Health and wellbeing

Happiness. The ultimate goal of life and an ideal to which many of us aspire. As human beings, we strive to find meaning and purpose in what we do; yet, most of us fall woefully short of living truly fulfilled lives. 

How often do we take a moment to stop and reflect, amidst the chaos around us, to think about what it is we are grateful for? Gratitude is experienced and expressed differently by all of us, but ultimately helps us to establish and underline what we already have, rather than what we lack. It is an act of thankful appreciation; a way to acknowledge the goodness in our lives; but more than that, it is a practice by which we can maintain an ever-positive outlook, even in the face of adversity. And, especially during times of crisis, there is much to be grateful for. 

Here are some practical ways in which we can all cultivate an inner sense of gratitude:

Work out who has impacted your life, however small, in the last couple of weeks. Think: how would your life be different without that person’s presence? Make them aware of the impact they have had – research shows that the simple act of saying ‘thank you’ bolsters both of your wellbeings, and helps to foster a more meaningful relationship. Over time, develop this practice by keeping a gratitude journal. Then, develop a routine of reflecting every so often.

Being appreciative of the simple things in life can go a long way in improving our mental wellbeing. As Robert Brault averred, “Enjoy the little things. For one day, you may look back and realise they were the big things.” As we spend increasingly more time staring at computer screens and sitting at our desks, take some time each day to be grateful for the things around you. 

That’s all from me, folks. Have a great weekend, hopefully full of gratitude!

Rohan Tandon

Physical exercise

We are living in times where there seems so much to worry about: new coronavirus variants, seemingly endless lockdowns, public health scares, exam results not within our control – the list is endless and it can feel as though much of life is outside of our individual powers. It is perfectly normal to feel stressed and unsure about how best to cope. In this article we will make the case that taking steps to become more active is something that we can do to help us deal with the stress brought about by uncertainty and to feel positive about ourselves and our lives. 

National surveys show that currently only one-third of the population meet UK physical activity guidelines. Now that we are out of school, with no walks between classes, no PE sessions and no rugby training we feel as if our lives have become more sedentary. However, physical activity should not be a chore, but instead something we do to enhance wellbeing. We must try to change the things we do from ones which we ‘have to’ or ‘should do’ for our health, to something that we feel adds to the already fulfilling lives we aim to have. For example, exercising for 30-60 minutes a day is associated with the biggest reduction in ‘poor mental health days’, but exercising for excessively long periods of time can lead to worse mental health than not exercising at all. Obsessively exercising for the sake of doing it is not healthy. Activities like fitness classes or team sports were opportunities, in the past, for us to be able to socialise which has been proven to boost moods and decrease feelings of loneliness. However, with this now seeming a distant reality, are there still ways in which we can maintain and improve our general wellbeing? 

For me, choosing an activity that I personally enjoy is critical, otherwise there is no motivation, determination or actual happiness. In order to keep on track and have some sense of self-accomplishment, setting reasonable goals and sticking to them is something that is shown to be extremely effective. This is even more important because there is nobody around you to keep yourself focused. There are many benefits to this because it increases independence and not having to rely on other resources and friends, teaching you the value of hard work and dedication, characteristics which previously you may not have had much experience of. If you are struggling for motivation, some people find it beneficial to use a fitness tracking app, such as ‘Strava’ or ‘My Fitness Pal’. These apps allow you to share your accomplishments and workouts with friends to introduce an element of healthy competition.

Countless studies have shown a direct correlation between physical activity and mental health. Regular exercise improves your body shape which increases self-esteem, confidence in your appearance and provides a sense of accomplishment. Knowing you have done something to not only improve your physical health but also create a sense of self-worth, at the end of the day is satisfying and makes you feel good about yourself. Specifically, research has shown that weight lifting can reduce depression as effectively as conventional treatments and medications. This is because an increased blood flow to the brain can enhance the actions of endorphins (hormones produced in the brain) which reduce pain and improve feelings of pleasure, which increases wellbeing. In addition, incorporating yoga into your daily routine helps to increase strength and flexibility and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. Having said this, it is important to understand what types of exercise work best for you. If the suggestions above feel laborious, start small. Even a short walk can put you on the path to better mental health.

Vaibhav Chaganti

Author: Rohan Tandon and Vaibhav Chaganti