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Psychological therapies and five ways to wellbeing

Straightforward advice about our mental health, including physical wellbeing, the 'five ways to wellbeing' and 'catch it, check it, change it'.
So the first piece of advice is to keep active. This builds on the physical health issue, so to do something each day that’s just physical activity. It could be going to the gym or doing a bike ride or going swimming, but it could be something as simple as going for a walk, taking the dog for a walk. When people are physically active they tend to have better mental health. The second piece of advice sounds a little bit prosaic again but is very important, which is to maintain our relationships. Relationships aren’t just given to us. There’s work that we can do to maintain them.
So you could phone your mother, write a letter, write a postcard, drop somebody an email, even connect using social media. There are things that we can do every day to maintain our connectivity with other people, to maintain our relationships. The third thing that we should do is keep our brains active. Learn. So we could sign up to a university degree or do a MOOC or we could go to a public library. We could buy a newspaper and read it. We could read a book. We could do a crossword. Things that keep the brain active and engaged are good for our mental health.
The fourth thing which we could do, which sounds a little bit moralistic, is give. People who give, especially their time– money is less important– but people who give their time and their energy to charitable or community organisations tend to have better mental health than those who don’t. So the fourth thing that you could do is give something of your time to other people. When people get involved in charitable activity it benefits them and their mental health as well as the people that they are helping out. And the fifth thing is to be open minded, to be mindful. There’s a growing body of evidence that an approach called mindfulness is good for our mental health.
And that means that every day we can make sure, we can bear in mind, to be aware of the things that we’re looking at, the things that we’re smelling, the things that we’re seeing, our own thoughts, and the functioning of our own bodies, to be aware of and to be engaged with the world rather than just simply passively moving through it. And those five ways to wellbeing have all been proven to be important contributors to our mental health. So it’s keep active, keep your brain active, give, connect, and stay open minded.

When we published the research paper that we discussed last week, several people asked if there were practical steps that they could take to improve their own emotional health and wellbeing. Academics often avoid giving advice (they are often understandably nervous about making mistakes), but there are some things (well supported by research) that could help.

In this brief video, I introduce some key messages, many of which are taken from the ‘five ways to well-being’ collated by the new economics foundation in a report for the UK Government. I added some basic advice on physical health and an introduction to CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy.

A recent UK Government report into well-being commissioned a team at the new economics foundation to find evidence for things individuals could do themselves to achieve greater wellbeing. They concluded that we would be well-advised to follow a wellbeing equivalent of the ‘five fruit and vegetables a day’ rule.

This report forms a large part of my advice about how to maintain and protect our psychological health, and the full report is available to download.

Below, I have included a few links to slightly different versions of the same material. There’s a short extract from my recent book, and I have also included a document entitled ‘Psychological therapies and five ways to wellbeing’. There’s also a link to the University of Liverpool website, which hosts a version of the same material.


There is good research evidence for these pieces of advice. But there are many different perspectives on mental health issues. So you do need to consider this advice carefully.

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Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

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