Mental Health Awareness Week is here (26 September – 2 October 2022). We look at what it entails, why looking after your mental health is especially important right now – plus some simple tips to help improve your wellbeing.
Good mental health is an important aspect of our overall wellbeing, no matter our age. It affects how we think, how we feel, and how we act, including our ability to deal with stress, make healthier choices and relate to other people.
In other words, a positive outlook helps you not just get through the day, but enjoy and create the life you really want to live.
Yet here in New Zealand, mental distress remains worryingly prevalent. Roughly four out five Kiwi adults are likely to experience some kind of mental health issue personally, or among their friends and whānau.
Unsurprisingly, mental health wellbeing has also worsened since the pandemic hit. According to Stats New Zealand, in 2021 over 28% of the population reported poor mental wellbeing, a significant rise since 2018.1
These and many other reasons are why, every year, the Mental Health Foundation holds Mental Health Awareness Week.
Focus on mental health
Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) is a chance for every Kiwi – at home and in the workplace – to take stock of how your experiences, actions and surroundings can uplift your wellbeing and make you feel good.
It could mean creating a mental health policy for your business, joining together to organise a fun activity and raise money, or simply taking part in the many events already lined up around the country (see mhaw.nz for more details). But everything that happens throughout the week is designed to promote awareness of the huge influence our mental health can have over the rest of our lives.
The feelgood factors
MHAW is underpinned by Te Whare Tapa Whā, a model developed by leading Māori health advocate Sir Mason Durie in the 1980s which describes health and wellbeing as a wharenui or meeting house with four walls and a foundation, namely:
- TAHA WHĀNAU
The people we care about – the ones who add joy to our lives, whether they be family, friends or other people in our communities.
- TAHA WAIRUA
Taking notice of the world around us and appreciating its beauty. Rediscovering the big and little things that make us feel awe, hope, unity, strength and connection.
- TAHA TINANA
How your body feels, and how you care for it. Doing what you can through diet and exercise to nourish and refuel it.
- TAHA HINENGARO
All the feels – your heart, mind, conscience, thoughts and emotions. The more they are nurtured, the more resilient you can become.
Our connection to the land and foundation for everything – the soil, plants, animals and people that comfort you and give you a sense of belonging.
The 5 ways to wellbeing
Based on this model, the Mental Health Foundation also promotes its 5 ways to wellbeing – simple, proven actions you can use every day to help you find balance, build resilience and give your wellbeing a boost. Try them out this Mental Health Awareness Week and see how they help you:
1) Connect/Me whakawhanaunga
Talk and listen, be there, feel connected.
The ability to form relationships is part of what makes us human, and building them means that we always feel supported. So this week try to connect with someone you know already, or have seen but never really talked to before. It could be as simple as a smile, finding out something about them you didn’t already know, or even reconnecting with someone you haven’t talked to in a while. There’s always value in interaction, no matter how small.
2) Keep learning/Me ako tonu
Embrace new experiences, see opportunities, surprise yourself.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, learning, staying curious and setting goals for yourself are a vital part of staying connected and keeping you stimulated. So why not try something new? Set yourself a challenge, sign up for a course or take on a new responsibility, maybe even something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Or pick up a hobby where you left off. Maybe you’ll rekindle that passion you once felt for it. Talking of which…
3) Take notice/Me aro tonu
Remember the simple things that give you joy.
All too often we worry about what might happen in the future, or what’s already happened and beyond our control, rather than what’s going on right now. Make a conscious effort to live in the present this week – take extra notice of the people you talk to, and the world around you, and reflect on how it all makes you feel. Doing so will help you appreciate what truly matters to you.
4) Be active/Me kori tonu
Do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood.
Being physically active is a tried and tested way to improve your general mood, as well as proven to reduce your risk of stress, anxiety and depression. So if you don’t already, take time out this week to go for a walk, a run, or hop on a bike and ride. Or maybe discover a new physical activity to suit your levels of fitness and mobility. Every little can help to lift your mood.
Your time, your words, your presence.
Simple acts of kindness are beneficial to you, and whoever receives them. Getting involved in your community, or offering your time, skills, knowledge and effort to a worthy cause can do wonders for your sense of worth too. So try volunteering your time this week, to a friend or organisation you feel good about. Or just do something nice for someone. Everyone has something to give, so why not play your part?
To find out more about the 5 ways to wellbeing, check out mentalhealth.org.nz
And make sure you and your workplace get involved this Mental Health Awareness Week. Sign up today at mhaw.nz – and help to put New Zealand on track for a brighter, mentally healthier future.