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30 January 2023

How to look after your mental wellbeing in 2023: 12 activities to help you be present throughout the year

Christine is a Clinical Supervisor at Shout. She shares 12 activities that can help support your mental wellbeing and be present in the moment.

We often set goals and objectives with the aim of making ourselves happier. As a result, we start to pin everything on achieving those goals. You might have heard a friend say “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion at work.” Or you might think to yourself, “When this happens, then I’ll be happy”. While striving to improve is valuable, it may not be the key to living a more joyful life.

It’s often the case that when we see happiness as an outcome, we’re not satisfied when we get to where we thought we wanted to be. Instead, when we focus on being present in each moment, we may be more able to achieve a sense of peace and satisfaction.

Here are some activities to consider that could help to support your wellbeing in the year ahead.

  1. Immerse yourself in three activities every day.

As you engage in daily activities, pick three that you can fully focus on. One might be eating your breakfast, another might be brushing your teeth. It might be a conversation with a family member or friend, cooking, or walking.

Pay special attention to your senses during each activity. Pay attention to the taste of your breakfast and the feel of the food on your tongue.

As you’re cooking, notice the colours and smell of each ingredient and listen to the sizzle in the pan.

As you’re walking, notice what you can smell, touch and feel.

2. Find something you can get lost in.

When we absorb ourselves in an activity, the thing we’re absorbed in becomes our focus, alleviating our minds from holding on to other preoccupying thoughts. Challenge yourself to find an activity that you get lost in and devote at least one hour a week to doing it.

It might be playing an instrument, going for a run, reading a book or drawing. Choose something that absorbs your attention and notice how you feel afterwards.

3. Schedule time to worry.

Challenges that cause us anxiety and make us worry are part of all of our lives. It’s normal and even helpful to worry - it can help keep us motivated and safe. But sometimes worrying can creep into other aspects of our lives. We might worry when we’re having dinner with a friend or when we’re trying to get to sleep.

When worry starts to leak into all areas of our lives, it can prevent us from being present and enjoying things as well as we could. To combat this, consider scheduling a time to think about and plan responses to your challenges. Set aside a time you can focus on the challenge. Start by allowing yourself to acknowledge the worry it’s causing and then work on a plan to address it - this may After the time is up, focus on the present moment. You can schedule more time again if you need to.

4. Practise gratitude

Gratitude can help us to feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, may improve health and help us to deal better with challenging situations.

Devote 10-30 minutes each day to draw attention to things you’re grateful for. These things can be big or small. You might find it helpful to write a list in a journal of the things you're grateful for.. You might find it useful to share with a partner or friend the things you are both grateful for each day. Find what works for you.

5. Grounding techniques.

Grounding techniques are strategies that help our brains refocus when we’re overwhelmed.

Try a grounding technique if you feel overwhelming nervousness, anger, or loneliness.

We recommend the 5,4,3,2,1 grounding technique:

  • Acknowledge 5 things that you can see around you.
  • Acknowledge 4 things that you can touch around you.
  • Acknowledge 3 things you can hear around you.
  • Acknowledge 2 things around you that you can smell.
  • Acknowledge 1 thing around you that you can taste.
  • End this exercise with a long, deep breath.

6. Try doing a body scan.

Take 2-10 minutes each day to try a body scan. Find somewhere comfortable to lie, sit or stand. Start by taking a deep breath and close your eyes. Take note of how your body feels right now. Start with the very top of your head and gently scan down through the body until you reach your toes.

Notice what feels comfortable and what feels uncomfortable. Be careful not to try to change or fix anything. Your only goal here is to notice every part of your body until you reach your toes.

7. Take time to review your progress.

Look back over the last six months of progress you’ve made being more present. Write down the things you feel have worked for you. Bring focus back to a habit that you might have stopped.

8. One task at a time.

Consider cutting down on multitasking. When you begin a task, make an extra effort to give it all your attention. When you find your mind wandering or you find yourself checking your phone, take a pause. Turn your focus back to what is in front of you.

9. Take a break from tech.

Consider challenging yourself to limit your use of technology for a set period of time every day. You might choose to keep your phone in your pocket while with friends. Or you might put your phone down in another room and turn off the TV during mealtimes.

You might start small, by saying you won’t use technology for the first 10 minutes when you wake up. No effort is too small. Make a conscious effort to put away the technology for whatever time you choose.

10. Personal positivity phrase.

Repeating a positive statement can pull our minds out of a negative spiral. Try coming up with your own phrase that helps you.

You might choose something such as, “I’ve been through hard things before and survived them”. Or, “I’m doing the best I can today and that is enough.”

Pick a phrase that suits you. Practice saying it when you notice your mind is running away with negative thoughts

11. Practise acceptance.

When you feel a strong emotion come up, try to observe it and go with it, as opposed to fighting and resisting it. Accepting that you can’t control everything around you can help you stop fighting it. You may find that focusing on the emotion feels a little daunting at first, but the more you focus, the more your ability to do so will develop. Sometimes life is going to go in a direction you don't want it to. If you need support, speak to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend, teacher or a professional.

12. Connect with others

Connecting with other people is key to resilience and wellbeing. Make an effort to keep in touch with people who you can share fun and joyful moments with. Be intentional about remaining present when connecting with others. At school, in a meeting, or during a conversation with a friend, give your full attention to what is being said.

Remind yourself to focus on the other person if you find you’ve become distracted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, low, anxious or worried you can talk to our trained volunteers. They are there to listen and guide you to a calmer place.