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Five ways to mental wellbeing

We talk about mental health pretty much every day in our Mobilise Community, either in our virtual cuppas, or through our blogs.

We're big on it!

As carers, it can be tough for us to maintain good mental health. And we know that maintaining good mental health is as important as physical health. The two go hand in hand.

Illustration of man receiving wellbeing support on his phone.

Research by the New Economics Foundation in 2008 showed that there are five key themes in life that influence our wellbeing. These are universal - it does not matter what our background, age, culture, or where we live in the world.

The good part is we can put these into practice with just small tweaks to our existing routines. Once we've decided we want to introduce daily habits to support ourselves, the doing will come much easier.

Some of these, we may already be doing just don’t recognise yet. Acknowledging what is working is an already helpful step forward.

  1. Connect with others - for a sense of belonging and self-worth

  2. Take notice - being in the present moment and taking a break from busy thoughts

  3. Be active - healthy body, healthy mind

  4. Give - small acts of kindness can lift us

  5. Learn - boosting our self-esteem and wisdom (whilst having fun!)

1. Connect with others

Relationships and positive connections with other people are important for our wellbeing. They help us to have a sense of belonging and self-worth. Giving us opportunities to share experiences - both good and bad!

Connecting with other friends.

Connecting with others doesn’t always mean long-term relationships and friendships.

Even just a quick chat with a neighbour, fellow dog walker or shopkeeper can help us to feel connected to our community. Here are a few ideas to get us started:

Try to take some time in the day to be with your family

Try to limit distractions, even if just for 10 minutes to eat a snack together or sit in the garden.

Check-in with an old friend

start off with a text message just to say ‘thinking of you’ and see where the connection goes.

Switch off the screen

Switch off the screen of any device and indulge in some musical reminiscing with our loved ones - put on those old records or dive into some Spotify playlists that bring back memories of growing up, school discos, our first car - we’re always surprised at how much the right songs can bring back.

Get the photo albums out!

A great way to feel connected, sharing memories and maybe a giggle or two about past fashion mistakes and bad hair days.

Commit to a conversation

When we’re out and about, look to strike up a conversation. We were always told not to speak to strangers but, you know what, we’re all grown up now. And actually, there’s often lots to learn from chance connections with someone on the bus or a person in a shop.

Use technology to connect online whilst on the go

Use technology to find your tribe!

Find real people, that make you feel good. Shared experiences, reciprocal support and a sense of belonging are great boosts to our mental health. If you haven't joined already, then our virtual cuppas offer a great way to meet other carers in a safe, uplifting way.

"It's been great being part of the mobilise cuppa and I really do enjoy the uplifting start and end to each call."

There are also lots of other online groups out there for different interests and themes of support. Facetime and WhatsApp video calls are also a really easy way to ‘meet up’ with family and friends too. Take a look at some of carers’ favourite apps for video calling here.

2. Take notice

Being in the present (not thinking about the past or worrying about the future), even for just a few minutes, can improve our mental wellbeing. This includes tuning into our thoughts, feelings, our body and the world around us. Easier said than done though!

Sometimes known as mindfulness, taking notice and being in the present moment can positively change how we feel about life and how we deal with challenges. Some ideas to try:

Take a fresh look at our environment

Is there clutter to clear? A better way to arrange a room? Time to freshen up with a change of curtains, lick of paint or a vase of flowers? Thinking about how we can make small changes that have an impact on how we feel about where we spend our time helps us to take notice of the present.

Adopt a new plant or nurture something from seed

Watching something grow and flourish day by day can really help us to remain in the now. We don’t need a huge space or even a garden, some herbs growing on the kitchen windowsill or a small pot plant from the supermarket will do the trick.

Take a different route

We often stick to our tried and tested routines, the quickest way back from the shop or the route with less traffic lights. How about we choose a different way some days? This helps us to discover new things that we’ve not seen before and opens up our mind to the present rather than being on ‘autopilot’.

Have a go at meditation

There are lots of great guided meditations and visualisations online, just a quick Google or YouTube search will bring lots of choices to try. Start off small, just a five minute one.

Taking a pause and practising mindfulness.

Pop on the headphones and find a quiet spot, even if it means hiding out in our car!

We can be put off by the word ‘meditation’ - it doesn’t mean that we need to clear our minds, it just helps us to focus and we get better with practice.

And for those of us, really struggling with time - we can easily incorporate mindfulness into everyday tasks.

Next time we're hanging out the laundry, cooking or cleaning the bath, do it mindfully! Focus only on what we're doing. What we can see, smell and hear right in that moment. Our mind will thank you.

Visit somewhere new - go for it!

Spotted a new cafe, heard about a group or exhibition at the library? Giving new things a go helps us to interrupt our thinking and means that we take notice and tune in to the here and now.

3. Be active

Looking after someone often means that our physical activity is focused on attending to their needs.

How many times do we go up and down stairs each day or walk miles around the house to keep everything ticking over? We know that physical activity is good for us, not just for our bodies but for our minds too.

