Turning your passion into purpose

You know what you’re passionate about, but how do you translate that into something meaningful you can do every day? You may have figured that out already, or have no idea where to start. Wherever you’re at, this week’s blog helps us do just that and continues our journey to find our Ikigai, or reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

Last week we looked at what we love and what we are good at. The purpose of this was to find or rediscover our passions. You may have realised one passion or multiple ones. This is the first step in finding your Ikigai and knowing your purpose in life. This week we are looking at the next step – exploring what the world needs and what we can get paid for – to help us live each day with more meaning and fulfilment.

How can Ikigai benefit my wellbeing?

Why are we even looking at Ikigai and our purpose in life? Well, Ikigai has been linked with a range of benefits for our wellbeing, including:

  1. Living longer. People with Ikigai have a reduced risk of developing health problems and are more likely to live longer. Residents of Okinawa, Japan, have the highest life expectancy in the world. What do they have in common? Ikigai.
  2. Life satisfaction. Both men and women with Ikigai have been shown to be more satisfied with life and experience fewer symptoms of depression.
  3. A sense of accomplishment and fulfilment. Ikigai is linked with feeling fulfilled and like we have accomplished something. This sense of achievement in turn, further promotes wellbeing.
Image by Forbes

What the world needs and what I can get paid for

When we think about what the world needs, we could come up with a whole host of things – reducing plastic use, equality for all, less crime, more community engagement, better health…the list goes on. This can feel a bit overwhelming and hard for just one of us to address.

For this stage of Ikigai, think about what the world needs in relation to your passion. For example:

  • If you care about the environment and are good at organising events, could you apply your passion to organising group litter picking or cleaning up community events?
  • If you love getting fit and are good at helping others, could you encourage others to do the same to help tackle obesity?
  • If you really care about mental health and are good at writing, could you start a blog to improve others’ wellbeing? (This is how 15 minute wellbeing came about!)

We often think of what the world needs as huge solutions to huge problems. However, it is difficult for one person to have all the answers. However, just one person can make a massive difference by focusing on just one aspect of what the world needs. This is where the ‘what can I get paid for?’ question comes into play.

Using the above example of loving getting fit and being good at helping others, there is no job titled (as far as I’m aware) ‘Obesity Tackler’. However, you could get paid for working as one of the below (among others):

  • Personal trainer
  • Gym manager
  • PE teacher
  • Sports coach

This week’s activity

To help figure out what the world needs and what you can get paid for, try answering the questions below. For all the questions in this week’s activity, you can give more than one answer, so don’t worry if you don’t find your Ikigai straight away – this is completely normal. Spending 15 minutes on these questions can get you in the Ikigai mind set so don’t rush and answer everything honestly.

What does the world need?

  • What are the things my friends and family struggle with in their day-to-day lives?
  • What could be done to benefit my local community?
  • What issues are commonly featured in the news?

What can I get paid for?

  • What roles exist that relate to what I want to achieve?
  • What project(s) could I work on alongside my main source of income? This is known as a ‘side hustle

All the questions are included on this week’s worksheet, so you have somewhere to record your answers. 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.

If you enjoyed discovering your Ikigai, or feel that finding your Ikigai has helped improve your wellbeing, please do get in contact and share your story.

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

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Image from Everyday Power

Stuck in a rut? Not sure where your life is heading? Feel like you’re going through the motions?

We all go through lulls from time to time, but feeling like we don’t have a purpose can be detrimental to our wellbeing. Those of us without a sense of purpose are more likely to be depressed and have a shorter lifespan than those with more meaning in their lives. Having a sense of purpose and some control over our lives are key to wellbeing.

This week’s post is all about helping us find or re-discover our sense of purpose. This may seem a bit daunting, but by answering a few key questions and reflecting on what we are passionate about, our purpose will become clearer.

What has purpose got to do with wellbeing?

Feeling purposeful has many benefits for our wellbeing. Firstly, it helps us recover from negative and stressful life events. Even when controlling for other factors such as age, gender and subjective wellbeing, higher levels of purpose in life were linked with better recovery from a negative event.

Secondly, purpose in life is linked with increased exercise and other health-promoting behaviours. When given a meaningful task to do over a period of time, those who engaged with the task – those who introduced a purpose into their lives – demonstrated improved stamina and flexibility.

Thirdly, people with a sense of purpose feel better about how they look and are more satisfied with their lives.

So how can we find our sense of purpose and improve our wellbeing?

