According to the NHS evidence suggests that there are five essential steps that each one of us can take to improve our mental health and wellbeing; these can become essential behaviour pillars in your general practice, helping your practice team to feel happier, healthier and more positive – and able to get the best from their work, as well as their home life
What is mental wellbeing? It has been receiving more and more media coverage of late, its importance being recognised as equal in importance to physical health. Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick, and a wellbeing expert, offers a useful definition of mental wellbeing.
“Feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing, but it’s far from the whole. Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too; so is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do. And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.
“Of course, good mental wellbeing does not mean that you never experience feelings or situations that you find difficult,” says Professor Stewart-Brown, “but it does mean that you feel you have the resilience to cope when times are tougher than usual.”
It can help to think about ‘being well’ as something you do, rather than something you are, she explains; the more you put in, the more you are likely to get out. “No-one can give wellbeing to you. It’s you who has to take action,” she says.
Five steps to mental wellbeing
According to research there are five things that can really help to boost our mental wellbeing.
Connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships. One way that GP practices can bring this to the team is by organising staff events; this could be as simple as a once-a-week continental breakfast, provided by management, or as exciting as arranging a team excursion – think a group meal or, for the adventurous, paintballing.
Learn more here: Connect for mental wellbeing.
You don’t have to go to the gym; take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your life. We have written previously about parkrun practices – why not sign up and encourage the practice team to get involved! Other ideas might be yoga before work or walking groups at lunchtime!
Learn more here: Get active for mental wellbeing.
Learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. The importance of continued professional development is not to be underestimated; supporting your team to grow their skills is giving them an opportunity to develop and grow personally, as well as professionally.
Find out more here: Learn for mental wellbeing.
Give to others
Even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.
Learn more here: Give for mental wellbeing.
Be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness ‘mindfulness’. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges. Perhaps it might be worth – if you have the room, of course – establishing a quiet space in the practice.
Learn more here: Mindfulness for mental wellbeing.