6 positive habits to maintain your health and wellbeing

We’re more than halfway through 2021 and the winter months can be an ideal time to check in with yourself.

Waves of financial, emotional, and health-based uncertainties can take their toll and without realising it, poor habits on the way we act or feel can easily slip in.

By prioritising connection, health, and fulfilment, we actively reinforce the pillars of our wellbeing:

  • Health
  • Work
  • Finances
  • Home and family life
  • Relationships
  • Emotional wellbeing

With a few simple steps we can give ourselves a mental health check and make subtle changes to create more positive habits for ourselves and our team members.

Here’s six positive habits you can aim to develop to strengthen your wellbeing:

1. Join a healthy team challenge

We all like to feel like winners and rising to a challenge – especially when done with your friends – is a great way to achieve this.

Health challenges can bring multiple benefits including helping start new positive habits, fundraise for good causes and build stronger bonds between ourselves and other people.

When circumstances keep changing, it’s also beneficial to make small changes or have ‘circuit breaks’ during difficult times to help keep us focused on our goals.

You or some of you colleagues may be looking forward to the end of Dry July – a well-known annual fundraising event where we are encouraged to give up alcohol while raising funds for cancer research.

This particular health challenges provides us with a valuable insight on our alcohol intake and the benefits of taking a break on our physical or mental health. The reset you get can also empower you to make better choices for your health.

If you could boost your liver health, mood, bank balance, hydration levels, and get better sleep all in one hit – why not give it a try?

If missed this year’s Dry July, Ocsober is just around the corner and, for those who can grow one, Movember is straight after.

2. Connect with your colleagues

We spend most of our days and weeks at work, so the social connections we foster there have a big impact on our lives.

Research shows managers are significantly less stressed when they have solid relationships with employees and reported job satisfaction increases almost 50% when a worker develops close relationships at work.

Whether you’re working remotely or working from the office, we thrive when we (literally) feel seen and heard.

Here’s four simple ways to connect with your colleagues:

  • Call, Facetime, or where you, can catch up face-to-face – Never underestimate the value of speaking to someone directly. The value of staying connected and sharing your emotional wellbeing is important for all of us – whether we need to talk or to listen. (It can also avoid any misunderstandings you may have over messages or emails).
  • Messaging groups – chatting casually and briefly on group messaging platforms is a well-known and casual setting to maintain your friendships at work. You can start a ‘water cooler’ channel in your platform for team banter to talk about non-work-related issues. Of course, you will need to make sure its use doesn’t impact your work or productivity.
  • Schedule a lunch date – having a regular or semi-regular catch up in your calendar is an effective way to maintain your level of social contact. If you can’t meet up and take a break from your desk, these can also be done virtually.
  • Run a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session – Lunch-and-learns once a month or quarter are a great way for you or a colleague with a certain skillset or specialist area of knowledge to share with the rest of your office or organisation. Anyone can drop in while eating their lunch, with a Q & A session at the end, or you can also run these virtually so people unable to attend in person can join in.

CEO of Mental Health and Wellbeing at APM, Michele Grow, said we should always remember the health benefits of connecting with others.

“We spend a great deal of time at work, so connecting in with others is not just friendly, its healthy,” she said.

“In addition to the enjoyment of work friendships or helping people to feel welcome and valued, you never know what is happening for someone else.

“Being friendly, asking how colleagues are tracking, or checking if they are ok may be far more meaningful to them than you will know,” Michele added.

3. Talk openly about money

Money and financial issues can be a leading cause of stress and uncertainty for all employees.

It’s beneficial to push through the discomfort and start talking more openly about money.

Here’s three ways you can de-stigmatise conversations about money:

  • Be honest – many people are apprehensive to discuss money due to feeling shame. Being honest is the first step to reducing any financial stress.
  • Be vocal – being open to talking about money can be beneficial to those around you, including children. The more you talk about it, you can cultivate a healthier, more confident mindset when it comes to managing money.
  • Make the most of free resources – most of the major banks offer free financial wellbeing programs, in addition to free financial counselling services offered by Australian Government and not-for-profit organisations.