Ikigai (‘ee-key-guy’)

The Japanese have a concept called Ikigai, which essentially asks, ‘what gets you out of bed in the morning?’ Ikigai relates to the happiness of doing activities involving mental or physical effort to achieve a purpose or result. That purpose could be anything from improving the environment to creating art or helping others. We all have own purpose, we just need to find it.

There are four key questions to answer to help find your Ikigai:

  • What do I love?
  • What am I good at?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can I get paid for?

Answering these questions is like following a treasure map to help you find out wonderful things about yourself, that you can share with the world and others will thank you for it.

Image from Forbes

What do I love and what am I good at?

Identifying the passion and talents we have can give meaning to our lives. The two elements of Ikigai we’re looking at this week are what we love and what we are good at. We can find our Ikigai where these cross over. As this is 15 minute wellbeing, we will just focus on these two questions this week, and what the world needs and what we can get paid for in next week’s post.

To help you figure out what you love, answering the following questions may give you some ideas. For all the questions in this week’s activity, you can give more than one answer, so don’t feel pressured to find one clear purpose straight away. It can take time to find your Ikigai so don’t rush and answer everything honestly.

What do I love?

  • What activities give me a sense of excitement?
  • If money was no object, what would I spend my time doing?
  • What did I love to do as a child?

What am I good at?

  • What are the things I do that often get a positive response?
  • What do people compliment me on or praise me for?
  • What subjects did I do best in at school?

All the questions are included on this week’s worksheet, so you have somewhere to record your answers. 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.

If you enjoyed the first step in discovering your Ikigai, or feel that finding your Ikigai has helped improve your wellbeing, please do get in contact and share your story.

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

Real life stories: Life drawing

Creativity comes in many shapes and forms, much like the human body. Often we think of being creative as an individual pursuit, but it can be a social activity too. A couple of months ago, my friend Lizzie held a life drawing class in her home and invited a group of us along.

Life drawing involves drawing or painting a nude model posing in front of you, the artist. They typically strike a few different poses so the artist can capture different angles of the body. At Lizzie’s, the model did a few 10 minute poses, two 20 minute poses and one pose for half an hour, so we could draw her in differing amounts of detail.

Amongst my group of friends were a mixture of creative types and those who felt they ‘couldn’t draw’ or were ‘no good at drawing’ but everyone turned up. It was the first time we had all been together since Lizzie’s wedding so I was intrigued to find out everyone’s motivations for going and how they felt during and after the class. I also got the low down from Lizzie on why she held a life drawing class.

As we’ve covered in a previous blog post, some people find engaging in creative activities stressful, particularly the pressure to complete an artistic task to a set standard. If you feel this way, hopefully Sophie and Hannah’s answers below will give you some reassurance and confidence to give creative activities a go.

What motivated you to hold a life drawing class?

…you concentrate so much on doing one thing that your mind isn’t cluttered with anything else, so it’s very mindful.

Lizzie

Lizzie: I’ve found it really calming when I’ve done it previously and good for managing stress and wellbeing, basically because you concentrate so much on doing one thing that your mind isn’t cluttered with anything else, so it’s very mindful. And I was really keen to share those benefits in the hope others get the same experience, as well as take an opportunity to see my friends of course in the comfort of home.

What motivated you to go to the life drawing class?

Sophie: I wanted to try something new, experience something I’d never done before and test myself by doing something that wouldn’t typically be ‘my thing’.

Hannah: To be honest, my main motivation for attending the class was that it was a chance to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I was intrigued by life drawing but given my lack of artistic ability I expected that this would almost be the side event of my evening.  

Lizzie: Perhaps less a question for me since it was at my house (!) but normally I go in order to combine switching off in a peaceful environment as well as catching up with good friends. I used to study art but once I stopped it academically I hardly did it anymore, when actually it’s so enjoyable when you do!

How did you feel beforehand?

I noticed feeling some anxiety about my own ability, or lack thereof.

Hannah

Sophie: I actually felt a little anxious before we got started. I think the prospect of doing something so different combined with the feeling of not being good enough really played on my mind.

Hannah: I had quite a busy day prior to the class and so hadn’t thought much about it. When I arrived the host began telling me about some of the other people attending who were ‘serious artists’ and I did begin to wonder what I had let myself in for. I noticed feeling some anxiety about my own ability, or lack thereof. However, Lizzie was a great host, as always, and having time to mingle, eat and drink beforehand helped to set a relaxed vibe.

Lizzie: A tad frantic getting everything ready and leaving work with a mass still there to do!

