Building Positive Wellbeing Habits

“People want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work and play”- Martin Seligman

As we enter the last leg of 2020, I think we can all agree that it’s been a ‘heavy’ year; particularly at an emotional and mental level. When you read the quote above, think about what it means to you and how you would go about cultivating a ‘meaningful’ and ‘fulfilling’ life. It’s important to take time out, find a quiet space that is free from distractions, in order to tap into and understand your wellbeing, your type of mindset and evaluate your current habits and goals.

In the past, it was believed that an ‘absence of illness automatically’ equated to ‘wellbeing’. So, if you were not physically ill then you must have been well. This view lacks an emotional/mental consideration that is very much relevant and real. Which is why we invite another perspective; that the ‘absence of illness’ + ‘the presence of positive qualities’ equates to improving and cultivating our ‘wellbeing’.

According to the PERMA model; these 6 elements have been identified as contributing to our wellbeing and help us to thrive: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment, Health. Depending on your current situation, some of these will resonate more than others.

What’s important, especially given this unusual year, is that we acknowledge mental health and understand that it is not ‘black and white’ but falls over a spectrum. This spans from a positive healthy functioning mindset- where people have likely developed effective coping mechanisms, to those experiencing a severe impact on their everyday functioning.

Some of the best ways to take care of your mental health include:

  • developing strategies to manage your stress,
  • learning how to say ‘no’,
  • practising mindfulness,
  • connecting with family and friends,
  • eating well,
  • developing a sleep routine,
  • making time for something you really enjoy

Did you know that there was such a term, ‘negativity bias’? In the interest of our survival, our brains are hardwired to instinctively seek out the ‘negative’ threats and kick into survival mode. That’s why ‘bad’ News sells and is, in fact, a marketing tool. Tie this in with getting bombarded from all social media/online platforms on a daily basis. You can see why we need to keep a check on what our brains are consuming and know when to retreat.

Your mindset is a powerful tool. It’s our lens of how we view and make sense of the world and is linked to our motivation, intelligence, stress levels, ageing. A study was done with two groups of hotel cleaning staff where one group was told to see their cleaning as good exercise. The other group was the control. The result? The test group of cleaners lost weight were fitter and even had a better attitude. All because of choosing a certain mindset.

There are two types; a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset leads to fixed intelligence and ability, with no room to improve. This comes with statements like, ‘I stick to what I know’ and ‘my abilities are unchanging’.

A growth mindset believes in ongoing growth. Think of statements such as, “I like to try new things”, “Feedback is constructive”, “failure is an opportunity to grow”. Having a ‘growth’ mindset actually leads to physical changes that take place in our brain, creating new neural pathways! This has been viewed in the brains of UK taxi drivers who memorise the different routes they use.

So where do I sign up, am I right?! A great way to work on and improve your mindset is to develop positive tiny habits and goals. In 12 months’, time, what’s one thing you’d love to be able to say you’ve achieved in terms of your wellbeing? What will you be doing; how will you look and feel? Then, decide your ‘top’ wellbeing opportunity for the week and, finally, turn it into a tiny daily habit. This will differ for everyone and there is no right or wrong.

To plan your positive, tiny habit, ask yourself these questions;

  • Is it tiny?
  • Can I do it once a day?
  • Does it take less than 30 seconds?
  • Is it low effort?
  • Do I have a clear anchor or prompt?
  • Can I celebrate my action as soon as I have done it, and will it bring me joy?

Once you have nailed it a few times, it’s time to say your ABC. Repeat after me; “After I (Anchor), I will (tiny new Behaviour), which I’ll hardwire into my brain by (Celebration action) straight away. The beauty of that celebration creates momentum, motivation and progress.

Accomplishing a growth mindset and healthy wellbeing can seem arduous and challenging, especially if you have been struggling, but it is totally possible and doesn’t have to be done alone!

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