✦ When was the last time you felt good, ate well and did something that made you glow from the inside out? At the very core of each human is a very basic desire to simply be happy. When we are happy, it flows over naturally to others.
Here's a simple question:
"How are you?"
While this is obviously not a rocket science question, you'd be surprised how easily we parrot off the answer and simply reply "Good" without really honestly thinking how we really are.
Now here's another question (no, it's not a trick question):
"Are you happy?"
What do you mean am I happy? Of course I am! Or am I? Food for thought perhaps.
Depending on the generation you were born in and where, we have all experienced some challenging periods. Our grandparents may have lived through a war, others have been pummelled with one natural disaster after another, and in present times the frozen state we all found ourselves in during the pandemic is still fresh in our minds. COVID-19 has royally kicked us out of the stupor of our comfort zones.
With The Great Resignation sweeping through various industries and employee wellbeing suddenly being made top priority, we are seeing new trends emerging where people are consciously making a choice to live life differently. It's a big shake up, and people are questioning how they have been doing things all this time and whether it's really what they want and beneficial to their lives.
Wellbeing is now a priority
Suddenly, wellbeing and mental health are on the top of the list of concerns, as if it takes a pandemic for humans to realise the importance of our emotional hygiene. Wellbeing has always been vital to our health. Perhaps we took it for granted, or maybe we were all so busy on the hamster wheel of work and life that we did not give it the attention it needed. Until we got the rug pulled from under our feet.
It's clear there is a trend now across companies everywhere to prioritise employee wellbeing, mental health and find ways to prevent burnout. We have seen how frontline workers and healthcare workers especially were pushed to the edge. And many health services are still saturated from the aftermath of COVID. Inside the immaculate walls of a hospital, healthcare workers continue to be overworked and overwhelmed.
We don't have to wait till we're adults struggling in the corporate world before we start doing something for our wellbeing and mental health. There's a good reason why TG's Child Care is so well-known and trusted by families as the stewardship of their children's future. Children at TG's learn about wellbeing and how to make safe, healthy choices from a friendly giraffe called Healthy Harold. They gain life-coping mechanisms to create a wellbeing toolkit that they can keep using through their lives. This is a big boost for children's mental health outcomes. TG's is truly embodying Wellbeing for Life.
Burnout is real
"Burnout is often ignored and suppressed because of fears related to job security and concerns that showing vulnerability might lead to the perception of being unemployable. And walking away from a job to prioritise mental health is simply economically unfeasible – even unimaginable – for most people."- BBC
Jacinda Ardern's recent announcement to stand down from office as New Zealand's Prime Minister has been interpreted as burnout causing her to quit politics. And one can hardly be surprised. She has led the country through its worst ever mass shooting, a natural disaster in the form of a volcanic eruption and the pandemic of course. It's enough to drive anyone to burnout. Even a country's leader can recognise their very human limits and call it a day before they implode.
Prioritising our mental health should not be seen as a 'luxury' that is available only to those who are financially able to step away when things get too much. World leaders, organisations, companies need to take wellbeing and mental health more seriously, and recognise the potential losses that could result for any entity if the human elements in this group were to start falling like flies because they cannot cope.
Investing in workforce health
A new study from Avalere Health commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce determined that "employer-sponsored health insurance and programs will yield a 47% average return on investment (ROI) to employers this year. In layman’s terms: For every dollar an employer spends on workforce health, they get back $1.47 in financial benefits." - Cigna*
*American multinational managed healthcare and insurance company
Another study by Cigna showed that "employees with high levels of vitality are healthier, more confident in their jobs, feel supported at work, and are more motivated and productive than those with lower vitality levels. Crucially, those with higher vitality are more likely to stay with their current employer – an important asset for employers navigating the Great Resignation."
Companies are stepping up on looking after employees' health in all possible ways, and it's going to take some time for the teething period to ease out as companies figure out how to best support their workers. What is increasingly common now among insurers in a bid to modernise health care is to provide new digital tools and services to support wellbeing and diagnostics. An example is telehealth services where you can have a video chat with your physician.