How did you feel during the life drawing?

Being able to sit, and simply be in the moment, with no other thoughts cluttering up my mind gave me a feeling of real freedom.

Sophie

Sophie: I felt incredibly relaxed during the life drawing which was not what I expected! Being able to sit, and simply be in the moment, with no other thoughts cluttering up my mind gave me a feeling of real freedom. I felt detached from my usual worries.

Hannah: Initially I noticed myself being quite self-critical which got in the way of me being able to enjoy the experience. Having a life model means that if you get it ‘wrong’ you could end up offending someone to their face. I found it really helpful having the artist there to give some hints and tips to improve my drawing. After this I really began to enjoy the experience and found that I was able to really focus on the activity, forgetting the things that had been on my mind that day. I was surprised at how quickly the time went and how much I ended up enjoying it.

Lizzie: In flow! Calm and concentrating.

How did you feel after the life drawing?

After having a busy day, this was a great activity to help me feel relaxed.

Hannah

Sophie: Afterwards I felt a sense of achievement. Not only had I tackled something I’d never done before but I realised I found it both easier and much more fulfilling than I had expected!

Hannah: After having a busy day, this was a great activity to help me feel relaxed. So much so that I nearly fell asleep on my train home. It has made me interested in doing more drawing as a way of relaxing.

Lizzie: I felt like I’d had some rest and recuperation for my brain, and fed my soul a bit of creativity. I was also super happy that everyone seemed to enjoy it.

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

Making Mehndi for your mental wellbeing

This week is Creativity and Wellbeing Week, celebrating creativity in all its forms and how getting those creative juices flowing can really benefit our health and wellbeing. There are events going on all over the UK this week, so if you’d like to get involved, click here for what’s on near you. If you can’t make it to any of the events, then not to worry, as this week’s blog features a new activity for you to try to help enhance your wellbeing.

Doing something creative each day can help us feel more positive. The positive effects of engaging in a creative activity can last for over 24 hours. That is, if we do something creative on a Thursday, we are likely to still experience the positive effects on our mood on the Friday. Research has shown that those of us who do something creative each day rate our social relationships as more rewarding and supportive.

Even if we don’t manage to get creative every day, regularly engaging in a creative activity can help us feel better within ourselves and positively impact other areas of our lives such as:

There are so many ways to be creative – we covered rhyming poetry in a previous post – and this week’s activity involves the three D’s – drawing, doodling and designing. Inspired by last week’s Eid celebrations and friends’ wedding celebrations, we are going to create our own Mehndi (henna) designs.

What is Mehndi?

Mehndi is an ancient form of body art. Specifically, it’s the application of henna as a temporary tattoo. The art of Mehndi has reportedly been around for over 5,000 years, dating back to Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians would paint henna on mummies before they were buried and Cleopatra used henna to decorate her body.

Today, Mehndi is commonly featured in wedding celebrations in South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East (and in expatriate communities from these regions). A ceremony, called ‘The Night of the Henna’ involves applying henna to the hands and feet of the bride-to-be as well as other members of the wedding party. Ornate, complex patterns are said to symbolise joy in getting married and a desire for luck.

Mehndi is also used to celebrate special occasions such as engagements, pregnancy, giving birth, Diwali, Eid and many other celebrations. Designs may range from floral, lacy and paisley patterns to dots, stripes and geometric designs.

How can Mehndi benefit my wellbeing?

Although the research on Mendhi and wellbeing appears to be extremely limited, drawing and doodling – which feature in the Mehndi design process – have been shown to improve wellbeing. For example:

Additionally, concentrating on a creative design task can help us achieve ‘flow’. Flow experiences are those that engage our whole bodies and result in us concentrating, ruminating less and not focusing on time passing us by. When we experience flow (through being creative) we tend to have higher self-esteem, value ourselves more and feel more useful – all of which contribute to our wellbeing.

Make your own Mehndi

Today’s activity is to make your own Mehndi. You can include whatever doodles, drawings or patterns you like in your design, the main thing is that you enjoy it. If you’re stuck for inspiration, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest have thousands of ideas.

The worksheet has the outline of a hand for you to draw your design onto. However, if you want to design your Mehndi on a different body part i.e. a foot, feel free to use a blank piece of paper. Click the link below to download the worksheet. For this week’s activity, you will need to print it off and fill it in by hand.

If you enjoy creating a Mehndi design, or feel that the process of designing a Mehndi has helped improve your wellbeing, please do get in contact and share your design and/or your story!

