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5 simple things to stay sane


Foresight, the Government think tank, has just published its report Mental Capital and Wellbeing: making the most of ourselves in the 21st century. Compiled by more than 400 scientists, it is intended to encourage behaviour that will make people feel better about themselves. Unusually, the report’s audience is individuals as well as government policymakers. 

The report identifies 5 categories of things that can make a profound difference to people’s wellbeing. ‘Each has evidence behind it’ according to Felicia Huppert, Professor of Psychology at Cambridge University.

These steps to happiness are:

  • Connect… with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

  • Be active… Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

  • Take notice… Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you to appreciate what matters to you.

  • Keep learning… Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

  • Give… Do something nice for a friend or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and you happiness, as linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

Among other things the report highlights the strong link between mental illness and debt. In Britain half of people in debt have a mental disorder compared with 16% of the general population.

The report also advocates more flexible working, which links to the announcement by Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary to extend flexible working arrangements.

These recommendations make good sense to me, but looking around at my fellow travellers on the crowded train back from London when I read about the report, I wondered how many of them were following them.


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