However, many insurers still either exclude mental healthcare or provide just the minimal coverage.
"In 2021, mental health conditions were one of the top five causes of claim costs in Europe." - MMB* Health Trends 2023
*Mercer Marsh Benefits ™ (MMB) a global leader in the health and benefits marketplace.
Even the most optimistic of insurers only cover around 20% of the treatments that would be needed in a year. This is hardly enough for a claimant to have adequate recovery. Companies need to consider other ways to fill this mental healthcare gap.
Everyone is still on the path to recovery from COVID-19. Because we were locked down, we suddenly appreciated having the freedom to simply take a walk outdoors. Having been confined to a screen to have connections with people around us, we realised how good a real, warm, human hug feels. Perhaps true happiness is in the simple, 'free' things around us and not the latest modern gadget or a fancy holiday.
During our present times more than ever, it's really important to take a good look at how we are, and if we are actually happy. Everyone has their own take on this, and happiness can be relative. Whether you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person, the important thing to remember is you have a glass. Now what are you going to do with it? There is something we can all do as individuals for our own wellbeing.
While governments, organisations and companies are figuring out how to best support our wellbeing, what can we do right here, right now to start to Feel Good, Eat Good and Do Good?
1. Get enough sleep.
Anyone with a toddler can tell you how important sleep is. A sleep-deprived tot is an absolute nightmare. At their best they are cranky and at their worst not even Bruce Lee can defend himself from a volley of sharp Lego bricks ricocheting around. And all because a little person did not get enough sleep. Adults are no different. We need proper sleep too. Long term effects of sleep deprivation include weight gain, diabetes, increased blood pressure and a weak immune system. Some people unfortunately suffer from sleep disorders, in which case special treatment is required. For many others however, it requires a determined change in lifestyle i.e. stop binge-watching Netflix and go to bed. Try it tonight, and see if you feel better tomorrow morning.
2. Go outside.
Yes, take yourself out on a doggy walk even if you haven't got a dog. You need fresh air and sunshine too. A change of scenery i.e. anything that is not an electronic screen can give your eyes and mind a much needed break to reset and recalibrate. Going out for a walk can lower stress, heart rate and blood pressure. And many will say that they have often come up with a solution or a new idea simply by walking. And it's free. Plus you get to meet friendly dogs on their walks too and get a bit of dog therapy! Unless you have a phobia of dogs, otherwise they are said to help raise our oxytocin levels and lower our blood pressure. Go take a stroll and make some canine friends!
3. Get a houseplant.
If you're lucky to live in a house with a garden, you'll understand why your garden is like an oasis of peace. Studies have shown that just being in the presence of houseplants can improve one's mental and physical health. Plus, they help improve air quality! It's like having a 100% ecological, organic and natural air purifier in your room! Plants also make for a good hobby and their colours somehow brighten up a living space. Plants do respond to love and care, and when they grow well, you feel a sense of fulfilment! As a self-confessed plant lover and plant murderer, it does take a bit of practice and the sacrifice of a few unfortunate plants to get the hang of it. Learn more here from the World Economic Forum how plants can improve your mental health and wellbeing.
First rule of thumb for happiness - don't starve yourself. Having a sorry sandwich for lunch because you're stuck to the computer trying to meet a deadline is permissible perhaps....two or three times a year. Not every day. Hungry people are often angry people. Believe it or not, there's a new word being born that is a mix of that.
hangry adjective informal becoming angry because you are feeling hungry: People often get hangry when their blood sugar level is low.
Our grandmothers were experts at eating healthy and well. Drink enough water, eat your greens, get enough fibre, have a homecooked meal instead of a fast food place, eat less sugar, bake or steam instead of frying etc.
In our modern times, eating well and healthy goes a step further. It may take a bit of getting used to but there's certainly no harm trying. You may even like it and feel the benefits and effects of changing your diet. We're talking about going vegan, giving raw food a chance, and being conscious about where your food comes from and how it is produced.