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date. As this week’s post is about Mehndi, I will also be sharing examples of designs over the next week.

The Good Deed Directory – 40 ways we can help each other and ourselves

What do you think of when you hear the word volunteering? Going abroad to build a school in a deprived area? Helping out in a charity shop? These are important volunteering roles, but there are so many volunteering options out there, in numerous different fields, that take up different amounts of time. In the UK, it’s National Volunteering Week which aims to promote the diversity of volunteering. To coincide with this celebration of volunteering, this week’s blog post focuses on the multiple different ways we can help each other and improve our wellbeing, by launching the Good Deed Directory.

As we’ve learnt in previous blog posts, volunteering our time and being kind to others can aid our wellbeing in multiple ways. For example, we:

As this blog is called 15 minute wellbeing, you may be thinking that there’s only so much you can do in a short space of time. There’s actually loads of things you can do to help others and improve your wellbeing in the process.

These are all listed in the Good Deed Directory below, categorised by the time it takes to do them – a few seconds; one to five minutes; and 15 minutes. No matter how much time you have, you can help someone else and boost your wellbeing in the process.

Small acts of kindness can make a big difference to people’s lives (as well as our own). I hope this directory inspires and encourages you to do a good deed for someone else.

Good Deeds that take only seconds to do

  • Hold the door open for the person behind you, even if it means waiting a few seconds for them
  • Let someone go in front of you in a queue
  • Give way to another driver when the road is too narrow for two cars to pass
  • If there’s time left on your car parking ticket, offer it to someone entering the car park instead of throwing it away
  • Re-tweet, comment on, or share a friend’s post to help them grow their social media following. Even a simple ‘like’ can make a difference
  • If you’re not scared of creepy crawlies, safely and humanely remove a spider or bee (or other insect) off someone else
  • Offer someone your seat on the bus or train, whether they are pregnant, disabled, elderly or just look tired
  • Smile at everyone you pass
  • Once you’ve read a book, donate it to your local book sharing scheme. A list of train and tube stations where this operates can be found here. You can then enjoy a book that someone else has donated. You could even follow in the footsteps of actress Emma Watson and place books with handwritten notes in your local area
  • Give someone a compliment
  • Share an inspirational quote. If you found it inspiring, chances are someone else will too
  • Sign for a neighbour’s parcel when they are out
  • Tell someone if they have something in their teeth or on their face
  • If a loved one is out, record or download their favourite programme for them

Good Deeds you can do in one to five minutes

  • Help someone with a buggy on the stairs or getting on/off public transport
  • If a friend or colleague is going on holiday to a place you’ve been, give them some tips on things to do, see or places to eat
  • If someone is struggling with their shopping, help them carry it to their car
  • Do the washing up – or stack the dishwasher – after dinner
  • If a friend is looking for a job and you’ve got connections to a suitable company, why not recommend them?
  • Write a review of a good service you’ve received. New and small businesses will really appreciate any positive feedback you can provide
  • Help someone cross the road or off public transport
  • Show your appreciation for someone else by thanking them and explaining why you appreciate them
  • Ask a loved one about their day. Sharing experiences can help us connect and you may even learn something new, which can also help us feel good about ourselves
  • Help someone reach their destination in the quickest possible way by putting their route into a journey planner
  • Make a cup of tea or coffee for someone else
  • Praise a colleague. If someone has done a good job, let them (and others at work) know about it!
  • Sign a petition to help change something you care about. Visit change.org to find a petition or start your own

Good Deeds that can be done in 15 minutes (or longer if you wish)

  • Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. If you have an elderly relative why not pick up the phone to them?
  • Pick up litter in your local area. Improving our local environment can help increase our wellbeing. Although I’m not suggesting we all run 300km along the river Thames, take a look at this ‘plogging’ group (picking up rubbish while jogging) who collected 44 bags of landfill waste
  • Help a friend with a problem. This could be a sibling struggling with their homework
  • Make a small gift. This could be a little drawing or a tasty little snack. Knowing that you put your thought and time into it will mean a lot to the recipient
  • Help tidy a room in a friend’s house or tidy part of your workplace. Tidy your bedroom so your parents don’t nag you! After all, decluttering a room can also result in a decluttered mind
  • Offer to check something over for someone. This could be a speech they’ve written for a wedding or an email they are not confident sending.
  • If you’re handy, why not fix something? Perhaps change a light bulb or frame a picture.
  • Organise part of a trip. If you’re going away somewhere soon, why not find a great restaurant to eat at or an activity you and your travel companion(s) can do?
  • If you’re great at doing hair, nails or make up, why not offer to do one of these for a friend before a night out?
  • Donate any unwanted clothes, jewellery or homeware to charity so others can benefit from it. As Marie Kondo says, pass the joy onto someone else
  • If you are able to, donate blood. Find your local blood donation session here
  • Attend a local charity fete or fundraising event. Often, showing your support by just being there is enough
  • Go to the shops or complete a chore for someone who is unwell

