Posted on 11/01/2017
We’ve all had times when we’ve felt stressed and upset, distant from our friends and family, or have found life difficult to cope with. What you may not realise is these experiences are the result of low mental wellbeing.
Unfortunately, low mental wellbeing and mental illness are highly prominent issues in Australia, particularly among young people.
This year Mission Australia’s Youth Survey revealed concerns about mental health across the country have doubled since 2011, with more than 20 per cent of young people surveyed citing mental health as their top issue.
Director of the SAHMRI Wellbeing & Resilience Centre, Gabrielle Kelly, says if you teach people the skills of wellbeing and resilience, they'll be more likely to handle the challenges life throws at them and perhaps be less likely to suffer from some forms of mental illness.
Based on Martin Seligman’s theory – a pioneer in the field of positive psychology – there are five important building blocks that lead to happiness and wellbeing including: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment or PERMA.
The Wellbeing and Resilience Centre has incorporated Seligman’s PERMA dashboard plus resilience, optimism, nutrition, physical activity and sleep as additional building blocks, to create PERMA+. The Centre uses PERMA+ to measure the success of its projects, which aim to build wellbeing within the community.
“Just by understanding what PERMA+ stands for allows people to become more self-aware, enabling them to keep track of their mental state and to know how to improve it,” Gabrielle said.
“It is a good way to understand not only what wellbeing is but the areas in your life that you have control over and can improve.”
Here are Gabrielle’s top tips for how to improve your mental wellbeing with PERMA+…
It might sound simple but just thinking positively can have a major impact on your mental health. The next time you’re experiencing a negative emotion step back and look at it objectively and ask yourself: why are you feeling negative and how can you turn that emotion into something more constructive?
While it may seem challenging, remember that only you have control over your emotions, so make the choice to frame a negative situation into something you can work with.
Meanwhile look to build positive emotion whenever you can. Small positive micro-moments can make all the difference – you just have to notice them. The colour of the Jacarandas, the sound of water, anyone laughing…you get the idea.
Realistic optimism is a form of positive emotion and is critical to building resilience. If someone is optimistic, in a realistic way they have the belief they will generally experience good outcomes in life, even though things may be temporarily difficult.
How can you increase positive emotion?
- Spend time with people that you care about.
- Take part in activities you enjoy, such as hobbies or pastimes.
- Play with your children or your pets.
- Listen to uplifting music that you love.
- Exercising can help raise your levels of positive emotions, as well as keep you healthy.
How do you feel you rate when it comes to positive emotions?
Practicing mindfulness can assist in improving mental health and wellbeing and while it might sound like a lofty ideal, mindfulness is quite simply about being fully engaged. When you’re absorbed in an activity and focusing 100% on a task there’s no time to let your thoughts wander into dark corners or negative places.
How can you build engagement?
- Engage in activities that you really love, where you lose track of time.
- Learn mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
- Take part in activities that offer you the combination of a challenging task and the opportunity to use your skills/strengths.
How do you feel you rate when it comes to engagement?
Authentic connections with other people are essential for good mental health and wellbeing. Whether its family, friends, colleagues or your community, sharing your desires, dreams and challenges with other people provide an authentic connection and an outlet for negative emotions.
How to improve your relationships
- Community groups or clubs are a great way to meet people and establish connections based on a shared interest, hobby or activity.
- Negative emotions stemming from broken connections or unhappy relationships can have a major impact on mental health, so mending frayed relationships or practicing forgiveness can be a rewarding way to improve wellbeing.
- Sharing good news or celebrating success with other people has been found to foster positive social interactions and enhance relationships.
- Ask questions of the people you don’t know well to find out more about them, their family, interests and hobbies.
How do you feel you rate when it comes to relationships?
Happiness often results from the establishment of meaning. Having a purpose in life justifies your existence and is a major contributor to positivity. According to Professor Seligman, having a sense of meaning, is about feeling that what we do is valuable and worthwhile.
How to create meaning in your life?
- Having something to get up for in the morning is essential to establishing good mental health, whether it’s a job, a hobby, a daily routine or a creative pursuit.
- Become involved in a cause or organisation that matters to you.
- Spend time with people care about.
- Review your strengths. What are you really good at or really passionate about and how can you apply these to your life?
How do you feel you rate when it comes to meaning?
The importance of accomplishing or achieving something is often underestimated. Research shows that achieving intrinsic goals - relating to growth and connection, rather than money and status - produces larger gains in wellbeing.
Set out to achieve accomplishment by
- Set yourself achievable goals.
- Your goals don’t have to be big or dramatic, but should match your personal values and interests. Learning how to do a Sudoku puzzle or play tennis could be enough.
- Celebrate your achievements - with yourself as well as with others.
How do you feel you rate when it comes to accomplishments?
Eat, run, sleep, repeat
You generally cannot have good overall psychological wellbeing if you’re neglecting your physical health – through lack of exercise and sleep, and poor diet.
“You are what you eat” is a popular saying, but it’s true. Besides putting yourself at risk of major health issues such as diabetes or heart disease, obesity is linked to depression, low self-esteem and low social confidence.
In short eat a variety of nutritious food from the five food groups every day – vegetables including legumes and beans; fruit; grains; lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs, and dairy.
On top of a good diet, it’s important to be active every day in as many ways as possible, this might be through joining a running group or simply walking to work instead of catching the bus.
The final physical element that is important for overall wellbeing is sleep. It is recommended adults get between six to 10 hours of sleep per night.
If you’re having trouble nodding off try these tips
- The hour before going to bed should be used to wind down and do more relaxing things.
- Keep the time you go to bed and get up consistent.
- Avoid going to bed on a full stomach and napping in the afternoon. How do you feel you rate when it comes to eating, sleeping and exercise?
If you feel you rate low in multiple categories above, it may be time to talk about your state of mind with your friends, family, or a professional body, such as beyondblue - 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline - 13 11 14.
The SAMHRI Centre of Wellbeing and Resilience is proudly supported by Statewide Super.