Ever found yourself talking to a patient, friend or family member who is depressed, distressed or stressed out and you want to help but don't know quite what to suggest?
Although we know that certain prescription medicines can make a difference when symptoms become severe, what else can we advise and encourage people to do to improve their wellbeing?
The Government considered this question a few years back and sought to find out what actions we could all do on a daily basis that are proven to benefit wellbeing. The result was 'Five Ways to Wellbeing', a set of simple suggestions that have been shown to not only improve wellbeing, but which also may have positive benefits on mental illness. The five ways are Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.
1Connect: Recently in the news it was reported that an 89-year-old man in Brighton placed an advert in a local newspaper looking for work to prevent himself 'dying from boredom'. Motivation to work is different for everybody but for some people, connecting with people through work can be a lifeline.
2Be Active: When we get home from a hard day at work sometimes the last thing we want to do is do some exercise but if you do motivate yourself to move rather than flop onto the sofa, you can feel fantastic afterwards. One of the reasons is because exercise releases endorphins – our body's 'feelgood' chemicals which helps create a positive mood.
3Take Notice: If you drive to work every day, do you often arrive but can't really recall the journey? Living our lives daydreaming, on 'auto-pilot' or mindlessly glued to our phone, the internet or trashy television takes us away from the real world and leaves us feeling dissatisfied and empty. Bringing awareness to what's going on around you – sometimes referred to as mindfulness – can have a hugely positive impact on mental wellbeing.
4Keep Learning: It's never too late to learn something new and evidence has shown that learning can help lift older people out of depression. Whether it's going to a language class, reading a different type of book to normal or simply trying a crossword, learning is good for you.
5Give: The more we give, the more we gain. Giving doesn't have to mean parting with our money because passing on our skills and spending our time doing something for the 'greater good' can be very rewarding. Baking a cake for a neighbour, taking a friend's dog for a walk or helping out at a charity shop can help people to recognise their value in life.
More information about Five Ways to Wellbeing can be found at the following websites: