Your Journey to Better Wellbeing
Having a sense of wellbeing can mean different things to all of us; it includes feeling satisfied, happy, calm and healthy. Wellbeing also includes being connected to those around us in positive ways through meaningful and helpful relationships. Having a sense of purpose every day, learning new things, being resilient and not forgetting to have fun are all important aspects of looking after your wellbeing. After months of self-isolation your wellbeing might have taken somewhat of a back seat. As you start to move back into “normal” life*, we hope the information and tools in this booklet can help guide you in achieving a greater sense of wellbeing in whatever areas you feel are important to you. Moving toward a greater sense of wellbeing is a journey… a journey you can start today.
*Please bear in mind that any reference to socialising and leaving the home is only in-line with government restrictions and with all social distancing responsibilities in place where applicable.
Be Mentally Healthy
Be in the Moment
Be Well Read
Be Well Travelled
Be Well Fed
Let Posture Be Important
Be in Your Garden
Be Well Rested
– BE –
Where better to start our journey to improved wellbeing than with learning how to look after our mental health? According to the NHS, there are 5 main ways we can help improve our mental wellbeing. By giving them a try, you may find you feel happier, more fulfilled and positive overall:
Connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships so that you have a network of people around you who you care about and who look out for you. For more information about this, turn to our dedicated section: “Be Sociable”.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to join the gym and spend all your time there. You could go for a walk, go cycling in the countryside, or play some team games. The key is to find an activity you enjoy and that doesn’t feel like too much of a strain to maintain. You could even tick off both these first two by finding an activity you can do with a friend or two.
Have you ever heard the phrase “you learn something new every day”? Well why not actively seek new knowledge? Learning a skill can give you a fantastic sense of achievement and boost your self-confidence. Look for evening classes, do a YouTube tutorial, or read up on how to develop that talent lurking in the background. Who knows what hidden skill you might discover?
Give to others
Ghandi famously said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. This could begin with even the smallest of acts. It could start as a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Over time, as your confidence in it grows you could move on to larger acts, such as volunteering at your community centre, a soup kitchen, or at a local charity. As you busy yourself giving to others, you can improve your overall mental wellbeing, whilst also helping to build new social networks – thus feeding into the first point; “connect”.
There’s been a lot of noise made about “mindfulness” recently, but people have been doing a form of it (meditating) for thousands of years. The reason is that, for many, it really does work. Be more aware of the moment you are in; this includes your thoughts and feelings, your body, and the world around you. It can positively change the way you feel about your life and how to approach any challenges you meet along the way. Turn to the next page, “Be Mindful” to learn more about it.
– BE –
For many of us an unavoidable aspect of modern day life is a constant barrage of things to do, plan, think about, worry about etc. It can be quite difficult to find time to just be still, rest and relax. A movement which has become very popular in recent years is “mindfulness”. Put simply, this is paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you.
So how does mindfulness help our mental wellbeing? Essentially it’s because when we become more aware of the present moment, it can help us enjoy the world around and understand ourselves better. Indeed, when we are more aware of the here and now, we see afresh those things that we may have been taking for granted.
Mindfulness has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression, especially for people who have suffered with it in the past.
How to start…
The NHS have a very useful guide on how to get started and become an expert in mindfulness. They explain that reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step. They also recommend:
Notice the everyday
Even in everyday life, take a moment to admire a cloud formation, take longer to savour the taste of chocolate, or even just the feel of your cat’s soft fur. It sounds like a small thing, but it has a great ability to help interrupt the ‘autopilot’ we’ve switched on subconsciously.
Keep it regular
As humans we are a species who likes a routine. If you chose to set aside time to be mindful every day (perhaps 15 minutes before bed) then you are far more likely to continue doing it.
Try something new
This doesn’t have to be any ground-breaking new sports or hobbies, even the simple act of sitting in a different seat during a meeting, or switching to a new cereal type can help you notice the world in a whole new way.
Watch your thoughts
It can be quite difficult to practice mindfulness because as soon as you stop and take a moment to be still, lots of other thoughts and worries come crashing in. Professor Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says it’s important to remember that “mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events” – you can acknowledge they are there, but do not need to be swept away with them.
Name thoughts and feelings
There will always be emotions that can feel like they are all encompassing and might overwhelm us. A mindfulness tactic is to silently give them a name and recognise them for what they are. For example, “here is a thought that I might not be able to do this”. Or, put more simply “this is anxiety”.
– BE IN THE –
Our mental health and wellbeing can be affected by the way we view life. Commenting on what matters most, ‘mind’ expert, public speaker and ground breaking life coach, Jacqueline Hurst, offered her top tips for how to live life to the full – whatever your age:
Learn how to think correctly and remember that your thoughts impact how you feel. Being clear about what you are thinking helps you to feel better. If you think negative thoughts you will feel negative. If you think positive thoughts you feel positive. Ultimately the power is in your hands! For more in-depth advice on this topic, please see our section: “Be Positive”.
Throw away your manual
We all have a mental manual of how we ‘do’ life and we always think our way is the right way. If people don’t do things our way we see this as ‘wrong’. However, just because people do things differently to us, doesn’t actually mean they are ‘wrong’. Letting go of your manual of how you think the world should run makes life a lot easier and less stressful!
Take your fun more seriously
We all have bills, jobs and responsibilities that we take seriously, but not many of us take our fun seriously. Have you ever noticed how children just have fun just for the sake of having fun? It’s well worth trying to take your fun more seriously. Schedule in some time to simply go and have fun; it could be something spontaneous like a night out with friends, or more of an ongoing activity of enjoying a hobby. Life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.
So often we can be complacent about the little things. We can use our legs to walk, our eyes to see and our ears to hear. Those things might be small but actually when you really stop to think, they are things to be grateful for. Being grateful is important to living your best life. It’s hard to be miserable and grateful at the same time. Focus on looking at what you have got, not at what you haven’t.
The right people matter
So often we don’t tell the truth for fear of what others might think about us. Becoming authentic means we learn to live and speak our truth. It’s a brilliant way of filtering out the wrong people. Time is precious and must not be wasted, and the more authentic you become the more authentic the people around you will be. Like attracts like. So if there are people in your life draining you, or zapping your energy it’s time to re-focus and change this for the better.
– BE –
Reading a good book can be a wonderful way of escaping reality and entering an entirely new world full of magic and possibilities. We’ve been enjoying this hobby for centuries and whilst screen time might have diluted the enthusiasm for some, it is still a pastime that is going strong.
For any bookworms out there, there’s fantastic news – reading is not only a lovely thing to enjoy, it is also great for your health and wellbeing. An article by Medical News Today explains how it can lower stress, improve sleep, slow cognitive decline, enhance social skills and boost intelligence:
Lowers stress levels
According to Stress.org, stress is said to contribute to about 60% of all human disease and illness. As such, we should seek to lower stress levels wherever possible. Of course, the nature of everyday life means that it’s near impossible to eliminate stress entirely, but we can certainly put things in place to stop it from becoming a serious health issue. One approach is reading.
A study, by the University of Sussex, found that reading could reduce stress level by as much as 68% – coming ahead of going for a walk and listening to music. Study co-author Dr. David Lewis and colleagues found that people who took part in as little as 6 minutes reading experienced a slowed heart rate and reduced muscle tension. Dr. Lewis said:
“It doesn’t really matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape the worries and stresses of the everyday world […] This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination, as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness”
A fairly modern habit that we have all developed is browsing on our smart phone or tablet before we go to sleep. Unfortunately research has confirmed that this does not do any good for our sleep! Just one example found that the light emitted from the device reduces the production of melatonin in the brain – a hormone that tells us when to sleep. This leads to shorter sleep durations and less quality sleep.
Linked with the point made above about stress, Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, says that:
“If your body doesn’t get enough sleep it can react by producing an elevated level of stress hormones, resulting in higher incidents of depression and anxiety, plus other mental and emotional problems. Sleep helps to reduce stress by encouraging deep breathing and lowering heart rate.”
What do we think would be better to “switch the brain off”? Reading, of course. The Mayo Clinic suggests that creating a bedtime ritual – such as reading a book, can “promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness”.
Slows cognitive decline
Do you find that your memory seems to diminish as the years pass by? Simple things like remembering a name or address becomes more and more challenging. Whilst this is a natural process in the brain’s lifecycle, there are many studies that have cited reading as being able slow down cognitive decline. Some even suggest that it can decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
A study from Rush University Medical Centre found that reading, and other forms of mentally stimulating activities help slow down dementia. Over the course of many years they studied participants, asking them to complete memory and thinking puzzles. They also asked them details of their upbringing and later life. They found that those who engaged in reading, writing etc. were less likely to show physical evidence of dementia – such as brain lesions, plaques and tangles.
Enhances social skills
When we read, we escape the real world and transport ourselves to a place where we are all encompassed in our own space. Some might argue that this could decrease our social skills as we are not interacting with “real people”.
However, a 2013 study published in the ‘Science’ journal suggests otherwise. They found that people who read fiction have a better “theory of mind”. This means that they are more able to comprehend others people’s desires, thoughts and beliefs. When we are able to do this it helps us with the way we understand the outside world, and of course, gives us more to talk about with them.
American author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss famously wrote: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” There have been many studies which look at the correlation between reading and intelligence. One of these was published in the ‘Child Development’ journal in 2014 and found that children with better reading skills by the age of 7 had higher scores on IQ tests than those with weaker skills.
Reading has been shown to help with fluid intelligence (the ability to reason and solve problems) as well as emotional intelligence – meaning you make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you. No matter the reason you choose to read, or what genre appeals to you, it’s great to be safe in the knowledge that your hobby is boosting your emotional and physical wellbeing.
– BE –
We’ve been restricted to staying at home for what feels like a very long time. Once things start getting back to “normal”, it could be time think about getting away. Whether that be to a little holiday cottage in the countryside or the transatlantic trip of a lifetime, a getaway can do wonders for us.
If you love a holiday, you’ll be thrilled to hear that they have been proven to be good for your mental and physical wellbeing. In an article by Metador Network, they list the following ways that travelling can give you an extra boost:
This may not come as a surprise to you, but it’s an important one to mention in showing how it helps with your wellbeing. Whilst we are relaxing on our holiday we will probably feel completely stress free. Interestingly, it has also been proven to have a positive effect on recovery, strain, and perceived stress for as long as 45 days after returning.
With stress contributing to around 60% of all human disease and illness, the lowering of it then leads to all sorts of other benefits, such as decreased chances of developing heart disease; lower likelihood of depression and anxiety; and keeping you generally healthier and fitter for longer.
Improves brain health
When you meet new people and see new things, your mind expands and develops new connections. During the time you’re away you may also need to adapt to situations that are different to what you are usually accustomed to.
All of these experiences are great for your brain activity as they increase cognitive flexibility – keeping your mind sharp. Research has linked travel with an increase in creativity, a better understanding of different cultures and more emotional development.
Keeps you fit
When you go to a new place, you are more likely to want to explore the local area – this will mean that you’ll get a lot more steps in than a usual day sat at home or in the office. You might stay at a place with a pool; and we all know that swimming works out an endless number of muscles. So get those walking sandals on, pop out and purchase a snorkel – you could end up burning more calories than you gain from the delicious food! Even if you’ve gone for the relaxed holiday on a beach, walking on sand uses twice the number of calories as normal, so you’ll even be working extra muscles there!
Next time you’re seeing the world on your travels, don’t feel guilty about how much money it might have cost, or the responsibilities at home that you’ve put on hold – rest assured that you are doing your wellbeing a world of good.
– BE –
We all know that keeping fit, active and healthy is good for our physical and mental wellbeing. Sometimes the actual process of doing it is a lot easier said than done.
As we age, our bodies and minds go through many changes that can impact our desire and ability to keep active. HSL’s independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC lists some of the factors we might encounter, with some helpful activities that can help prevent them developing too far:
Physical changes can make it harder to move about and do things we used to take for granted. Generalised aches and pains will reduce the range of movement in joints and weaken
muscles. You can slow this natural process by doing regular weight bearing exercises (working your body against gravity); getting enough calcium and vitamin D; and avoiding lifestyle choices that weaken your bones (such as smoking and not exercising).
Memory changes are a normal part of the ageing process; by our thirties the brain’s weight, nerve network, and blood flow start to decrease. This continues as we get older, meaning that we may feel less confident to try new things. You can help keep your brain sharp by engaging in regular social activities to encourage conversation and stimulate the memory process. Challenge yourself to learn and do new things and be physically active, as this increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain.
Physiological changes are normal when our cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) become less efficient. As we get older, our heart and lungs have to work harder during activity than they did when they were younger. Funnily enough, a way to slow this process is to do regular cardiovascular exercises as they play a key role in keeping these vital muscles strong.
Lifestyle/social changes can become an issue as we age. The world we knew when we were a child looks nothing like world we now live in. This can make it seem more remote, harder to understand and therefore more challenging.
For some this could be an exciting experience; but for many it can lead to social withdrawal, isolation and loneliness. Engaging in regular exercise and activity with like-minded people can help you feel more in control, happier, more inclined to face uncertainties and embrace new things. This should also lead you to feeling more connected to the world around you.
To help inspire you to embrace getting regular exercise, here are just some of the benefits:
- Increased energy levels
- Strong bones and muscles
- Mental sharpness
- Improved mood – aerobic exercise can
reduce stress, reducing instances of
depression and anxiety
- Improved balance, strength, and flexibility –
key to preventing injuries and reducing falls
- Reduces incidents of developing serious
health complications associated with heart,
weight, and respiratory diseases
- Helps in the management of existing
chronic illness with reported lowering of
medication levels, pain, and low mood
- Encourages social interaction – attending
group activities/exercise classes is known to
contribute to people staying active for longer
and feeling more positive and satisfied
- Helps maintain healthy weight
When you start wondering where the best place to start is, it’s good to know that all movement is good for you. Make activities a habit; plan time in your diary/calendar and provide yourself with simple rewards for achievements. The key to success is finding something you enjoy and can commit to on a regular basis. Be realistic about what you can do and the goals you want to achieve. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
– BE –
A widely accepted fact is that eating well is good for our bodies, and in turn our physical wellbeing. But did you know that what we eat can have a dramatic effect on our mental wellbeing too? According to Mind.org having a good diet can: improve your mood, give you more mental energy, and help you think more clearly. They suggest the following basic steps:
Have you ever heard of the term “hangry”? It’s an invented word for people who’s mood changes negatively when they get hungry and their blood sugar drops. Not eating enough can have a big impact on those who are already susceptible to feeling tired, irritable and depressed.
The recommendation is to eat regularly and when you do so, don’t snack on quick, sugary treats – instead find things that release energy slowly, keeping your (healthy) sugar levels high. These types of food are: pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread, cereals, nuts and seeds.
Our body is made up of about 60% water and so it is absolutely crucial to keep it topped up and hydrated. Wherever possible we should try to do this through drinking plenty of water, but most liquids (other than alcohol) will also help. When we are dehydrated, our body doesn’t function quite as it should – meaning it could be difficult to concentrate or think clearly. Wherever possible, try to drink between 6-8 glasses of fluid each day.
Getting your 5-a-day
I don’t think anyone in the UK will have been able to miss this advice in recent years, but there’s a reason it’s repeated over and over – vegetables and fruit contain so many of the vitamins, minerals and fibre we need in order to keep our minds and bodies healthy.
A good way to be sure you’re getting a mixture is to look at the colour of each one – try to pick 5 different colours wherever possible. For example: eating a red apple, green broccoli, orange butternut squash, yellow banana and purple cabbage that day will ensure you’re getting a good range of nutrients.
If you usually find eating fruit and veg difficult, turn it into a game – give yourself a tick chart of colours and see how many you can mark off each day!
Getting enough protein
Protein contains amino acids – these are crucial for looking after our mental wellbeing because they make up some of the chemicals in our brains that regulate our thoughts and feelings. Another benefit of protein is that they tend to be in foods that keep us fuller for longer – meaning we shouldn’t have our “hangry” moments! Most of us know that protein can be found in meats, but you can also enjoy it in fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.
If you’re having a rough day, you might reach for a coffee to give you that extra boost of energy. Whilst a little here and there won’t do you too much harm, becoming reliant on it can. It also only gives you a short burst of energy, and so can quickly leave you feeling anxious and depressed.
If you have caffeine before bed, it will almost certainly disturb your sleep (see our section titled ‘Be Well Rested’ to see how important sleep is) and it can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. Caffeine can be found in: energy drinks/cola, tea, coffee and chocolate. If you are used to having a lot of these, try weaning yourself off by switching to decaf occasionally.
What we put into our stomachs has an undeniable connection with how able we feel to tackle the challenges life throws at us – so look after yourself; your body and mind will thank you.
– BE –
A very important part of our journey to better wellbeing is learning how we can be more positive in our day to day lives. Roald Dahl wrote: “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely” Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is one of the most powerful tools we possess to overcome everyday psychological barriers. Here we have compiled a list of ways you can bring positive thinking into your everyday life:
Avoid negative thinking
It doesn’t matter whether it is in the workplace or simply during leisure time, avoiding negativity is crucial to maintaining a positive thought process. How many times have you heard someone say “they are not negative, they’re just realistic”. This seemingly harmless myth will inevitably keep you locked in a room of negative thought.
A person’s thoughts, whether positive or negative, will ultimately have an effect on their environment. If you’re thinking negatively, then your default thought process will be to confirm that the world is a terrible place. In turn, this will create a downward spiral of negativity, eventually letting fear and frustration prevail.
Positive thinking on the other hand works the same way. With positive thinking, you will automatically seek positive choices and expect positive results. This will help you combat the fear that is apparent with negative thinking. Therefore, a person’s thinking will dictate and determine their reality and the way they interact with the world.
Focus on the present
Many people seem to add to their existing problems by building them up mentally into bigger issues than they actually are. How often do people worry about things for days, weeks, even months which end up being much less of a problem than originally anticipated, and in some cases, not even happening at all? No doubt, we can all be guilty of this!
However, by focusing on the present you can eliminate any bad feeling you have towards your past and won’t needlessly worry about the “what ifs” of the future. You could also see an uplift in productivity, because of your greater focus on the task you have at hand, giving it the full attention it needs.
Your life may not be perfect, it may be far from it, but it is important to stand back and have an impartial view about the things you should be grateful for. Remind yourself of all the reasons you have to be proud of in your life, this will help you to focus on what you have, and not on what you don’t have.
Remember that how you view your life and your surroundings is, for the most part, your choice. Being thankful will displace negative feelings of anger and frustration with a more positive outlook.
You’re the master of your own reactions
As previously mentioned, we create our outside reality by the thoughts we possess internally. There are, of course, things that happen both internally and externally which are beyond our control; but the reactions we have can be controlled and even used to our advantage. Essentially, you have more control than you think.
It is important to take time to process all the information you have before you reach an educated and full conclusion. Try to avoid shouting out your initial response, and remember that ultimately you have the power over your own reactions.
View life as an ongoing journey, not a final destination
Viewing life as an ongoing journey is crucial to having positive mental attitude and feeling a sense of satisfaction in your life.
The trouble with treating life as a final destination is that you will never be truly satisfied! This is because you will continually be finding new ways of trying to find a completed state of mind when, in reality, there isn’t one. There are always going to be good times and bad times and it’s important to take life as it comes, one step at a time. Try to remember, we do not need to arrive at a destination if we accept that we are already here.
Try to be content with where you are today and avoid the mistake of waiting for life “to happen”. Sometimes you need to actively decide to enjoy the journey.
– BE –
It has been proven, by the office for national statistics, that keeping connected with family brings mental, social and physical advantages to our health. As such, connections to family can lead to greater overall wellbeing. What exactly are these benefits? Often we get so distracted by daily life and let little feuds and niggles grow, so that we don’t stop to take time and appreciate how valuable family connections really are. Don’t forget, if you don’t have family nearby, the benefit of close friendships can be just as valuable. Take a step back and have a think about the advantages of keeping connected. Below are some of the key ones:
Can you remember the last time you actually sat around a dinner table and had a meal with your family? Research from the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse suggests that families who make a habit of sitting around a dinner table for at least five nights a week are happier, closer and more united. Because of this, children are less likely to fall ill to substance abuse. Spending time relaxing and socialising together (without mobile phones as a distraction) is a wonderful way to reinforce family connections.
Staying connected with family can actually lead to greater overall wellbeing. There are physical benefits too as family usually encourage a healthier lifestyle. According to the NHS, the mental benefits are also clear, with people generally experiencing a greater feeling of contentment with family members. Additionally, the NHS confirms that family provide a sense of belonging which reduces the effects of depression and anxiety.
That’s right – there is a direct correlation to performance at work and the social interactions we have with our family. Comprehensive studies have been carried out on family connections and progress in the work place. The findings are that higher levels of family support provide greater job satisfaction and longer employment.
You may have heard the well used phrase that ‘it is important to know your roots’ or ‘always remember where you come from’. Well, there is a certain element of truth to this. One way to achieve this is to go and visit your family to take you back to your roots. This may sound somewhat philosophical but it keeps you in touch with your identity and purpose. It is also a reminder of the people who either raised you or who you grew up with
There have been various studies which look into the implications on recovery time for those who have the support of family and those that don’t. There is overwhelming evidence that supports the theory of a decreased recovery time when loved ones are close by. This isn’t only in relation to minor illnesses either; there have been quite astonishing stories of people with different cancers, diabetes or circulatory problems that have benefited from family being around them.
Now that we’re able to get out and about again, there are a plethora of ways to stay in contact with family. Below are just a few ways you could try:
- Go on a walk together
- Take up a hobby together
- Eat together
- Talk on the phone
- Travel together
- Go out to the cinema
- Play board/card games
- Just sit together and chat
– BE –
When you think of improving your physical and mental wellbeing, do you immediately think of doing so by assessing your posture? No? To be honest, there are probably very few people who do. Hopefully after reading this we can start to change the way you think and feel about posture and its importance in your mental and physical health. We all know that we should eat our 5 a day, don’t drink too much, exercise regularly; and we constantly hear that we shouldn’t have too much of this and or excessive amounts of that.
The effects of bad posture, on the other hand, are relatively unknown. Firstly, to clarify, posture is defined as the position in which we hold our body when standing, sitting and sleeping. It is generally termed ‘good posture’ or ‘bad posture’. HSL’s independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, has clarified the difference for us:
Good posture is standing with the head balanced effortlessly above the spine. The spine will be straight and vertical except for the slight natural curves in the lower back and neck (it has a slight S-shape). Such a posture is widely recognised as being associated with good appearance, good health, strength, athleticism, and stamina.
By contrast the term bad posture is most commonly used to describe the human position in which the head and shoulders are placed forward of the spine with the spine curved into an excessive S-shape, or a C-shape. It is widely referred to as a slouched or a hunchback posture. Bad posture is commonly associated with a poor appearance, backaches of all types, poor health, poor breathing, tiredness, and easy fatigability.
Read more about how important posture is here:
Impacts of Bad Posture
- Having bad posture places the weight of the head and shoulders forward and downwards, causing:
- Strain on the spine – contributing to neck pain and backaches
- Compressing the chest – contributing to chest pains
- Increasing pressure on lungs and respiratory muscles – contributing to breathlessness
- Compressing the air in the chest – contributing to postural hypotension, faintness, tiredness and physical fatigue
- Compressing the stomach – causing stomach pains and digestive difficulties.
Impacts of Good Posture
To look at this from the ‘glass half full’ side, if you start now to develop and improve habits leading to good posture, then the effects stated above can be slowed, and in some cases completely halted. With good posture, you can expect to counteract the physical complications associated with bad posture. Thus, improving your physical health and wellbeing. When your body feels stronger and fitter, your mental health soon follows. In an article stressing the importance of linking physical and mental health, The Mental Health Foundation said:
“A clear distinction is often made between ‘mind’ and ‘body’. But when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate.”
From this, and countless other studies, we can see that through having and maintaining good posture, both your physical and mental wellbeing can be positively impacted. If you’d like more information on how you can look after your posture when sitting, please read the section: “Be Comfortable”.
– BE –
Time spent outdoors has many health benefi ts; from improving overall wellbeing, to giving you a much-needed boost of Vitamin D. Unfortunately, according to research conducted by HSL with 1,035 UK residents, more than a quarter (26%) of people aged over 60 spend less than four hours outside each week – that works out as fewer than nine days a year! To help inspire you to make the most of the great outdoors; especially now that we can enjoy it with other people again, we’ve made a list of some activities you can enjoy in the fresh air:
Volunteering is a great way to make the most of your spare time and meet new people whilst helping others in your local area. This could include helping at a charity fair, volunteering at a National Trust site, or at a conservation site. When you’re willing to help, there’s always plenty to do.
Gather up a few friends and make the most of the numerous free tennis courts across the UK. Tennis is a fun way to socialise and you can exercise at your own pace with an equally-matched tennis partner.
Cycling is a fantastic way to boost your cardiovascular health and improve your stamina, whatever your age. There are hundreds of cycle paths throughout the UK for different cycling abilities, so chances are there will be one near you. Don’t forget your helmet!
Go to the beach
There are so many amazingly beautiful coastlines around the UK – many that rival those abroad. These locations can certainly be a great way of getting us out and enjoying some fresh sea air. This is something that can be enjoyed alone, perhaps giving much needed “you time”. Equally, you could take the whole family along, pack a picnic and make a full day of it.
Walk in the countryside
If you are keen to explore somewhere new, taking a walk in the countryside could be the perfect option. It’s a great, free way of spending some quality time with the family. If the weather is fine – fantastic! What a lovely way to enjoy the sunshine. If the weather is cold – no problem; get on your woolly hat, comfy gloves and wrap up warm. Even the rain can be combated – welly boots, raincoat and an umbrella. The British countryside awaits.
– BE IN YOUR –
In the UK, gardening is a hugely popular hobby for all generations. There’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment of seeing a flower you have nurtured, growing and blooming into something beautiful, or the satisfaction of eating your own tasty home-grown produce. Both the time spent in the fresh air, and also seeing the (literal) “fruits of your labours” will most certainly be good for your health and wellbeing.
Whether you are the “potter about” type, or a daily all-weather green fingered gardener, you need to be sure you are doing it in a way that limits any damage to your muscles and joints. Whilst discussing posture in gardening, HSL’s independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC said:
“When carrying out activities like gardening, there is no such thing as a “perfect posture”, given the range of actions necessary and the positions needed to get the job done. The key to avoiding damage whilst gardening is to avoid remaining in positions that cause discomfort or puts unnecessary strain on your body, whilst remembering good general posture advice.”
A starting tip that Julie recommends is if you’re going to be spending a while working in the garden, you need to warm your body up – but don’t panic! She doesn’t mean the full blown moves you might try out in a gym; simply start out with the smaller, lighter tasks before you move on to the bigger and more strenuous jobs. If your body is more relaxed and nimble, then the larger strains aren’t going to have a damaging effect on your body.
Another easy to follow tip is to vary your posture. Whatever it is you are doing, try not to stay in the same position for too long. This means you will limit the impact on any one particular area of your body, which might have led to pain developing.
A great practical way to do this is to alternate your gardening tasks – set a 10-15 minute timer whilst weeding, then take a small break, a stretch, a swig of water and then move on to tending to your hanging baskets, and so on until you come round again to weeding. After you’ve spent your morning busying yourself in the garden, you’ll probably want to have a nice rest. A great way of helping your posture after carrying out such physical tasks is to sit in a chair or sofa that fully supports your body and encourages good posture. For more information about this, please see our section: “Be Comfortable”.
Want some tips on keeping good posture whilst gardening? Click here:
– BE –
In a bid to improve health and wellbeing, we would always encourage as much outdoor activity as possible – however, it’s also nice to spend a bit of time resting and relaxing. Whilst you have a sit down, it can be lovely to switch off to everything and watch TV, but there are numerous studies suggesting that excessive amounts of screen watching isn’t good for our mental wellbeing. Instead, why not use this stationary time to engage the mind and discover or improve a hobby. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to learn a new skill or are rekindling your love for a favourite pastime, below we have explored seven ideas:
Painting, colouring or drawing
For those who have a creative streak, why not take up painting, colouring or drawing? It may seem quite childlike to talk about colouring, but there has actually been an upsurge in the adult colouring book phenomenon. You could also get a small easel for a side table and set up a canvas to work from. With this, you might like to recreate photographs from the past or copy an image from a magazine, newspaper or book.
Keeping our brains active as we age is hugely important to off set various mental health conditions, as well as contributing to a number of other health benefits. As such, by simply flicking through a newspaper and completing a Sudoku, crossword or brain teaser you’re able to boost your memory, help reduce the risk of dementia and improve hand eye coordination. These activities don’t have to come from newspapers alone, they can also come from the internet, puzzle books or if you’re feeling adventurous then you can have a go at creating them for yourself. Once you’ve finished, get a friend over and test them; then give them the challenge to make one for you.
If you’ve lost your love for reading then maybe it’s time to dive back in! It has to be one of the most traditional hobbies of all time and there is a reason that it still around. As well as keeping your mind active, reading can also expand your knowledge and is a great form of escapism from our busy lives. If your eyesight isn’t quite what it once was then there are always audio books to sit back and listen to. For those who don’t like to hold a physical book, there is now the option to purchase an e-book on any smart mobile device. For more information on how reading can help your wellbeing, turn to “Be Well Read”.
For the vast majority of us, music is an expression of ourselves and there have been studies suggesting that music boosts our state of mind and enhances our wellbeing. It serves to evoke certain memories, helps us relax and generally makes us feel happier. There are various music platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube which you can easily access on a mobile phone or tablet holding an unimaginably large collection of music. Exploring new music or discovering old time classics is just the start though! You could also learn to play an instrument or try your hand at writing music.
Knitting and sewing are not only useful skills for when garments accidentally get torn, they are also great for hours of enjoyment; keeping the mind active, and fingers nimble. It is one of the most satisfying feelings to go from wool and needle to a finished jumper, shirt or pair of socks. You’re could give your finished items to charity, friends and family or perhaps even sell them. With starter kits available at many stores, it’s an easy and enjoyable hobby to start.
Exercise is important at any stage of life but as we grow older it does become more difficult. That’s why seated exercises could be the perfect answer! The NHS have a fantastic guide on how to perform some great chair exercises, many of which are designed to help you improve flexibility and strengthen key muscle groups. Undertaking these activities just twice a week will make you feel healthier, work to keep your mind active and even help you sleep better.
Have you ever considered yourself to have a bit of an artistic side? Well this is your chance to truly demonstrate it! Regardless of your interest, there are likely to be models available; it could be anything from footballs to cars or even celebrity characters. Hours of entertainment can be had by collecting these miniature models. Most starter kits will include everything you’re likely to need and you can continue your artistic talents through painting them after they’re built. Finding enjoyment in life can come at any time and finding new ways to do this is an exciting journey to start. Who knows, you could unearth a whole new talent!
Did you know we run a weekly quiz? Get involved and click here to start quizzing!
– BE –
Have you ever been in the unfortunate position of wearing a pair of shoes that don’t fit? You shift your feet around, you might try an in-sole, or even stick something down the front; but nothing can quite make them feel right. Later you decide to try again, and you get a pair that are specifically fitted to your feet, and suddenly the sun starts shining and all is well with the world. Our bodies don’t come in a ‘one size fits all’ shape – so why do we think that a chair or sofa would be any different to shoes when it comes to choosing them?
A relatively unknown side effect of sitting on chairs and sofas that don’t fully support our body, is that our posture can be severely affected. Through having and maintaining good posture, our mental and physical wellbeing can be positively impacted (for more information on this, please see the “Let Posture Be Important” section).
To state the obvious, sitting down is something that everyone does! Unfortunately, prolonged sitting has been linked with several health concerns and so, in an ideal world, the solution would be sitting less and moving more. But what if we have to sit for long periods of time due to health, employment or other lifestyle factors? In this case, it is essential to have the right chair or sofa so that you have the correct postural support to help your body rest well and move better.
HSL’s independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC explains:
“Many of us have developed what is often referred to as a “Comfort Posture”. This term refers to the most comfortable position we adopt in a particular seat. If our usual furniture does not provide adequate postural support then our comfort posture may be detrimental to our overall health and fitness, leading to, at best, aches and pains, and at worst, damaged joints and deformity.”
A good way of understanding this is to think back to when you went away on holiday, or you stayed at someone’s home for a long period of time. When you went, did you find it an odd, even painful, experience to get used to a different bed or chair? This is because your muscles (and brain) learn the most comfortable position to be in, and when we go somewhere new, our muscles are then challenged and put under new forces whilst we try to find our new “comfort posture”.
Choosing a chair or sofa that is the correct size and shape for you is one way of ensuring that the way you sit will bring you long term benefits and help avoid the complications associated with poor posture.
At HSL, our 50+ years of handcrafting specialist furniture and finding the perfect chair for the many customers who visit each year has given us a unique perspective on comfort. We have learnt the unique ways in which people sit, sleep, stand and move. HSL has spoken to people about the impact their lifestyle has on their bodies, where and why they ache, and what helps relieve their discomfort. We want to make sure that their customers get the absolutely right fit. This is why all of their chairs, sofas and beds come in multiple sizes. Fully trained Comfort Specialists are available in-store to show you their Occupational Therapist approved 7-Point Seating Assessment™, personalised to you.
– BE –
When was the last time you had a really good night’s sleep? Your head hit the pillow and you were out like a light until a natural and relaxed wake up 8 hours later. After that, did you feel like you were ready to tackle any of the challenges life might throw at you? We all know how bad we feel after we haven’t slept well. The next day everything is discoloured – we get easily irritable, overly emotional and if we have a few nights in a row like that, our bodies start to get unwell and then we’ve got illness to tackle as well as tiredness.
So, why does sleep matter so much? HSL’s independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, explains:
“Having good sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and will benefit both the mind and body. Researchers have identified that sleep plays a critical role in the body’s immune system, metabolism, memory, learning, heart rate and other vital functions.”
When we sleep, our body goes through their vital stages that contribute to our general health and wellbeing:
Stage 1: Between being awake and asleep (light sleep)
Stage 2: Onset of sleep, disengaged with our surroundings, breathing and heart rate becomes slower and more regular
Stage 3: Deepest and most restorative sleep, blood pressure drops, muscles relax, blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair, energy is restored, essential hormones are released to repair the body
REM: Provides energy to the brain and body, supports daytime performance, dreams occur, eyes dart back and forth, body becomes immobile as muscles are “switched off”
When our body is allowed to pass through these cycles and sleep well, the following benefits occur:
• Our deep breathing and lowering heart rate helps our stress levels drop
• Our memory can improve from the brain being allowed the time to organise and store its memories
• Our blood pressure is lowered through the complete relaxation of sleep
• Our immune system is boosted by the release of infection fighting protein molecules
• And finally, we all know that sleep helps our ability to stay calm, controlled and reasonable, thus making us a much more pleasant person to be around
For something as seemingly simple as sleeping, it can be a surprisingly tricky thing to master. Having the right bed and mattress is essential to ensuring we are fully supported whilst we rest. You need to make sure you fi nd the right one for your own body type.
HSL’s versatile and luxurious, handmade adjustable beds are all fully approved by Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, giving you complete peace of mind whilst dropping off to sleep. Not only do they look beautiful, but they also aid a better night’s sleep, allowing you to sit up, lay flat, raise your legs or flex the knees to achieve the correct sleeping position; ensuring many years of blissful rest.