Health professionals endorse 'Five Ways To Wellbeing' for mental health
Our mental health determines our experience of the world so profoundly that to view it as something like fitness, which can be improved with straightforward exercise, seems unrealistic.
But this is not the message coming from New Zealand's top psychologists and mental health academics following Mental Health Awareness Week.
During a mental health seminar at AUT University on Auckland's North Shore, the Five Ways To Wellbeing were repeatedly endorsed as simple daily behaviours to help stave off mental illness.
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Developed by the UK's New Economics Foundation, the five ways are:
1. CONNECT: making an effort to be part of a network of relationships that you actively work on, by talking, listening and being there for others.
2. GIVE: the act of volunteering your time, words and presence to others, so that relationships become a two-way experience.
3. TAKE NOTICE: looking for and noticing the little things in life that give you joy and make you happy. It can extend through to mindfulness and specific techniques on how to notice your life and live in the moment.
4. KEEP LEARNING: just as we need to keep our bodies active, we need to keep our minds active. We need to be giving ourselves constant challenges that push and stretch us just enough.
5. BE ACTIVE: engaging in even moderate physical activity three to five times a week has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of depression.
"These are five very simple behaviours that if you incorporate into your daily life, there is a huge body of research to indicate that they will improve your resilience and overall wellbeing," chief executive of the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation Shaun Robinson says.
"One of my staff the other day said it was a real 'aha' moment for him when he realised that wellbeing is a thing, just like physical fitness is a thing, and you can work on it."
Robinson was however keen to acknowledge the benefits from these behaviours do have limits. "It won't counter poverty. To say this to a young woman in South Auckland who's living in a garage and escaping domestic violence would be an insult, but it will help. It won't overcome those huge social determinants, but on a population level it does make a difference."
Also speaking on the social contributors to mental illness in New Zealand was host of Newstalk ZB radio show the Nutters Club, Mike King.
"The new catch cry of everything in mental health now is resilience 'we're going to give you some resilience training'," King says. "Well resilience training is the PC way of saying 'hey mate you need to harden up and here's some tools to harden up'.
"So it's always putting the blame on the 20 per cent that have the problem when it's actually society, the 80 per cent of people with their judgmental attitudes who are the main problem."
At any one time, it is estimated one in five New Zealander's are experiencing a diagnosed mental illness.
WHERE TO GET HELP
People in crisis or concerned about someone who may be in crisis can call these confidential helplines:
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354
- Samaritans: 0800 726 666
- Depression: 0800 111 757