Have your say and make a difference

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher, can change the world”

Malala Yousafzai

There’s so much happening in the world that can make us angry – the burning of the amazon rainforest, increased train fares, Brexit, allegations of sexual misconduct and the roads being dug up yet again. We often get angry about these things (and many more) but how often do we actually do something about it?

As Malala Yousafzai says in the quote above, it only takes one person to change the world. Making a stand for what you believe in, no matter how big or small, can help you and others. Malala’s activism is ongoing, but we can make a stand – and a difference – with just a short amount of free time. This week’s post aims to encourage you to speak out, make a difference and improve your wellbeing in the process.

How standing up for what we believe in can improve our wellbeing

By understanding our needs and telling people what we want to change, the chances of our needs being met actually increase. After all, people can’t read each other’s minds, so once others are aware of what we need, things can change. A positive side effect of this is that we often take better care of ourselves as a result. This has been shown in healthcare settings – if diagnosed with a physical or mental health problem, having a say in the way we are treated can result in better self-management of the illness.

Standing up for what we believe in and seeing a resulting change can boost our confidence and give us a sense of empowerment. Having a sense of control over our lives is key to improving our wellbeing.

Having our say often increases our social interactions with others. As we know from a previous blog, interacting with others is good for our wellbeing. If our thoughts are shared by others, we can feel an increased sense of belonging.

Can one person really make a difference?

Yes, they can. There are hundreds of examples of individuals making their voices heard and creating change locally, nationally and internationally. Here are three to inspire you:

  • Greta Thunberg went on strike from school to protest about the climate crisis outside the Swedish Parliament. At only 15 years old, she inspired other students to create similar protests in their own areas. Her protests and speeches at events such as the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference have since inspired millions of children and adults across the world and raised awareness of climate change.
  • Mahatma Gandhi campaigned for the rights of poor Indian people and Indian independence from British rule. He did this using non-violent methods such as strikes and marches – the most famous being the Salt March. These were embraced by the people of India and started the movement towards independence in 1947. To this day, Gandhi is often referred to as the ‘Father of India’.
  • Elizabeth Fry saw the conditions female prisoners were kept in and fought for them to be treated more humanely. She started by taking supplies to women in prison and her continued work led to the 1823 Gaols Act, which improved conditions. Her work continues to inspire people working in the UK criminal justice system and she featured on the Bank of England’s five-pound note.

How can I change the world in 15 minutes?

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

John Wooden

It’s amazing what we can do in a short space of time. Small actions such as expressing how you feel about something, can grab people’s attention and start a domino effect leading to a big change.

So what can you do in 15 minutes? There’s so many ways you can have your say and make a difference in just 15 minutes. For example:

  • Create a petition about something you want to change. This can be done on change.org In the UK, if your petition reaches 100,000 signatures, your petition will be considered for debate in Parliament and you will receive a response from the government.
  • Write a letter or email to your local councillor/MP about an issue that’s impacting your local area. Most MPs aim to reply within 2 weeks.
  • Share a picture, quote and/or poem expressing how you feel on social media. What you say may resonate with others and help to start change. Look into the different hashtags you can use to increase the reach of your post.
  • Speak to your boss or the HR department at your workplace to change a policy or system you’re not happy with. Other people may feel the same as you, but only after someone speaks out will your workplace feel the responsibility to respond.

There’s no worksheet for this week’s activity – just go for it and have your say about something that means a lot to you. Not only may it make a difference, it can also improve your confidence, self-esteem and overall wellbeing.

I would really love to hear what you end up doing with this week’s activity. Get in touch via email 15minutewellbeing@gmail.com or tag me in your social media posts so I can share them.

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.

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