Five ways to support your mental wellbeing.

This was the title of one of the courses I attended during a lay ministry day shortly after Easter. The timing could not have been more perfect for me! It came nine days after Easter, which is one of the most exciting seasons for the Family Project, with an Easter play, an Easter Trail, Messy Easter and an Easter Tree being a few of the the things that the Family Project was connected to during this Easter season. Nine days after Easter, I was just  beginning to need some time to rest before rethinking what new initiatives or projects we could commence whilst also continuing our current projects that have translated well online: See and Know Drop-in, St. Mary’s Drop-in and St. Patrick’s Youth Group.   

I had booked onto this course months before and arrived, via zoom, to meet my fellow lay ministry colleagues. It was led by Edel McClean.   In one of my previous posts, Edel had been my spiritual director. Someone I had gone to to share my thoughts about ministry, life and my big questions about faith. As soon as I realised that she was leading this course I knew it would be good. I was also aware that I would come away taking at least ‘five minutes of wisdom’ from Edel which would mean that that the whole day would feel worthwhile. 

The five ways to support your well-being are based on the NHS’ suggestions and a quick google brings up the key 5 steps. I found hearing them explained in more detail, with a pastoral tone rather than a medical one, gave me a deeper insight into what the five ways are, so I shall try to do similarly here for you! 

  1.  Connect. Look for moments of connection. These connections do not have to be big. They can be things ranging from a walk with a friend to a text message or even an emoji text sent by someone who cares for you.  Connection too can be found in all circumstances from a quiet moment of prayer to a rave. 
  2. Be active. When we hear “ be active” many of us think of that athletic friend or colleague and that in itself can make us feel defeated. What counts as active ranges from person to person. Yet they all count. That is key to realise! Active for one person might be sitting up in bed. It could be gardening for some time. For another it might going on that quick dog walk or a wild swim.  
  3. Take notice. The NHS often suggests mindfulness here, which is often helpful for many people, as it does train you to notice things. However, mindfulness doesn’t work for everyone or it can just feel too intimidating. Taking notice is just that. It can be about noticing anything. One thing I have found helpful is washing up. Taking time to notice the temperature of the washing up water, looking at the colour and shape of any bubbles created and how the water feels against your skin. You might want to think aboutWhat helps you pay attention? When do you pay attention? These might give clues as to when you want to practise taking notice further.  
  4. Keep Learning. The key thing for this one is to remember little things count. When I hear the term ‘learning’ I am transported back to school/college/university times. This shows how learning has too often been limited to mean study. Learning can be studying something you enjoy but it could also be trying out a new recipe each week or finding out a cool fact that may one day come in handy at a pub quiz.  
  5. Give. Research has shown that people who do things for others tend to have a positive outlook. However, with this one we have to be careful. I know many people reading this will be the doers of this world! Give can also mean giving yourself permission to say no to something and give yourself that extra time to do something for you. If giving yourself the gift of time feels too hard right now, look for a compromise. Find something that relaxes you but perhaps ends up benefiting someone else incidentally, such as baking! Give but as Edel said ‘don’t give everything.’  

At the end we were advised to rate ourselves between 1-5 for each step so we could see which ones we might naturally be drawn to and which ones we perhaps need to prioritise more for our own well-being. Ask yourself : Which needs your most attention? Which of these is manageable to focus on this week and/or which one feel manageable to focus on for a longer period of time, such as a month or three months.  

Wellbeing is something that many in our community are keen to promote and enable so that everyone can find what will be beneficial and helpful to them personally. Wellbeing is something that the Family Project is also keen to explore and enable too. Keep an eye out for further opportunities that perhaps help you do one of these five steps above. Take care of yourself this month. 

Wild swimming or a short walk can count as being active.
Perhaps use this image of Rydal to take notice: look at the different colours,
and focus on the different textures in this image. What do you like about this image?

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