Regular readers of the blog will know that I am involved in a student-led mental health awareness campaign being developed for release in 2021.
I wanted to provide an update on that project and highlight a few interesting ideas and concepts that have come from the process.
It started with wellbeing tactics
Much of the activity of the first few meetings focused around what people can do to improve their mental health.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the students involved knew a lot about mental health promoting activities.
In fact, I published a post dedicated to listing all the creative ideas they had.
Over time, we started calling these activities ‘wellbeing tactics’. One goal of the campaign was therefore to convince individuals to add ‘wellbeing tactics’ to their everyday life. Examples included regular mindfulness meditation or journaling. These tactics don’t necessarily need to be time consuming (you can be mindful for a few seconds at a time), but generally needed to be integrated into daily or weekly routines.
I later went on to draw from the GGIA and SAHMRI wellbeing groups to develop a list of 19 types of wellbeing tactics. You could meaningfully enhance your mental health by visiting that post and adopting just one of those tactics in your everyday life.
Is there such thing as a community wellbeing tactic?
Early on in the project, it was clear that the students wanted us to create a campaign that created a stronger sense of community and sense of belonging. We wanted students exposed to the campaign to feel more like part of the Flinders Community.
This got us wondering whether ‘wellbeing tactics’, that are typically described and delivered at the individual level, could be scaled up to the community level.
This is where the creativity started to flow:
Gratitude diaries (individual) became gratitude walls (community)
Photos on my phone (individual) became photo walls (community)
Mindfulness meditation (individual) became mindful scavenger hunts (community)
Wellbeing advice (individual) became wellbeing showbags (community)
Individual behaviour change became participation in wellbeing research (community)
We quickly realised that most individual wellbeing tactics can be re-imagined at the community level.
This is important for a number of reasons.
Community events foster fun and connection
Exploring and learning about wellbeing tactics on one’s own can be a little dry. However learning about them in the context of a fun and engaging on-campus or online event, involving others and lights and movement and colour is different.
Our learning is enhanced in the context of positive emotion, social connection and curiosity. We hope to create community events and activities that foster such experiences and in the process excite students to take charge of their mental health.
It’s easier to make changes when you know others are too
Sometimes it can feel like we are on our own when it comes to making important lifestyle changes. That sense of loneliness can impact on the likelihood we make those changes.
However, when such changes are done within a supportive community, we are more likely to make them, because we feel part of something. It is why so many people belong to cross-fit groups or yoga studios or use apps to build community around their health (e.g. https://www.strava.com/).
COVID-19 challenges have impacted on sense of community
COVID and its challenges have put a real dampener on the sense of community here at Flinders. Whilst we don’t know what the future holds in terms of COVID, we do know that we can counteract some of the impacts through smartly designed social events and activities.
In many ways this is a great opportunity to think about how to create social and community events under significant limitations. A real chance to innovate in this space, with a great cause in mind (mental health).
In thinking about ‘community’ we have been very mindful that events shouldn’t be limited to those on physical campuses. Many of our students are primarily or entirely online or remote and this is only likely to grow over time. Thus we’ve been thinking about how campus events could be re-imagined in the digital form.
In the process we’ve explored ways that online and remote students can get involved, including live-streaming of events/workshops, online-specific events and app or mobile-phone based campaign elements.
Narrowing down the focus
We knew that a campaign focused on 19 different types of wellbeing tactics would be confusing and convoluted.
So we further grouped those activities into three categories. I’ve grouped the 19 types wellbeing tactics (previously listed in this post) into these three categories.
- Reflection – taking time to reflect on the past, present and future, appreciate beauty, be grateful for the good things in your life and set goals for the future
- Meaning and purpose – connecting to a purpose higher than you and understanding what you want to contribute to the world. Example activities: meaningful photos, best possible self. Future orientation – taking the time to visualise the future you want for yourself and set things to work towards. Example activities: best possible self, goal visualisation.
- Self-understanding – learning more about the person you are, your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes and your personality. Example activities: finding your strengths, clarifying your values.
- Awe – taking moments to bask is the amazingness of something or someone. Example activities: awe narrative, awe story, awe video.
- Gratitude – being appreciative of the people and things in our life and the experiences we’ve had. Example activities: gratitude letter, three good things, gratitude journal.
- Meditation/ mindfulness – deliberate activities to get you in the present moment and focus your attention. Example activities: mindful breathing, mindful walking, loving kindness meditation, compassion meditation.
- Connection – investing time and effort building and nurturing the relationships in our life, including how we treat ourselves.
- Connection – building and nurturing supportive relationships with friends, family members, colleagues and even the random stranger! Example activities: active listening, avoiding the ‘four horsemen’, apologies, 36 questions, small talk.
- Compassion – extending understanding and kindness to yourself and other people during difficult times. Example activities: letting go of anger, self-compassionate letter, how would you treat a friend.
- Forgiveness – letting go of difficult thoughts, feelings and ideas about someone who has wronged us. Example activities: eight essentials of forgiveness.
- Kindness – engaging in regular acts of kindness towards self and others. Example activities: acts of kindness.
- Teaching – passing on the knowledge you’ve gained to others and a willingness to learn from others. Example activities: mentoring
- Action – being deliberate in your efforts to improve your life (or the lives of others) through good habits known to build wellbeing.
- Healthy lifestyle – maintaining a healthy body through physical activity, sleep, good nutrition, breathing and low drug/alcohol use. Example activities: lifestyle modification.
- Time in nature – spend more time in nature. Example activities: savoring walk, noticing nature.
- Having fun – spend more time engaging in activities that bring a true smile to your face. Example activities: three funny things.
- Facing your fears – documenting what is holding you back and confronting those fears directly. Example activities: problem solving, assertiveness.
- Deliberate practice – allocate time each week to spend on getting better at something through practice. Example activities: deliberate practice.
- Productivity – efforts to work smarter, not harder and increase efficiency. Example activities: time management, finding flow.
- Expressive writing – taking time to write about things that have happened to you and your thoughts and feelings about those events. Example activities: expressive writing, feeling connected through writing.
- Change your thinking – learn more about the role your thoughts and beliefs play in shaping your world and explore strategies to challenge or change your thinking. Example activities: thought defusion, recalling positive events, acceptance, silver lining.
‘Reflection, connection and action’ gives us a digestible phrase to use across the campaign that encompasses quite well the basic formula for good mental health.
This is a formula that anyone, regardless of their current mental health, can use to guide efforts to improve mental health. Expect to see this phrase more in 2021.
In fact, you could use this phrase to do a quick assessment of your day to see if you have the necessary ingredients of mental health baked into your routine.
Have I taken a quiet moment to appreciate something that has happened to me or to reflect on an issue that is important to me? (Reflection)
Have I set aside time to build or nurture new or existing relationships in my life? Have I opened myself up to another human being today, and have I extended that invitation to someone in my life? (Connection)
Have I done something specific today with the intention of improving my mental health? Have I engaged in mentally healthy habits like meditation or journalling or exercise or time outside? (Action)
Next steps in the project
The project team are now meeting weekly until the end of the year to build the campaign itself – the materials, the logistics, the design, the events, the slogans and copy. The goal is to have most of the content built by the end of the year, with the intention of launching in 2021.
You can get involved
Regardless of where we are in the campaign development process, you can get involved. If you want to share an idea or concept that you would like to see in a mental health focused campaign here at Flinders, get in touch and share it – firstname.lastname@example.org
Otherwise, stay tuned and I will start sharing some preview content here on the blog in the coming months