This week, Health Education England elearning for healthcare (HEE elfh) and HEE Long Term Conditions and Prevention programme team relaunched the Five Ways to Wellbeing module on the Making Every Contact Count programme page.
Gregor Henderson, adviser and consultant on mental health and wellbeing and author of the new elearning resource shares some reflections on the importance of supporting wellbeing through small acts and everyday conversations.
Read his blog to hear more about the refreshed module and how Five Ways to Wellbeing can be used to support individuals and communities during challenging times.
Taking care of our personal health and wellbeing, and those of our clients and patients, is crucial. We are needed more than ever to support people in our communities to stay healthy and help them to respond to everyday challenges.
With increases in the cost of living, higher food prices and energy costs, households are feeling the pinch and are under considerable pressure. The mental and physical toll of which is likely to have a direct impact on our community’s health and wellbeing. Being able to start a conversation about how to look after our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others, is one of the ways we, as health care workers, can make a difference.
When my mother was ill with a long-term condition, I noticed she was becoming less confident, less active and more isolated. I was only able to visit once a week as I lived some distance away, but I remember seeing a big change after my mum saw a community nurse. The nurse sat with my mum and went through a list of things she could do, to make a difference to her day-to-day life. Small conversations and words of encouragement really resonated with my mum. She started exercising more, began walking every day and started interacting more frequently with her neighbours. Gaining more confidence, mum started volunteering at her local church broadening her social connections and giving back. She also enrolled in an arts course at the local college to help keep her mind active and learn a new skill. Mum even started to do breathing and relaxation exercises – what she called ‘‘minding myself’’ – her words for mindfulness. This transformation did not take place overnight. It took weeks and weeks of quiet and persistent patience and encouragement from her community nurse, but over time the difference to her health and wellbeing was literally transformed. I have never forgotten this gift she was given, the quiet, gentle, and personalised support from her health care worker.
A few years later when I was working in public health, I came across the phrase “five ways to wellbeing”. Being socially active, physically active, learning a new skill, giving back and taking notice, five things everyone can do to support and enhance their wellbeing and improve their health. This made me think about my mum as it set out the exact steps of what helped transform the last 10 years of her life.
It has been a privilege to work with many colleagues across HEE to bring the Five Ways to Wellbeing module to life and to offer all health care workers and their many colleagues in social care, public health and the voluntary sector, the opportunity to learn about how to make the ways to wellbeing come alive for their patients and clients every day.
I know some people will say that this elearning will not solve soaring energy costs, rising food prices and the real societal challenges and difficult life circumstances that many people face in their lives, and I agree with them. But I do believe it can help. As health care workers we are not always able to change government policies or act on all the key social and societal determinants that put the health of our clients, our loved ones and our communities at risk. But these simple steps of encouraging ways to wellbeing can, and do make a difference. Now more than ever they are needed. If we can work in a way where every day we are having small conversations and gently encouraging others to improve their health, we will make a difference.
Please do have a look at the Five Ways to Wellbeing elearning course and bring what you learn into your work and to your own lives. For me, I have never forgotten what helped my mum in her time of need and if we can multiply that over and over again, then we will make a huge difference to people’s health and wellbeing. For more information about the five ways to wellbeing module, please visit the elearning for healthcare hub. Or read about the wider importance of making every contact count via the Making Every Contact Count programme page.