At a time of year with long, dark, cold nights, Christmas behind us but its costs still piling up, and colds and other viruses ever present, it can be hard for many of us to see the positives. For some people, this can lead to a negative spiral.
Councillor Josh Blacker is Ealing Council’s lead member for healthy lives. He said: “Looking after your mental health is crucial, especially in the winter months. Research indicates that embracing the Five Ways to Wellness can significantly enhance our mental health by helping us feel healthy, connected and in touch with our surroundings. If you have concerns and require professional assistance, we have a host of local support options available.”
The Five Ways to Wellness are:
Connecting with loved ones and friends, and meeting new people, is a great way to remind ourselves that we’re important and valued by others.
Scientists now think that having meaningful relationships is one of the most important indicators of how long and healthy your life will be.
Here are some suggestions for staying connected:
- Arrange to meet people regularly. Try arranging monthly dinner dates with friends or join a local interest group.
- Reach out to somebody you’ve lost contact with. Send them an email or give them a call to let them know you are thinking about them.
- Take some time to get to know your neighbours. Invite them around for a cup of tea on Time to Talk Day.
BEfriend, a charity that offers a volunteer befriending service, offers much-needed companionship to people navigating life on their own. But with around 50 referrals every month, the charity is looking for more volunteers that can spare a couple of hours each week to visit someone in need.
At the top of many people’s list for the new year is a new health and fitness regime. Evidence shows that an improvement in your physical health can help improve your mental health, and there are lots of opportunities to stay fit and healthy around Ealing. Whether you are starting out on new fitness goals or just need to tone up, there is plenty on offer.
Starting from just once a week, or 15 minutes a day, you can build-up your fitness with the range of leisure, sports and fitness centres in Ealing. Facilities include swimming pools, gyms, dance studios, and outdoor sports grounds – all designed to accommodate younger, older people and people with disabilities.
But exercise can be really simple. Walking is the easiest way to get more active. It’s a free way to improve your mental and physical wellbeing and can easily be added into your daily routine. Start small – you could consider walking to meet friends and family or to the shops, or make it part of your commute, and build it up from there.
Learning new skills can boost confidence and give you a sense of achievement. Learning can help prevent cognitive decline – it’s now thought that studying new languages or practising music could even delay the development of dementia. Listening to music also releases dopamine in the brain, which makes us feel good.
Whether you are looking to kick-start a new career or take up a hobby, Learn Ealing has a course for you. From childcare to computing, and from business to languages – there is something for everyone. Many courses are completely free. Check the new course prospectus to find out more.
Finding hobbies to do can also help. The Stress Management Society has a whole host of ideas you can try.
Helping others, saying thank you, or giving someone a smile can help to improve your self-esteem and improve your emotional health. Scientists now also think it can impact your physical health too; in one study, random acts of kindness led to reduced inflammation.
Volunteering to help in your community will give you new social networks and, if you’re looking for a job, offer vital experience. Many charities and community projects rely on volunteers – and they make a huge contribution to everyday life in the borough. You could make a real difference to your community.
Ealing and Hounslow Community and Voluntary Service, which receives a grant from Ealing Council, also organises a wide range of placements.
Being more aware of the present moment, the world around you and your own feelings and thoughts, can help you to positively change how you’re feeling about life. The NHS has information about mood and symptoms designed to recommend ways and resources to help you better understand how you feel.
While making a conscious effort to be present in the moment, you might spot things that you would otherwise have missed. If you stumble across something lovely, grab your phone and take a picture; it might be a contender for Around Ealing’s popular photography competition called Seasons of Ealing, which relaunched recently.
Find out more
If you want more advice about mental health, please call NHS West London free on 0800 328 4444 – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Visit the council’s Ealing Advice Service if you are worried about your own or a loved one’s mental health and wellbeing. This service is open to all residents.
Mental health charity Mind has more information on the Five Ways to Wellness approach.
You can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123.
Always call 999 in an emergency.