by Usman, Chief Resident
Mental and physical wellbeing is one of the key factors that enables us to overcome difficulties and challenges and to be successful, it is of vital importance that we take our wellbeing seriously. It enables us to grow and take charge of our routine, our mind and body, all at the same time. Wellbeing refers to being comfortable, health and happy. The fives ways of wellbeing include connect, keep learning, be active, give, take notice. It is now more than ever easy to practice these ways of wellbeing in daily life.
The most important question, when it comes to achieving a state where you are happy, healthy, and comfortable, is ‘where to start?’. The best start would be to change habits, 1% at a time, allowing yourself to gradually grow positively without putting in too much effort. These small building blocks will enable you to change your identity, and for us to become something, we must visualise it first. Do not set the goals, focus on the overall system first. If I am to form a new habit to improve my daily routine for example, I would ask myself first how do I spend my day? What changes can I make in my current routine to be where I want to be. Small steps at a time can help you achieve your goals, which would in turn help you improve your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, it would be harder to do 30 push-ups a day if you are starting from 0 and the motivation would fade away with time. But if you think about it as doing 10 push-ups 3 times a day, you might be able to finish the task, since the task now would not seem overwhelming.
Your habits are of utmost importance when it comes to wellbeing. The time you get up, go to work, drink, eat, sleep, everything adds up and forms an identity of yours. While all these things are subjective, it is important that you find your balance. The key is to incorporate healthy habits throughout your day that will enable you to become what you want to be. For example, sleep and sleep hygiene is by far the most important thing that is overlooked by all of us. Good sleeping habits and getting enough sleep at night ensure your body weight is in control, improves concentration and productivity, maximizes athletic performance, reduces risks of heart disease and stroke, reduces depression and the list goes on. You can read more about this here.
Sleep hygiene and general hygiene is an important factor to consider when it comes to mental and physical wellbeing. Reduction in sleep quality can be related to reduced release of melatonin, due to increased screen times for example. Sleep repairs our body, and it should be given importance and a proper place in our routines. But most of them times, we find ourselves tossing over in bed looking at our phones, scrolling endlessly through social media apps. To achieve a good night’s rest, a digital detox is required all such devices should be powered off at a designated time, at least an hour before bed time. To make this wind down time more productive, phones and tablets can be replaced by a physical book, which will cut off the blue light intake during the downtime and will help you fall asleep quickly.
Easier said than done, you might find it very difficult to fall asleep or change any habit that you wish to. To for new and healthy habits, we need to understand what governs our habits and what makes us do certain things in the way we do it. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits describes that habits and corresponding responses has four stages, i.e., cue, craving, response, and reward.
Let’s put the laws of habit to use, to improve our sleep which will massively improve our mental and physical health. Since cue predicts reward, the desire to sleep on time should be followed by an autonomous response to be in a ‘favourable’ environment closer to the bedtime, rewarding us with getting up fresh and in good mood the next day. The visual cue in this case should be dim lights and digital detox closer to say 10 pm (bedtime). The next step is to have some form of craving to be in bed on time. You can achieve this by putting your favourite book next to your bed. This enable you to be in that right ‘spot’ on the right ‘time’. With cue and craving in action, your response now should be to be in bed, i.e., ready to read your favourite book. Reward would then satisfy your craving by providing a good sleep and helping you getting up on time the next day. Generally, having such type of system can help you break any bad habit and form good ones, which can help you take care of your wellbeing easily, and approach the problems more systematically.
Some form of physical exertion can help you improve your overall wellbeing. There are surprising benefits that lie in physical activity, irrespective of the scale of activity being performed. It is always a wise choice to transform a sedentary lifestyle into an active one, which can help reduce chances of developing depression by 30%, as described by Schuch et. al. While physical workout can be done anywhere, you can also plan a walking/running activity with your friends and discover beautiful places in Bristol, which will also help you explore and take great pictures for your Instagram!
Writing a journal can help you gauge your current situation, be it something related to personal life, relationships, or of financial nature. Write, write more, and write freely. This will help you not only to think clearly, but also to reflect on what has been achieved and what are the projections for future. Set a time for writing, weekly if not daily. Get yourself a fancy journal and find a pen that makes writing enjoyable. If you are an absolute beginner and don’t know what to write, there are lots and lots of journal guides/templates available on YouTube and the internet that you can use. If you are a PC geek, lookout for apps like Notion, that can be used for multiple purposes such as notes taking, scheduling, journaling, habit tracking, travel planning and much more.
You can access wellbeing support from your university here, and in case you find yourself in an urgent need of help, you can find 24 hour support services here. If you are struggling with personal aspects of life or require help regarding academics or on matters such as managing money and staying healthy, you can find resources here to guide you through the problems. Guidance on any sort of unacceptable behaviour such as discrimination, hate crime, bullying, domestic/physical assault can be found on this link. Student health services can be accessed through this link and if you need any help regarding faith and spiritual matters, you can get help through this link. For more details on wellbeing access, productivity and wellbeing, please do contact your Residential Life team.