Spiritual wellbeing can mean many different things to different people. For some people, spirituality may be heavily entwined with religious beliefs. Others may describe it as some sort of deep connection to the world around us. As for myself, I am not religious, but spirituality is still an important factor in my life which influences my beliefs, values, and wellbeing.
comfort with your spiritual identity can help you feel secure and confident
with who you are. Here are some ways for you to try and explore taha wairua –
Take some time to write down a list of values that are most important to you. I know what my personal values are. I also know that I am happiest when I live strongly by these values and practice them on a daily basis.
FIND MUSIC THAT UPLIFTS YOU
I struggle to define exactly what spirituality means to me. It’s something I just feel from time to time. When I listen to music there are some songs that make me feel a certain way. These songs have something about them which I can only label as spiritual. Maybe you have a song that makes you feel this way too. For me, it’s The Fall by Imagine Dragons. Put together a playlist of songs which lift you up and listen to them whenever you need a boost.
OUT TO REFLECT AND PLAN
Take a breath and reorient yourself. Are you heading in the right direction? How are things going for you at the moment? Schedule in time at least once a week to reflect on how your life is going. Are things going good? Great! Keep doing what you’re doing! Are you feeling a bit stuck or lost? That’s ok too! This is an opportunity to try a new approach or change direction. Make time for regular check ins with yourself and set goals for the future.
Have a discussion with someone close to you about what spirituality means to them. Nearly everyone has their own twist on what it means. Listening to other people’s thoughts with an open mind could help you further understand or discover what spirituality means to yourself.
That concludes my blog post series for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019! I hope these posts have inspired you to take action towards exploring your way to wellbeing. There’s no need to stop now, continue doing some of these activities every day. Be a role model for others and encourage them to do the same. We’re all in this life together, so help each other out.
A feeling of belonging to a group can be an important factor contributing to mental health and wellness. Whānau does not just include your immediate family, it can include friends, work colleagues, or anyone else in your community that you care about.
time with these people provides you with a sense of purpose and connection
which contributes to wellbeing.
some ways to explore your way to wellbeing though connecting with whānau:
Plan time this week to reconnect with someone special who you haven’t spoken to in a while. With everyone being so busy these days it can be easy to accidentally let these people slip down your priority list. Organise a time to grab something to eat or drink, even just a phone call, and let them know that you still care for them.
SOCIAL SPORTS TEAM
Joining a social sports team is a great way to connect with current friends as well as being an opportunity to meet new people! Playing running and futsal has allowed me to meet so many great people. It’s a good way to keep fit too!
This has been something I’ve done for most of my life. Most weekends my family and I will find a nice trail or beach close to the city then follow it up with food and drink at a nearby café. It’s an opportunity to spend time with those close to you and catch up at the end of the week. Every now and then we will plan a longer trip to somewhere out of town. You could try the same with family or friends.
choose to do today, take the time to talk to those around you. You may not have
the time to do anything listed above, but even just asking how someone is can
be enough to make a positive difference.
Being well physically can help us cope with the challenges that life throws at us. A healthy body can lead to a healthy mind. Our physical body could be thought of as the vessel that carries our mind. The physical body needs the right fuel and maintenance so that it has the strength to continue moving forward.
Running has been my way of taking care of my physical wellbeing for most of my life. Growing up in a family of runners and being part of a running club since I was young has allowed me to turn this activity into a healthy habit which is just part of my daily routine. Running has challenged me to push my body to it’s physical limit, but it also provides me with emotional relief and freedom. Going for a run is my favourite way to manage stress and escape responsibilities for a while.
Exercise isn’t the only way towards achieving physical wellbeing. Maybe you could challenge yourself this week to do one of the following:
DRINK MORE WATER
When you’re constantly on the go with a busy lifestyle it can be easy to forget to drink. If you want to keep working as hard as you are it’s crucial that you stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle close at all times. Maybe you could set a goal to drink a certain amount of water each day.
SWAP OUT UNHEALTHY SNACKS FOR HEALTHY SNACKS
A lot of snack food can have excessive amounts of sugar in them. Far more than the average person needs. Instead of reaching for a chocolate bar or even some of those muesli bars high in sugar, grab some fruit or veggies instead. Cravings can be hard to beat, so I try to only pack healthy foods in my bag for work. That way, I don’t have to rely on will power to choose healthy options as they are the only options available.
TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
When we get piles of work to complete and we feel like we are falling behind, we think that powering our way through the work is the best way forward. Hard work is good, but you may find that you might be more efficient if you divide this hard work up into chunks. Every hour, get up and move. Go to the toilet, walk around the office, stretch. Do something to get your body moving then come back to that work with a clear head.
LEARN ABOUT HEREDITARY MEDICAL CONDITIONS
There may be a medical condition running through your family that you know about. If so, it could be a good idea to learn more about this condition and understand what steps you can take to prevent or manage this condition. Having this knowledge could not only be beneficial for yourself but also for your whānau.
Let me know
what you have done today to explore taha tinana – physical wellbeing!