4. Turn off your screens at home

Whether it’s your family or even your housemates – our loved ones are one of our ‘anchors’ in daily life.

Working from home, changes to work and social circumstances have had a big impact on our lives – it can take a lot of emotional energy to keep up with work and the news.

It is easy to feel daunted or ‘over-saturated’ with negative influences. And it can be difficult to de-compress and maintain our usual levels of social contact.

Reducing our screen time has a huge, positive impact on our wellbeing as an individual and for families too.

Allocating time each week to switch off our screens has positive effects on our brain function, vision, posture, quality of sleep, our weight and our mood.

Some ways to reduce your screen time include:

  • Don’t eat in front of a (tv or device) screen
  • Resist checking work emails at home
  • Be aware of how often you open your smartphone because you’re bored
  • Where possible, swap online conversations for face-to-face
  • Try banning screens from your bedroom

Michele said reducing screen time is a positive habit for us and the people we’re with.

“Switching off our screens, or at the very least reducing our screen time, is not just good for our health, it is great for our relationships.”

“Screen time can be very addictive so try swapping time in front of a screen to talking with a loved one or phoning a friend and you will boost your mental health and nurture relationships that are important to you.”

5. Make time for other people and yourself

Relationships Victoria hits the nail on the head in saying “positive, safe and respectful relationships are fundamental to health and wellbeing”.

For our relationships to meet life’s challenges, there are a series of small ways we can reinforce our connection with our partner, and ourselves.

While scheduling time to spend with our partners is important, it is equally important to allocate time for ourselves.

Doing something to mentally refresh yourself is great for helping you to feel more connected to the world and your loved ones.

Five tips you can use to help find the time you need:

  • Openly communicate your needs with your partner – waiting for each other to guess what your needs can add unnecessary stress and expectation.
  • Schedule time together – use a calendar. Whether it’s a calendar on your fridge or on your phone, a scheduling or note-making tool can help you prioritise your time.
  • Work on feeling good about yourself – this will help the way you feel about your relationship.
  • Schedule time apart – It’s a great practice to decisively book in or do some things you may want to do by yourself, you can look at picking up a new hobby, listen to a new podcast, run a bath, start an exercise class or watch a movie/series by yourself.
  • Be attentive – We tend to suggest to or give our partner what we hope to receive but they may prefer another form of affection. Do they like gifts, quality time with you, a note or a cooked meal? Making the effort to find out what they enjoy shows understanding.

6. Get more sleep

When it comes to getting more sleep, more is more.

When you make the effort to improve your sleep habits, the benefits extend well beyond needing less caffeine the next morning.

It is an essential component of our health which improves our mood and emotional regulation, mental processing, problem solving, mental and physical wellbeing.

Getting seven to nine hours’ sleep, helps our bodies and minds heal and reset. With good sleep, there’s been evidence found it helps your body respond better to treatments and physical therapies.

Here’s five quick ways you can start to improve your sleep habits:

  • Have a sleep routine – have a few regular tasks you do 30-60 minutes before bed, giving yourself plenty of time to calm your mind.
  • Make it a group effort – you can get your family or housemates involved in your efforts. It’s also useful for them to know why you are starting a new routine so they can support you.
  • Be disciplined about your sleep choices – know what time you will have to go to bed to get your seven to nine hours every night.
  • Don’t glorify sleeplessness or fatigue – Be aware of how you talk about late nights or feeling fatigued. There are functions on some smart phones which enable you to set daily time limits on certain apps, or switch to a ‘bedtime mode’ at a set time.

“Getting the right quality and quantity of sleep is essential to good health,” Michelle said.

“It is vital for maintaining good physical health and mental health and is as important as good nutrition, sufficient hydration and regular exercise.

“Building good sleep habits will have a positive impact on your wellbeing, mood, energy, concentration, relationships and even your safety.

“Developing a consistent and healthy sleep routine is probably one of the best habits you can work towards."