Want to switch off? Get in the water

This blog talks a lot about mindfulness, but many of us find it difficult to switch off and get into a mindful state. If you are struggling to fit mindfulness into your day, try getting into water.

When we get away from voices, visual distractions, background noise, multi-tasking, smart phones and quiet our minds, our minds shift. Being around water simplifies the sounds we hear and the things we see. This allows our brain time to focus and think because it is no longer being bombarded with lots of information at once.

When we are in or around water, our minds move from the active state to the default state and different brain regions are activated. Cortisol – the stress hormone – goes down, our heart rate reduces and we relax.

Water features in our everyday lives – when we shower, have a bath, go for a swim, or paddle in the sea or a lake. When we engage in these activities, our focus switches from all the distractions around us to the experience of being in the water.

For example, when we get in the shower, our brains engage with our environment in a different way – what many people may refer to as ‘switching off.’ When in this relaxed frame of mind, we are subconsciously able to find the answers to problems or have new ideas.

Immerse yourself

Today’s activity is simple – get in the water for 15 minutes (or longer if you wish) to clear your head and gain a new perspective. You could go for a swim (either in a swimming pool, lake or sea), take a bath or have a long shower. After you’ve immersed yourself in water, answer the questions on the worksheet to reflect on how you felt whilst in the water and afterwards.

Click the link below to download the worksheet. You can fill it in using the ‘fill and sign’ tool or alternatively print it off and fill it in by hand.

Check back here (and @15minwellbeing on Instagram and twitter) tomorrow for the next wellbeing activity as part of Mental Health Awareness Week!


3 ways telling jokes can benefit your wellbeing

Is laughter really the best medicine? It seems like it could be. Employers are sending their staff on comedy courses to improve wellbeing and productivity in the workplace, and people are signing up to laughter yoga classes in droves to feel better within themselves. This isn’t happening because it sounds fun (though that does help), but because it has been shown to improve our wellbeing.

  1. Laughter can help us connect with others. Sharing a joke with someone else, or making each other laugh can help us bond with our friends and family. If we laugh with others, we may feel more comfortable sharing things, therefore deepening our relationships.
  2. Having a laugh can reduce stress. Enjoying humour and laughing can lower our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This may be due to laughter releasing endorphins and dopamine in our brains, which help our immune system function better and reduce the stress placed on our bodies. 
  3. Humour can increase our resilience. Being able to laugh following negative life events such as illness or trauma can help regulate our emotions and distance ourselves from these negative situations. Having a sense of humour can help us cope in the face of adversity.

Take turns telling a joke

The credit for today’s activity comes from my seven year old nephew. At every dinner time since he could talk, he would ask everyone sitting round the table to tell a joke. Even though we sometimes groan, the variety of jokes – good or bad (and many of them are bad!) – always make us laugh and help us connect. The jokes even facilitate a whole host of different conversations, which is another opportunity for interacting with each other.

Today’s activity is to tell jokes amongst your family, friends, peers or colleagues. My family and I typically do this round the dinner table, but you could do it whilst watching TV together, travelling somewhere together, or over lunch. Make sure that everyone in your group tells one, so you can share in the laughter or groaning. It doesn’t matter whether your joke is good or bad, just tell one!

There’s no worksheet for today’s activity, just exercise your funny bone with your nearest and dearest.

Check back here (and @15minwellbeing on Instagram and twitter) tomorrow for the next wellbeing activity as part of Mental Health Awareness Week!


Relieve neck and shoulder pain in just 15 minutes

Stiff neck? Tight shoulders? If you’re suffering with these, you’re not the only one. Over 4.6 million adults in the UK are estimated to suffer with shoulder pain, with over a quarter of the elderly population experiencing it. Between 15% and 31% of us have experienced neck pain lasting one day or more in the last 12 months.

Musculoskeletal problems such as neck and shoulder pain (as well as back pain and upper limb problems) were the second most common reason for sick days at work in 2016, resulting in 30.8 million working days lost that year.  Pain in these areas is not only uncomfortable, but is having an effect on our day-to-day lives. If it can stop us going to work, what does this mean for our wellbeing?

Our mental and physical health are interlinked and muscle tension and pain is no exception. Ongoing physical pain is linked with diminished wellbeing and a poor quality of life. In some cases, neck and shoulder discomfort is caused by injury, but in others, it is a result of ongoing stress.