Today we focus on mental and emotional wellbeing. Just like our physical health, our mental and emotional health needs to be looked after too . Junk food, alcohol, and smoking negatively impact physical health very much the same way as a stressful job, toxic relationship, or loneliness may impact negatively on mental health.
Mental wellness may mean many things to different people. Taha hinengaro may refer to the heart, mind, conscience, thoughts or feelings. When we are mentally well, we are better able to cope with the challenges which life will inevitably throw us. We cannot avoid problems, but we can make an effort to change how we perceive and react to them.
Here are some ideas on how you can explore taha hinegaro:
If you have someone special to you who says they are there to talk anytime you need. Use them! Don’t feel guilty about unleashing about how bad a day has been. If they are a good friend they will listen without judgement and be there for you no matter what. Don’t forget to return the favour someday too!
Exercising is well known to give you a good mood boost. Sure, it can be difficult getting out the door and pushing through the pain of a tough workout, but the feeling afterwards is so worth it! Maybe you could try a new sport or type of exercise too!
Give and you shall receive. Helping others and volunteering provides a feeling like no other. Not only do you feel fantastic for helping someone else at no cost, it can also be a good opportunity to meet some incredible people, giving you a strong sense of community and belonging.
These are just a few ways on how you can explore your way to mental and emotional wellbeing. Go and try at least one of these activities today or in the next week. Get back to me on how it went!
To begin Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 we will start by exploring:
“Whenua – Our Connection to the Land and Roots”
Whenua is the natural environment; it is where we live. It could also be a place of belonging. A space where you feel free to be your true self. This could be your home, a city, or anywhere your family and loved ones may be.
I have been fortunate enough to be part of a family which has always held a great appreciation for the outdoors. Many weekends are spent finding different walks and trails, enjoying and appreciating the natural world around us.
I always feel my best when I’m outside. Nothing makes me feel more alive than running through a winding forest trail, or feeling the warm sand between by toes as I wander along a beach on a summer’s day. Planning time each weekend to get out and explore provides me with a healthy outlet to escape the stress and busyness which the working week can bring. Appreciating and spending time in nature plays a massive part in helping me maintain my health and wellbeing.
some suggestions for how you can explore whenua for yourself on your way to
Get some friends together and climb a mountain or walk some trails
Not only does this allow you to spend time appreciating your natural world, it allows you to spend quality time with friends while also improving your physical health! You may even be rewarded with a nice view once you reach the top.
Find a farmer’s market and buy some fresh produce to prepare a healthy meal
Our land provides plenty of fresh, healthy food for us. Have a go at making a healthy meal to enjoy with friends or family. Eating healthy is a great way of maintaining good mental health and wellbeing.
Try and produce less waste
This is something I need to try myself. When I stop and think about it, the amount of unnecessary waste I produce is ridiculous. This is a good opportunity to challenge yourself to live minimally and begin to care for the whenua and our natural environment which provides us with a place to live.
Practice mindfulness in nature
Simply sit in a local park, or even your backyard, and just observe. Notice the colour of the sky and any clouds that pass by, listen to birds singing or water flowing, feel the ground beneath your feet. Start to appreciate the beautiful world we live in.
just a few ways in which you can explore how whenua can contribute to mental
health and wellbeing. If you have time, try and give at least one of these
things a go. Don’t take our beautiful world for granted, make the most of your
time here and appreciate the gifts this world has to offer.
This year I’m excited to be involved in Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. The event will be running from the 23rd to the 29th September. The theme this year is:
“EXPLORING YOUR WAY TO WELLBEING – WHĀIA TE ARA HAUORA, WHITIORA”
The focus of this week is to spend time exploring what we can do to care for our mental health and wellbeing. Everyone is encouraged to do this. Even if you aren’t experiencing a mental illness, there are still steps you can take to maintain your own mental wellbeing or help out others who may be going through difficult times. This week is for everyone.
One in five Kiwis experience mental illness each year. As a
student nurse, I’m passionate about advocating for health and wellbeing for
everyone. Physical health and mental health are just as important as each other.
However, looking after our mental health when we are still well is something we
as a society sometimes tend to forget about.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 will be using the Te Whare Tapa Whā model (The Māori Model of Health) to provide inspiration for activities throughout the week in an effort to explore our way to wellbeing. I hope to contribute to this fantastic event by preparing a short blog post for each day of the week in accordance with each domain of this health model. In these posts I will be sharing how I use the Māori Health Model to explore my own way to mental health and wellbeing. I hope it provides some inspiration to help others explore their own way to wellbeing.
The Māori Health Model – Te Whare Tapa Whā
Te Whare Tapa Whā was developed in 1984 by Sir Mason Durie, a Māori health advocate, in an attempt to provide a unique Māori perspective on health and wellbeing.
