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Joining up the dots on wellbeing

8 February 2013

Forster currently works with Business in the Community (BITC) Workwell which is leading employee engagement and wellbeing action in order to improve business performance and productivity.

I recently attended a brilliant session on DIY Happiness run by Sherry Clark from NHS South London and Maudsley (organised by Better Bankside). As Mental Health Promotion Co-ordinator Sherry is looking at the role of well-being within work settings. Her approach is backed up by a substantial body of psychological evidence including this comprehensive review by New Economics Foundation.

We discussed how much work has changed; shifting from physical skills, to mental competencies and increasingly pressurised by long hours and high demands. Following this, we took part in practical examples of tools and techniques that help build resilience, reduce stress and improve productivity and concentration levels. None of it is rocket science – despite what the magazines might tell you about the latest fad to increase happiness and decrease stress. For example research shows that stepping outside for 20 minutes at lunchtime significantly improves your memory.

To help get the message across, Sherry has created a tool – the ‘wheel of wellbeing’. It involves seeing this complex subject as an integrated system with the individual in the centre. Around them are elements that are internal including body, mind and spirit, as well as external factors including connecting with other people, places and the planet.

A lot of these suggestions reminded me of the work and campaigns of Action for Happiness, which regularly holds events to discuss the emotive and subjective theme of happiness. Their approach is to create an environment that effectively replaces the role that church might have previously played in individual’s lives, by giving people a different space to discuss the things that really matter to them.

Likewise, as a yoga teacher I can appreciate there is a huge range of yoga and alternative health services that ultimately advocate the similar practices, all be it in a different manner. They talk about creating stronger links with a community, engaging the mind and body, as well as playing an active role in the place you live. They may have exotic sanskrit names but ultimately the fundamental concepts are the same.

Increasing focus on wellbeing from health care, businesses, communities and individuals shows that attitudes are shifting. This is a positive step, but I wonder if there is an opportunity to do more. Surely there is potential to share knowledge and create powerful collaborations between these groups. Even though perspectives and desired outcome might differ, can we and will we see new partnerships between these groups emerge, to create more effective wellbeing for all? Communication has an important part to play in answering that question. As it can play a vital role in not just making these links but also getting the message out to a wider group of people through campaigns with many partners.