Living in limbo
Across Australia, all aspects of people’s lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the national response to it. While some of us are equipped with the tools to cope, many others are struggling – particularly those already disadvantaged or isolated. According to the third ABS Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, loneliness was the most widely reported source of personal stress for Australians during April 2020.
In this article, Matt Torney presents information and ideas around the concept of well-being and why it should be a priority at a time like this. In his role as an Adviser, Matt has come to appreciate the importance of preparing clients for retirement emotionally as well as financially. In 2019 to enhance his understanding and support offered to clients, Matt successfully completed a Diploma of Positive Psychology and Well-being. He is not a psychologist, but he is curious, and cares deeply about people. We hope this article might be of benefit to you, or someone you love.
What is well-being?
The concept of well-being comprises two main elements: feeling good and functioning well. Feelings of happiness, enjoyment, curiosity, and engagement are characteristic of someone who has a positive experience of their life. Equally important for well-being is our functioning in the world. Experiencing positive relationships, having control over one’s life and having a sense of purpose are all important attributes of well-being.
A combination of these factors will help to enhance individual well-being and may have the potential to reduce the number of people who develop mental illness in the longer term.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) Centre for Wellbeing (UK) published a report ‘Five ways to well-being’ containing five actions aimed at improving the mental health and well-being of the whole population.
The messages identified aim to prompt people into thinking about those things in life which are important to their well-being and perhaps should be prioritised in their day-to-day routines.
The report grouped the actions into themes of social relationships, physical activity, awareness, learning, and giving. They are summarised below with some of the ways you might consider applying them under current Government coronavirus guidelines:
Five ways to well-being
With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
This is particularly important and challenging during this crisis. The guidance is clear that self-isolating and social distancing must be adhered to. Consider connecting over one of the many online platforms that have sprung up to enable us to see friends and family, virtually.
Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
Depending on where you live, you may have more options to stay physically active. But you don’t need much, the current guidance for all says that everyone is able to go out each day for physical exercise. A walk around the block might be all you need to enjoy the benefits of being active.
Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking around the block, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
In current circumstances it’s hard not to worry about the future, our family, our community, or our workplace. However, taking a moment to appreciate the good in our lives is a sure-fire way to take the edge off some of the negative emotions.
Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
Learning something new or improving a skill you already have is a way of shutting out the outside world for a bit and giving you a sense of achievement. Now may present the perfect time to try your hand at something new or reinvigorate your passion for something you used to love doing. Learning doesn’t have to be about grades or qualifications, there can be great joy in setting a challenge and attempting to master it.
Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
There are ways that you can help others while still following the guidelines. Giving blood is more important than ever and still possible as an essential service. Now more than ever, local community groups need financial support. If your circumstances allow, consider going above and beyond this year to help the wider community and those less fortunate to get through the crisis. You might be surprised how good it makes you feel.
Now, at a time when people are having to stay home and social distance, some are turning to ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ as a way of coping during the coronavirus crisis. A review of the most up-to-date evidence suggests that building the above five actions into our day-to-day lives improves well-being.
We hope the same for you.