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Move Towards Wellbeing

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We’re bombarded with inspirational slogans about wellbeing, opinion pieces about the slow life flood our social media feeds, and self-discovery and care, vulnerability, kindness and courage have fast become commonplace conversation. While it’s great that this focus on health is becoming more prominent and accessible, it can be hard to sort through the volumes of content to find what’s useful for you.

I’m learning that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing, emotional and mental health. So I’ve done my best to give words to my own experience, in the hopes that these insights may help you to be brave with yours.

Lean into the silence

When was the last time you were filled with a sense of awe and wonder?

For me, it was on one of the lowest days I’ve had in a long time. I just wanted to curl up in bed, and binge Netflix, but a couple of my people forced me out of my house and into the car. We went to get burgers, and then we drove for what felt like hours. There was no pressure to go into my state of affairs; we just sat in silence.

It was a crisp Wellington day and the sun was setting on the water in what resembled a watercolour painting. Waves rose and fell onto the rocky coastline; salty air moved through our car. Quite frankly, sitting in the passenger seat with this view before me was more helpful for my mind and heart than any pep talk could’ve been.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place to talk about how we’re doing emotionally and mentally. However, sometimes the best approach can be the simple act of being still, winding the windows down, turning your phone off, taking in the sea breeze and just enjoying the moment. Silence can be confronting, but when we lean into it and take a moment, we acknowledge our pain, and healing can start.

Courageous connection

As much as silence is good and healthy, I truly believe that meaningful relationships are the heart and soul of a fulfilled life. Connection is good for our mental and emotional health because we are built to belong. When we plug ourselves into a support network that spurs us on and believes in us, something really beautiful happens inside of us and around us.

‘Community’ doesn’t just happen though, it takes care and intention. As I get older, I’ve become a lot more deliberate about getting into the ‘right ‘rooms of people. Not all rooms, and not for popularity or approval from others, but because I need other people to sharpen, encourage and stand with me. So when I do fall, I’m not doing it in isolation. Community is something you work at. It’s a reciprocal thing. For me, this means being part of a local church and linking arms with likeminded people who ask the hard questions, encourage me to pursue the things I care deeply about, and push me to be the best version of me.

When community is an active part of our lives we are better placed to ask for help when we’re in a tough spot, to wrestle with decisions, and to be vulnerable with how we really are. Not to bare our souls with every person we meet, but to be intentional and mindful with where we do and that we do when life gets too much. Whatever community and connection looks like for you; it takes courage to need it and to nurture it.

A mentor is a good idea

Until fairly recently, it was my long-held view that asking for help was synonymous with weakness. Please know this isn’t true. A few years ago I got into a rut and just needed to do something different, so I reached out to one of the women I looked up to. She’s about 10 years older than me and her life reflects the kinds of qualities I desire to build in mine. So I sucked up my pride and asked her to join me for coffee. Today she is one of the very few people I share the good, the bad and the ugly with. Her wisdom and experience has enriched my life, and our cuppas have been tied to major turning points in my adult life.  Maybe there’s someone in your world you look up to, aspire to be like or hold in high esteem? Invite them for coffee, and see what happens!

Kindness is the way

Earlier this year, my first cousin died by suicide. He left behind two beautiful children, and a massive extended family, devastated with this new reality. Our family are pretty close and it was—and is— heartbreaking to think the ones you love can reach this place. As awful as it’s been, it’s really made me think twice about my interactions with others and myself. Am I being kind to people? Am I checking in with my loved ones often? Am I treating myself with respect? How can I be better?

I think it really boils down to the fact that you never know what someone is going through. As the saying goes “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.

If you don’t know what to say to a loved one or a colleague, ask if they want to get fresh air with you. Just sit with them. Take them for coffee. Show up often. Ask the question, “How can I serve you during this time?” Check on your significant other regularly. Tell someone they look beautiful today. It’s the little things that mean so much.

Cultivate generosity

If you’re anything like me, the last thing I want to do when I’m in a hard place is to serve someone else. Can I offer a suggestion? When we make a conscious choice to put another’s needs before our own, we grow in resolve and in perspective. When we give from a place of pain or experience, the impact is just bigger. There’s nothing like the feeling of being truly seen. When we express comfort from a place of empathy I think we tap into what it really means to be human.

I went on two missions trips to the Philippines in 2016 and 2017 with a group from my church. I don’t say this to boast about how much of a saint I am, but to say that to get out of my comfort zone and to care for the broken, the neglected, and the poor shook me out of my sheltered Western mind-set, and really made me reassess my ‘why’. What is truly valuable to me? What do I stand for? Am I truly grateful?

Maybe a trip to a developing country isn’t your thing. You could think about finding something meaningful in your local community to stick your hand up for instead. Your local church needs volunteers, the soup kitchen in the city needs help, your elderly neighbour might need their lawns mowed, a single mum you know needs a hand with her laundry. Find a cause close to your heart, follow your gut and be consistent in giving to it. Watch what it does to your perspective. Watch how grateful you become. Watch what happens when your eyes are taken off yourself and you lend a hand. Big or small it all matters.

Remember to celebrate

Growing up my dad used to always encourage us to pack fun into our days. I adore this unpretentious approach to life. Whether you’re feeling burnt out, you’re mentally and emotionally drained, or you just need some time out, it’s so important to find a way to pack some fun in and to celebrate where and when we can. For me, it’s the simple act of getting some fresh air by the sea, making a phone call to family, grabbing a coffee, getting away for a weekend with my partner, writing, cooking, and going for a long walk… Whatever it is for you, celebrate the little victories, celebrate the big victories, celebrate your loved ones and pack some fun into your day however you can.

Final words

You have a place here. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your voice is important. You are worth celebrating! Everything will be ok. I love what Brené Brown says: “to love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.”

Helpful resources

On vulnerability

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

Dr. Caroline Leaf on brain health

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cleaning-up-the-mental-mess-with-dr-caroline-leaf/id1334767397

On filling the tank

http://thetwentiesclub.co.nz/portfolio/why-everybody-needs-a-petrol-list/

Best Mates Sit Down For A Heart To Heart About Depression https://www.facebook.com/willandwoodyshow/videos/422944321665927/

On exercise

https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_suzuki_the_brain_changing_benefits_of_exercise