Flinders University is organizing Wellbeing Week from 8th to 12th May 2023, to educate and assist students on how to take care of themselves and improve their well-being during their time as a student. Wellbeing is a broad concept encompassing: connection, community, and identity; self-determination, agency, purpose, growth; safety, shelter, finances; intellectual, reflective, and contemplative life; and physical and mental health. Learn more in the post.
Wellbeing Week is coming up here at Flinders (8th to 12th May, 2023). Or if you are reading this between the 8th and 12th May it is happening right now!! If you are reading this after the 12th May it has already happened, in which case better luck next time 😄
First up, If you want to know what is happening during Wellbeing Week (e.g. campus events etc), you’re gonna want to get on social media and follow these accounts:
Here on the blog, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the purpose of wellbeing week, provide a definition of wellbeing and provide some practical tips on improving your wellbeing.
Why Wellbeing Week?
The orientation team here at Flinders have really hit their strides over the past few years. They provide a rich experience to new students to help them feel welcomed, feel at home, know what to do, where to go, and how to be their best student selves.
One way they do this is the organisation of ‘weeks’ dedicated to important topics. Important topics are things we know improve the student experience.
For example, Connect Week is about making new friends, joining clubs and societies, and participating in university life with other students.
Skills Week is about focusing on the academic and time management skills necessary to study at a university level.
And Wellbeing Week is about educating students on how to look after themselves during their time as a student and where to go to get help for particular challenges.
⭐Wellbeing Week is open now to all students, not just those starting out ⭐
Plenty of people smarter than me are currently fighting over a definitive definition of ‘wellbeing’ but here at Flinders, wellbeing refers to the following 5 areas (coming out of the Flinders Whole of University Wellbeing Strategic Plan 2022-2025):
What exactly are those wellbeing areas?
Connection, community, and identity: This refers to the importance of social connections and a sense of belonging to the Flinders community that helps shape your individual sense of identity. Humans are social creatures, and being part of a group or community can provide a sense of purpose, support, and shared experiences. We get to know ourselves better by feeling a part of something (group, school, college, topic, study group etc).
Self-determination, agency, purpose, growth: This refers to your ability to make choices and decisions for yourself, set and pursue meaningful goals, and experience personal growth and development. It is feeling like you can take charge of your learning experience and connect it to the person you want to be. Having a sense of agency (choice) and purpose (knowing why you are studying) can contribute to your overall well-being and life satisfaction.
Safety, shelter, finances: These are the basic needs that must be met for you to feel secure and stable. Safety can refer to physical safety as well as emotional and psychological safety. Shelter provides a sense of security and privacy, while financial stability enables you to meet your basic needs and pursue other goals.
Intellectual, reflective, and contemplative life: This refers to the importance of engaging in activities that stimulate your mind, encourage self-reflection and contemplation, and foster personal growth and development. These activities can include reading, writing, meditation, and other forms of introspection.
Physical and mental health: This refers to the importance of maintaining good physical and mental health for overall well-being. This includes engaging in regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and taking care of one’s mental health through stress management techniques, therapy, or other forms of self-care.
Working on one’s wellbeing could mean many different things
Thus, to ‘work on one’s wellbeing’ could include activities as diverse as:
- making new friends
- deliberately pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new
- seeking help for financial issues
- starting a learning journal
- getting a gym membership
- taking up meditation
Wellbeing Week is also a time to reflect on the wellbeing of your peers, friends, colleagues and family. If you feel like you are in a good place in your life at the moment, you might celebrate Wellbeing Week by doing something for someone else, doing something to improve the wellbeing of another person.
With these in mind, below are some suggestions for how you might celebrate Wellbeing Week, how you might support other people in their wellbeing, as well as links to services and programs you can use if there is an aspect of your wellbeing in which you need assistance.
First, a quick note about how people generally build wellbeing
Both big changes and smaller consistent changes can contribute to improved wellbeing.
Big changes, such as changing degrees, ending a toxic relationship, or moving home, can provide a fresh start and create new opportunities for growth and fulfillment. However, they can also be overwhelming and stressful, and may not always lead to immediate improvements in wellbeing.
Smaller consistent changes, such as practicing daily gratitude, exercising regularly, maintaining social connections, or engaging in a hobby, may not have the same immediate impact as big changes, but can have a cumulative effect over time. They can also be easier to sustain and integrate into daily life, leading to more long-term benefits for overall wellbeing.
It will likely take some reflection and maybe even some trial and error to work out what changes you could make to improve your wellbeing. If you already feel like you are operating at 110% (like many of us are at the moment) and can’t contemplate a big change, remember that little changes (Fogg refers to them as Tiny Habits) can be transformative.
Connection, community and identity 👩🏾🤝🧑🏼
Here the goal is feeling like you are part of the Flinders community, are socially connected and derive a positive sense of self through those connections.
