally trust myself and love myself as my own best friend. If you are having difficulty with your thoughts, I encourage you to reach out and get the support that you need. Or, if you know of someone who is struggling, I sincerely encourage you to reach out to them and give your time, your words and your presence.
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, I invite you to connect with someone who may be struggling or sincerely connect with anyone, ask them 'how are you?' and really listen to them. When answered authentically, the answer to this simple question can make a real difference in someone's day or life. If anything in this blog post resonated with you or if you have any feedback or comments, I'd love to hear them.