Whilst we may be busy every day, it’s good to look at whether the physical activity also ties in with keeping our minds healthy - not just about the endless chase of tasks. Most of us will not want to be running a marathon any time soon (though we’re sure we have some potential athletes amongst us!), but we can set ourselves achievable goals to keep our body and minds fit.

Let’s make an easy start;

Try some easy stretches

These can be in the morning, or even done whilst in the shower! We can also try new things we've never done before, such as Tai Chi.

Our blog, 'Inviting carers to the art of Tai Chi' is a simple guide to getting started, with a short video we can follow along with.

Take the chance for a longer walk

Maybe it's walking the half-mile to the shop, instead of driving. Maybe it’s taking the long way back, or hopping off the bus a stop earlier than usual. A few extra steps can easily build up!

"I often take my daughter out in her off-road buggy to get some exercise. Plus my daughter loves bumpy field walks, where she gets her sensory needs met!"

Buy a simple fitness tracker watch or step counter

Facebook Marketplace is a good place to find them. Set an achievable daily goal and increase over a number of weeks.

Stick on some great music and have a kitchen disco

Dance like no one’s watching! You don’t need a playlist or a guestlist, just go with the flow.

Download the free Couch to 5k app

For the more ambitious amongst us, download the Couch to 5k app! This personalised and easy-to-follow programme has been developed with the NHS. It’s designed for the absolute beginner to get fitter and healthier over a 9 week period.

4. Give

In looking after someone who needs us, we can be sure that we do more than our fair share of giving. The good news is that acts of giving and kindness help to create positive feelings, bring a sense of reward and connection with others (although we do need to stay mindful of keeping healthy boundaries in place). We know that caring roles don’t always fulfil these needs, particularly when things get tough, but there are other small ways of giving that can reap rewards too.

Health warning - whilst giving to others is a good thing, it’s also important to remember that we need to give ourselves time and kindness too! We can’t pour from an empty cup.

Taking part in our community, or reaching out with small acts of kindness, can help us to fill up on those moments that bring positive feelings. Here are some ideas to a think about;

Reach out in person or by phone/message

We can even go ‘old school’ and send a card to someone. To say a simple thank you for something they have done for you. Ask someone how they are and give time to be present and really listen to them.

Do a kind deed

Kindness boosts our mental health. Can you think of a lovelier tool? Kind deeds can be as big or small as we want. And the real pleasure is in the giving - not in the receiving of thanks.

And if we need some ideas, carers have shared that Kindness by Post is a great start. We can send anonymous cards with words of kindness, no strings attached.

Donate unwanted items to a local charity shop

When we’re clearing out the clutter at home, donate unwanted items to a local charity shop. Our support in this way means that everyone’s a winner! No cost to us and new stock for a charity to use for fundraising.

Offer our skills and knowledge

Offer to put ours to good use when we spot that we can help someone. Something that we find easy, for example, cooking tips, DIY or crafting expertise, may just be the advice that someone is looking for.

We may have small windows of time to offer as a volunteer

This could be to support children in their reading at the local school for an hour a week or being a volunteer dog walker at the local dog shelter once a month. There are lots of volunteering opportunities that can be flexed to fit busy lives.

Just Google search ‘volunteering near me’ to get started with some great ideas or get in touch with organisations that you are interested in and see what you can help them with.

And don’t forget, there are so many small acts of kindness going on in our lives every day. Think about re-framing the things that we do for others without even noticing, for example, making the children's beds, giving your Nan a call, having a snack ready for the kids after school and giving them 10 minutes of undivided attention. These all count!

5. Learn

Learning is a lifelong process. We didn’t stop learning when we walked out of the school doors all those years ago.

In fact, we’ve probably learnt much more through our life experiences than we did sat at our desks! Learning helps to boost our self-esteem, to feel connected to something good and can also encourage us to be more socially active.

Learning doesn’t have to mean taking on a formal course or achieving a high-flying qualification. For many of us, it’s about being curious, asking questions, researching something that we heard on the news or finding out about our family tree. Some first steps to get us going;

Think about our interests

Can we pick up any that have fallen by the wayside? If we used to play the piano or enjoyed a craft, can we find a way to get back to what we loved?

Join the library

A great place to start and they don’t just have books there! There are often local history groups, computer skills courses, or reading club. Or, we can see what books other carers have recommended to get us going. Give Borrow Box a try too.

Stimulate the brain

Puzzles like sudoku, crosswords and online brain games are great quick fixes to get our minds firing.

Do some research

There’s so much access to information now, we have answers at our fingertips thanks to Google etc. Wondered about your ancestors? Heard a new word? Interested in a topic on the news? Let’s get curious.

Other helpful reads

Finally, don’t forget to try and weave in some time for rest - this is important!

Resting is easy. Finding time to get some rest as carers is the hard part. And where we can, create a night-time routine that works for us and the person we care for. This can help ensure we and our loved ones get a good night's sleep. Here are the top tips to getting a good night's sleep, suggested by carers themselves.

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