- For you
- Spend some time at Oasis or do one of their programs
- Add the social media accounts listed previously to your feeds, so you learn more about the people and events happening at Flinders
- Join a club or association
- Strike up a conversation with a stranger in one of your classes
- If you are living away from home, make sure to keep in message contact with friends and family
- Spend more time on campus
- For others
- Encourage peers to join clubs, perhaps one that you’ve joined
- Invite people you don’t know from your classes to social events
- Take the time to listen to and get to know someone new
Many of the most transformative moments of our lives come through our connections. We meet a partner, we collaborate on a project, we meet a future employer. It is in our relationships to people, places, topics and objects that we often find direction and purpose. Western cultures value independence which can lead many (including myself) to strive alone. But often the best outcomes come from striving with others.
Safety, shelter and finances 🏠
Here the goal is ensuring your basic needs are met, so you have the time and energy needed to focus on your studies.
- For you
- The Flinders University Student Association provide a range of financial and food supports
- See if there is a relevant scholarship in your field/area
- Cut food costs by using the Flinders Market
- Seek financial assistance from family and friends
- Explore what services are available in the wider community
- For others
- Take them to the Market
- Buy a friend lunch or dinner
- When in share housing, be as respectful as you can to the needs and privacy of other tenants
Cost of living pressures are hitting many students hard, and they can have a profound effect on a person’s wellbeing. Reach out for assistance if this is the case. Consult the Support Directory for options.
Self-determination, agency, purpose and growth 📈
Here the goal is using your time at uni to develop a sense of purpose, identify and pursue areas of personal growth and take control of the next stages of your life.
- For you
- Join the Horizon program and engage in industry recognised professional development additional to your degree
- Explore what Careers @ Flinders have to offer in terms of services and programs
- Start an extra-curricular activity that is related to your studies (for example, during my PhD, some friends and I started a community for mental health professionals which is still operating 16 years later)
- Engage in a little Life Crafting
- For others
- Ask your friends and peers about their goals – see if there is anything you can do to help them achieve their goals
- Encourage your friends and peers to try new things
- Celebrate the academic and personal successes that you friends and peers experience
University study is, for many people, a key transition point in their life, where they go from doing what is expected of them (at school, or a job) to developing a stronger sense of what they want to do and pursue in their life. Whilst there are things you obviously have to do (e.g. assignments), there is also great freedom to explore topics that interest you and access new and interesting learning opportunities that help you work out who you want to be and take steps towards being that person.
Intellectual, reflective and contemplative life 🤔
The human mind is a fascinating place. You have a wonderful ecosystem of thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, memories in that head of yours. An intellectual, reflective and contemplative life is one where you get to know your own mind and use that knowledge to make better decisions in life.
What would it mean to go exploring in there a little?
- For you
- Take up meditation using one of the many apps available on your phone (e.g. Smiling Mind)
- Increase your extra-curricular reading
- Start a blog or social media account in which you log your learning
- See a counsellor or therapist to talk about your life
- Start journalling
- Get a mentor
- Visit the Flinders University Museaum of Art (FUMA)
- For others
- Start a book or journal club and invite peers to read some of the same materials as you
- In conversation ask your friends questions about their life, what they want to do in their life, who they want to be
- Invite a friend to attend a talk or lecture with you, separate from your degree, and spend some time afterwards chatting about it
Modern university courses contain a significant amount of built-in self-reflection. For example, in addition to be asked to learn core content, you’ll often be asked what it is like to learn that content, how it applies to you and your life, and what the strengths and weaknesses of our current understanding of that topic are. Take advantage of those reflective opportunities when they arise as they boost learning and personal development.
Physical and mental health ❤
The goal here is looking after that meat-suit of yours.
- For you
- For others
- Invite a peer on a walk
- Get a workout buddy
- At social events provide healthy food and drink options as well
It is recognised now that the same lifestyle factors that influence physical health also influence mental health. And perhaps even more importantly for students, lifestyle factors influence learning and performance. For example, sleep is critical to the consolidation of newly learned information and skills and sleep deprivation impairs learning through reduced concentration and attention. When you look after your body and mind, you set a good foundation for success.
Use wellbeing week as a ‘fresh start’
There is a phenomenon in the behaviour change literature called the “fresh start effect”. It is where people are more likely to initiate and maintain behavior change at the start of a new time period, such as the beginning of a new year, month, week, or even a birthday. This effect is thought to be related to the psychological significance that people attach to time points and can use these as cues for change, allowing individuals to create a “clean slate” and separate their past behaviors from their future aspirations. This can make it easier for people to overcome past failures and commit to new goals. Research has shown that the fresh start effect can be a powerful motivator for behavior change and can be harnessed to help people achieve their goals.
🤩 Consider using wellbeing week as a fresh start, where you consider making some changes (such as those described above) to build one or more areas of wellbeing 🤩
There will be lots happening during Wellbeing Week, so if sitting in a corner contemplating the meaning of life isn’t your deal (it is ok if it is), there will be lots on campus to entertain: activities on campus, stalls, gratitude wall, Good Vibes Experiment books and merch, wellbeing ambassadors, mindful colouring, plants/succulents, Flinders Mates, Meditation sessions, Conversation groups, Market and more.
The Wellbeing Week webpage is live now. In addition, you’ll get a Ping! newsletter and all of student email arriving soon with more details. So, there won’t be a shortage of reminders.
I hope you have a great Wellbeing Week.