When we experience stress, our muscles tense up but then relax again once the stress has passed. If we regularly experience stress or anxiety, the muscles in our bodies can become constantly tense, leading to discomfort and pain. Constant muscle tension in our necks and shoulders can lead to other physical health problems such as headaches and migraines, which in turn negatively affect our mental wellbeing. Stress and muscle tension can easily turn into a vicious cycle resulting in ongoing, poor wellbeing.

Stretch out your tension

Today’s activity consists of two simple exercises that can relieve the tension in our shoulders and necks and consequently improve our wellbeing. If you are currently under the care of a medical professional for any shoulder or neck conditions, please consult with them first before undertaking these exercises.

The exercises require no special equipment, just a doorframe and a chair. The ‘lean in’ exercise stretches the deltoid muscles across the front of your shoulders and the ‘scalene stretch’ stretches the scalene muscles that run down either side of your neck. Follow the instructions on the worksheet carefully and remember – these are meant to be relaxing and stress-relieving, there is no need to push yourself unnecessarily.

Click the link below to download the worksheet.

Check back here (and @15minwellbeing on Instagram and twitter) tomorrow for the next wellbeing activity as part of Mental Health Awareness Week!


What do your initials look like in a different language?

Happy Mental Health Awareness Week! Semana feliz de conciencia de salud mental! Woche des gesunden psychischen Bewusstseins für psychische gesundheit! Semaine heureuse desensibilisation à la santé mentale!*

What do foreign languages have to do with mental health? Well, research has shown that learning another language can benefit our wellbeing.

Learning a foreign language is associated with a whole host of benefits for our wellbeing, including:

  • Enhancing our problem solving skills
  • Developing our ability to negotiate
  • Improving our assertiveness
  • Planning and achieving goals

As we learnt from the previous blog on learning, there are many benefits to learning as adults such as increased self-esteem, self-confidence and giving us a sense of purpose. This in turn can help us feel more optimistic and satisfied with life – key factors of positive wellbeing.

But this is 15 minute wellbeing, how can we learn a language in 15minutes?

We can’t be expected to be fluent in a new language in 15 minutes, but we can learn something small in a different language, or alphabet. There are currently 8 main different alphabets used across the world (with at least 62 other alphabets known to have been used throughout history), each using different symbols and shapes to represent letters and words, and each beautiful in their own way.

The top alphabet is Tifinagh and the bottom is Korean (hanguel and hanja). Both translate to
‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’ (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Today’s activity is designed for you to have a bit of fun with your initials. What do your initials look like in an alphabet different to your native language? Use the worksheet to draw your initials in another language or alphabet. As well as learning what they look like, try pronouncing them in the different language too.

Click the link below to download the worksheet. You can fill it in using the ‘fill and sign’ tool or alternatively print it off and fill it in by hand.

Check back here (and@15minwellbeing on Instagram and twitter) tomorrow for the next wellbeing activity as part of Mental Health Awareness Week!

*(Please note these sentences were written using a translation app so apologies if they don’t read 100% correctly)


Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week

May 13th to 19th is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. The purpose of Mental Health Awareness Week is to start conversations about mental health to reduce stigma, help people get the support they need and to save lives.  

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, I will be posting a blog and 15 minute activity to improve your wellbeing every day this week. So you get an extra six wellbeing activities this week! I hope these activities improve your wellbeing and encourage you to have healthy, meaningful conversations about mental health and wellbeing.

Reflection rather than rumination

As we learnt from the first reflection blog post, the ability to learn from past events can improve our current and future wellbeing. Taking time to reflect can:

Often, when we feel low, we may ruminate which is bad for our wellbeing. Repeatedly focusing on problems or negative events we’ve experienced can lead to increased depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Today’s activity therefore encourages us to reflect on the positives rather than ruminate, even when we have a bad day.

Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day

Alice Morse Earle

Today’s activity was inspired by the quote above – one of my favourites which I come back to time and again. When you’ve had a bad day, or things are getting you down, it’s important to remember that good things do still happen and that we should not give up.

On days when it all feels a bit too much, reflecting on positive events (no matter how small) can help us feel better about ourselves and maintain our wellbeing.

Whether you’ve had a good, bad or a somewhere in-between kind of day, spend 15 minutes reflecting on three good things that have happened. When you do have a bad day, try repeating this exercise to keep your spirits up and remind yourself that there is something good in every day.

Click the link below to download the worksheet. You can fill it in using the ‘fill and sign’ tool or alternatively print it off and fill it in by hand.

Check back here (and@15minwellbeing on Instagram and twitter) tomorrow for the next wellbeing activity as part of Mental Health Awareness Week!