One of the messages that I have always been confused about is what “wellbeing” means – and what it actually looks
like day to day.
I have lost count of the number of adverts I have seen with lines such as: “I lost xx pounds in just three weeks and if I can, then you can.” There are also countless programmes on television about “lifestyle” and “health” – yet their focus seems too often to be about losing weight, diets and physical appearance.
I resist the term wellbeing now and prefer “being well”. You might think: what’s the difference? But language matters.
“Self-care” and “wellbeing” should not just be a couple of words in a magazine or a shiny gym/yoga/meditation stock picture of something that is alien to our experience. It should be about what makes us feel good mentally, physically and emotionally.
One opportunity for positive change that has come out of this pandemic crisis is the opportunity to make wellbeing recognisable and accessible every day to all of us. So what does it really look like?
1) It looks different every day. We need something different every single day to be well. One day it might be a run, another shutting your laptop, listening to music, having a cry, going to bed early or just putting on some soft fluffy socks.
2) It looks different for all of us, yet can have the same impact. Every single one of us responds differently to different tools for self-care. Working out what your top five are for you specifically can help. For me, they are exercise, nature, music connecting with others and sleep.
3) It looks real. I would prefer to see a picture of someone sweaty after exercise with bright red cheeks, with a headtorch, some worn-out clothes and mud up their legs than a shiny picture of someone perfectly composed, with branded clothes, perfectly dressed and made up. Inauthenticity is a huge barrier to us making positive changes in our lives.
4) It’s small actions we do repeatedly to form habits. It’s daily, it takes time and it’s not grand gestures that don’t last and never work.
5) It’s not just about the physical. It includes strategies for our mind and our emotions. Things such as mindfulness, meditation, self-esteem, belief systems, positive affirmations, mantras, kind self-talk, turning off the news, and having boundaries around work or saying no to people if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is about feeling emotions and processing them.
6) It’s not about “should.” It is without pressure, competition or comparison with others, criticising yourself or setting overwhelming and damaging goals.
7) It’s about the whole of us. We are so much more than just mind, body and emotion, separated out – we are human, with a desire to connect with others and with life itself. The power of music, art, dance, nature, theatre, journaling, writing, crafting, film, reading, story-telling, spoken word, poetry, learning and creativity in all its forms needs to be shared more widely. They bring us a sense of purpose, joy, connection and a place to process our thoughts and feelings, and experience life.
8) It looks like what we did when we were little children. We forget about the importance of giving ourselves time to wonder, to imagine, to just muck about and play. We get so serious. Using our imagination to take us away for a while, to visualise our dreams and to visualise our “happy place” in a moment of stress, as the wonderful Jordan North reminded us in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!last year, is so powerful.