1. Go vegan.
It is said that plant-based foods and their high nutritional content can contribute to an increase in energy and decrease stress. Vegan diets often contain complex carbohydrates that increase our levels of serotonin (the feel good hormone). When you go vegan, you do have to be more careful and selective of what you put into your body. It's a way to practise mindfulness, of choosing what feels good and healthy for your body. It's self-care and respect for your body. Find a vegan buddy to guide you if you feel lost as to where to begin. There is a growing community of vegans and they'll be more than happy to share some yummy recipes with you!
2. Go raw.
No no, we're not asking you to sink your fangs into an unfortunate chicken crossing the road. It's about eating unprocessed whole, plant-based food. Cooking destroys the vitamins in foods and damages the proteins. Raw food is said to have the best balance of water, nutrients and fibre for your body's needs. A big benefit of the raw food diet is they take little preparation since there is no messing about with all the cooking. Which means cleaning up after is also quick as there's no mess generated in a typical meal that involves lots of frying and grilling. Read about Raw Chef Yin's journey in her passion for raw food and you may just find yourself feeling hungry with her recipes!
3. Go organic.
If you were lucky to have grandparents with a good old-fashioned garden, you'll remember how sweet their strawberries tasted and how you could pick cherry tomatoes off and just eat them as they were. What they grew simply could not be compared with the so-called fruits and vegetables we got at the modern run-of-the-mill supermarket. We are what we eat and if what we eat isn't 'clean', is it any wonder our bodies fall prey to diseases and illnesses? David King is a Comboyne Pharmer and he knows how important it is to consume food that is clean, natural and chemical-free. Basically, see it as you're eating plants that have grown up rather happily in a natural environment where they've not been pumped with chemicals to force them to grow a certain way. More reasons to go organic here.
We know it feels good to do volunteer work and pay it forward by giving to our communities. Remember that you cannot give from an empty cup. There's a reason why on flights we are told to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before we assist the person next to us. We cannot do very much if we are passed out. Once you start to take care of your physical and mental health, you naturally become a strong, healthy and whole presence that can support others around you. And there are so many ways we can do good!
Choose a cause that most motivates you or which you resonate with. Whether it's for people with a disability, giving your time to a pet shelter, cheering up the elderly, there are lots in your community where you can get involved in. BlazeAid is one example of a volunteer-based organisation working with rural families to help them rebuild their lives that have been affected by natural disasters. These volunteers are vital to help rebuild our local communities. Beyond helping people in need, volunteers also feel good knowing they are putting their time and energy towards a worthy cause, and every single act of theirs makes a huge difference. It's a case of Doing Good and Feeling Good. There is also a sense of community that is generated when you become a volunteer and it's a great boost for one's mental health. We all want to feel we belong, we matter and we can make a difference.
2. Upcycle, recycle, repurpose, reuse
Eco-anxiety is real. And many people actually are affected by this.
The American Psychology Association (APA) describes eco-anxiety as “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one's future and that of next generations”.
Spiralling into fear and worry isn't going to do much to help the environment. But there are things we can start to do right now. Whether it's separating your trash and contributing to recycling efforts or working on spending less and getting creative with upcycling, repurposing and reusing, every drop still adds to the ocean of change. Even fallen trees can be repurposed with a bit of creativity! Check these cool ideas from Accomplished Tree Management! Getting creative with these ideas also helps to boost our mental health and keeps our brains nice and juicy firing away new neuronal pathways! Create something new instead of buying and generating more waste!
3. Care for nature
And make new friends while you're at it! That's what you get when you sign up for an activity at Hastings Landcare. There are different Landcare groups in your community. You can learn about native plants and animals and help improve their habitat as well. This is one of our favourite Feel Good and Do Good combos! You get to Feel Good outdoors in nature and Do Good by caring for it, and meet like-minded people and build healthy connections to boost your mental health!
If these are not enough, check out these 50 ideas to do good!
So let's try the questions again. How are you? Are you happy?
We certainly hope you can take on board some of these ideas to Feel Good, Eat Good and Do Good! Get that brilliant inner glow going, and share it with others. Tell us some of your favourite tried-and-tested ways to Feel Good, Eat Good and Do Good!
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