If you have any ideas about other activities we can do by giving 15 minutes of our time, please get in touch so they can be shared with everyone. It would be great to keep building the Good Deed Directory so any contributions would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you’ve benefitted from a good deed recently (either giving or receiving), please do share your story so others can be inspired to do the same.

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

4 ways to a better night’s sleep

The other night I was tossing and turning in bed, struggling to get a good night’s sleep, wondering ‘why me?’ When I arrived at work the following morning one of my colleagues had also had a sleepless night. It turns out that this is by no means a rare occurrence – nearly a third (30%) of people in the UK sleep badly most nights and 35% of us have experienced sleep problems for over five years. Even worse, one in five of the population have slept poorly for the last 10 years. What’s causing us to sleep poorly and how can we address it?

Poor sleep

Poor sleep reflects the amount of sleep we get, as well as the quality of our sleep. Although the amount of time we need to sleep differs slightly for each individual, it’s recommended that adults have 7 to 9 hours’ sleep per night. 74% of us get less than the minimum recommended 7 hours of sleep each night, which over time can build up and cause a ‘sleep debt’ that can negatively impact our wellbeing.

There are five stages of sleep that we all need to pass through to get a good night’s sleep. The first two stages are forms of light sleep which bridge the gap between being awake and asleep, whereas the other three stages are deeper. We need to spend enough time in each of these stages to get good quality sleep. The quality of our sleep can affect our mental health – those of us who experience anxiety may not get enough deep sleep.

How does sleep affect our wellbeing?

Sleep is essential for maintaining good mental and physical health. A good night’s sleep repairs and restores our bodies and brains. Sleep is linked to many of the key themes associated with our wellbeing:

  • Learning – whilst we are asleep our brains consolidate information that helps us learn and function effectively during the day. This is why it’s better to get a good night’s sleep before an exam rather than cramming all night.
  • Creativity – our brains reorganise our memories and pick out emotional details while we sleep, which helps us to come up with creative ideas.
  • Connecting – poor sleep can lead to poor relationships with others. In a national survey, 21% of respondents said their relationships were affected by a lack of sleep. Furthermore, four times as many people with insomnia reported relationship problems compared to good sleepers.
  • Physical health – feeling fatigued is the most common problem linked to poor sleep, however those who frequently experience sleepless nights are also at risk of a weakened immune system, making them more susceptible to illness.

Where are we going wrong?

When we struggle to nod off, 25% of us turn to alcohol to help us drift off to sleep. Alcohol may help us feel drowsy and fall asleep, but it actually reduces the quality of sleep we get. We get less deep sleep after drinking alcohol, which means we wake up feeling tired.

Our reliance on our smartphones and other digital devices can disrupt the body’s internal clock, making it harder for us to fall asleep. The blue light that these devices emit stimulates the brain and makes us feel more alert, meaning falling asleep takes much longer.

4 simple changes we can make to improve our sleep

There are many different methods that can help improve our sleep patterns and the quality of sleep we get. Today’s activity will focus on 4 simple steps that can be taken to improve your sleep.

  1. Set a regular bed time. Going to sleep at the same time each night will help your body get ready to go to sleep, which should make falling asleep easier.
  2. Have your last meal of the day at least two hours before you go to bed. Eating close to bed time can reduce the quality of sleep you get, as your body will be digesting what you have eaten rather than preparing to sleep.
  3. Be more mindful of what you drink. Caffeine and alcohol can both disrupt your sleep pattern but in different ways. As mentioned above, alcohol can make you feel drowsy but reduces the quality of sleep you get. Caffeine stimulates the brain, making it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep.
  4. Wind down before bed. Relaxing before bed time can help your body prepare for sleep. The previous steps have covered how to physically prepare your body for sleep, but it’s important to be relaxed mentally as well.

The worksheet provides further information and questions for you to answer to make these changes to improve your sleep and your wellbeing.

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.

If making any of these changes improves your sleep and your wellbeing, please do get in touch and share your story!

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

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)