It utilises a holistic approach using the analogy of a wharenui
(meeting house) to represent an individual’s health. Just like a wharenui, a
human needs to have strong, interconnected foundations to keep it balanced and
strong. The five dimensions of Te Whare Tapa Whā include:
Whenua (Land & Roots)
Taha hinengaro (Mental & Emotional)
Taha tinana (Physical)
Taha whānau (Family & Social)
Taha wairua (Spiritual)
If one of these dimensions becomes damaged or is missing,
the person may become unbalanced and subsequently unwell. Therefore it is vital
when thinking about health to make sure that each dimension is addressed.
This is a strong, holistic model of health which can be
applied to anyone of any background or culture.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, I will be writing a post each day in which I will share how I personally try my best to maintain each of these dimensions. This will begin with Whenua on Monday and end with Taha Wairua on the Friday.
There’s lots to look forward too and it’s all for good
cause. Head to https://mhaw.nz/ to find out how
you can become involved.
Recently, a friend asked me about meditation. They wanted to know what I actually do when I meditate. This question inspired me to write an article sharing my own experiences with meditation. Today, I will explain how I meditate and I will provide some advice on how someone new to meditation can give it a go themselves.
Meditation has helped me through many stressful days where I felt like I had lost complete control of my thoughts. Meditation has served as a tool to help ground myself during times of distress. It also helps me practice being more mindful and present in my day to day life which has huge benefits in itself.
How Do I Meditate?
I have been
meditating for nearly two years now. I’m not always consistent, but I aim to
meditate daily for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
I started off using the Headspace app. Headspace is a fantastic tool for people new to meditation. It provides the user with guidance and advice on meditation and mindfulness. I would definitely recommend it to people looking at trying meditation for the first time. After using this app for a while I started to find the narration to become too distracting so now I prefer to find a comfortable spot with minimal distraction where I can just listen to the world around me.
comfortable position is an important part in preparing for your meditation.
There are no rules regarding positioning. You don’t need to sit on the floor,
cross-legged like a monk. You just need to find a position which you feel
comfortable sitting in for however long you plan to meditate for. I often
switch between sitting on a chair or lying down on my bed.
Once I am in
my position, I start by taking three deep breathes. In and out. Focusing on the
lungs filling and emptying with air. I then gently close my eyes and feel the
weight of my body sink into my surroundings. Then, I simply notice. I don’t try
and think of anything in particular. I let thoughts and feelings come as they
please. I notice them, then let them go. It’s harder than it sounds. After two
years I still don’t consider myself to be very good at it. It takes a lot of
practice and patience.
The Mind as a Blue Sky
good analogy which helped me understand the practice of meditation was to observe
our mind as being like the sky. When we are in a state of complete calm, our
mind could be seen to be a clear, blue sky. Thoughts may present themselves as
clouds. This is normal. In meditation, we simply practice recognising these
clouds and allow them to float on by without judgement.
Sometimes, when we feel out of control of our emotions, our sky may experience a thunderstorm with dark, gloomy clouds swirling around. I’ve experienced these feelings often with the stress of nursing school and other life events, just like everyone else has. It’s normal. Meditation provides me with the opportunity to recognise these thoughts, accept them, and be at peace with them. The storms can be daunting and feel like they are here to stay but remember that they will pass. When they do, that clear, blue sky will still be there.
How Do I Get Started?
If after reading this you feel like meditation could be something which helps you, then here are some tips on how you can get started.
SCHEDULE TIME TO MEDITATE
I have been most consistent with meditating when I have scheduled it in for the same time each day. Whether this be in the morning, evening or both. You are more likely to complete a task when you have scheduled it for a specific time.
START OFF SLOWLY THEN BUILD UP
Don’t try and meditate for an hour on your first go. Start of easy by simply trying to sit still for at least five minutes. From here you can build up gently to ten minutes or even longer. If you meditate for too long when first starting you will most likely lose focus easily and become frustrated.
USE AN APP FOR GUIDANCE
As I said before, Headspace is a fantastic app for beginners. There are plenty of other free apps out there such as Calm and Smiling Mind which can be really beneficial in teaching you the basics of meditation.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE COMFORTABLE AND FREE OF DISTRACTIONS
You’re not going to enjoy meditation if you’re not comfortable. Take time to find a comfortable position, but also make sure you’re wearing something comfy. Also try to make your environment as free from distractions as possible. Notifications off. Noise-cancelling headphones have done wonders for me.
BE PATIENT AND DON’T GIVE UP!
Meditation can actually be rather frustrating when first beginning which seems quite contradictory. You most likely will lose focus while meditating and sometimes you may feel like it is a complete waste of time. I encourage you to keep going for at least two weeks. Be kind to yourself when you become distracted. Simply recognise you have become distracted, then bring your focus back to the body. Practice makes perfect and after a while you may begin to see some benefits coming through.
If you have
tried all these tips and you still feel like spending ten minutes doing nothing
is completely pointless, that’s ok. Meditation
may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly worth a go if you haven’t tried
before. Just know that you can’t master meditation overnight. Also, if you
can’t find the time to simply do nothing for five or ten minutes, then maybe you
need to think about reorganising your timetable.
reading! I hope that this article inspires you to give meditation a go. There’s
no harm in trying! I’m also always open to any advice or further information
regarding the topic from more experienced meditators.