Wellbeing – it’s not just physical, it’s mental and emotional too. All three are very much interlinked, but it’s the mental and emotional side that I think speaks to our need, as humans, for meaningful human connection. We can be extremely physically fit, but if we feel isolated, lonely, adrift, alone, then we’re not looking after a huge part of our sociable human selves. Humans are social beings. We work, live and thrive best when we have a sense of belonging. When we have a sense of purpose. When we feel that we matter. That we make a difference. That we are appreciated.
For many the workplace is where they spend most of their adult lives, and so it makes sense that the workplace becomes the place they feel they belong. Work can become a person’s identity – with the corresponding, and well documented, consequences that can occur at retirement or redundancy.
On the other hand, if the workplace isn’t fulfilling a person’s social need of belonging, being valued and appreciated, then it can also become the place that causes the most emotional anguish. No-one likes the uncomfortable feeling of being on the outside. Workplaces therefore do have a responsibility to their workforce in this area.
Showing appreciation and that employees are valued is key to employees feeling that they belong, and this in turn leads to greater loyalty and productivity. Employees need to feel heard and that their needs, emotionally to fit in and belong to a social group, are met. Creating a business culture that allows for honest and open dialogue, as well as for mistakes, is key to achieving this.
As a massage therapist entering the workspace, I can bring the immediate human connection that some may be missing, and this in turn ripples out to greater employee engagement, as everyone bonds over a shared positive experience, that also clearly demonstrates how much they are valued.
But looking after your emotional wellbeing isn’t solely the job of employers. Employers need to create the culture that allows emotional wellbeing to flourish, but it’s every individual’s responsibility to then take the action required for them. And this is also the case for those lone workers, entrepreneurs, stay at home parents, carers, unemployed and retired people for whom the workplace isn’t the place for social connection.
In previous blogs I’ve spoken about the importance of participating in physical activity that you enjoy. If that activity is a team one, or can be done in a group, then that’s even better – as here is the perfect social situation, with shared interest, that can give us that sense of belonging.
Support groups, or shared interest groups, ideally in person, but even online, can also give us that social connection and shared sense of purpose.
And then there’s my all time favourite – volunteering.
I’m not talking the gap year volunteering to far flung destinations, that require huge sums to be raised to fund it. I’m talking making a difference to your local community, to a cause that you deeply care about, to help improve a situation and make a difference.
Personally I’ve volunteered in various capacities, on and off, since the age of 14, and it’s a staple of my wellbeing. Volunteering can allow you to pursue activities and passions that work doesn’t, or meet people who share your beliefs and outlook on life, and it also allows you to make a difference. It gives that sense of being valued, appreciated, needed and wanted that as humans we all need to feel. And you often get to see the consequences of your actions immediately, giving that instant sense of achievement, that can often be absent in a workplace. Everyone can volunteer. Everyone has talents that can be shared. And everyone can give the most precious thing they have, their time.
Generally speaking we interact with other humans on a daily basis, and there are everyday connections that we can make, if we choose, to help us with our emotional wellbeing. The trip to the shop can result in a conversation with the cashier. Smiling to a stranger in the street can cause a happiness surge in both you and them, and they are likely to pay that happiness forward in some way. Complimenting an acquaintance or stranger has the same effect, and can be as innocuous as ‘I love your shoes’. And then there’s gratitude. Showing gratitude to another shows that they matter and are valued and appreciated. Recognising things in our daily life to be grateful for, has massive impacts on our brains, and helps us, over time, to achieve more.
As with all things in life, if we want to feel more of a certain thing, then we need to show more of that to others first. If you want to feel appreciated by others, first show more appreciation. If you want to feel like you belong, let others in, and make time for them, strike up conversations, and help them feel that they belong.
Today, 10th October 2018, is World Mental Health Day. The UK are appointing their first suicide prevention minister to help reduce the 4,500 suicides here every year. But the thing is, those random acts of kindness I mentioned before, the smile to a stranger, the compliment to the parent on the school run, the thankful email to a colleague – all these things ripple out and have positive consequences far beyond the recipient, or our intention, and you just never know whose life that could save. It’s all very well and good having days, and ministers, to raise awareness, but it’s the everyday that can either wear us down or raise us up.
So be the positive change you want to see. Embrace our human need for community and connection. Spread kindness and joy. Smile 🙂 Experience how doing these things also improves your emotional wellbeing too.
As always, if there are any topics you’d like to see me cover in future blogs, please do get in contact.
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