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Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

Sophie Preston
23 Aug 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week is coming up (18 - 24 September 2023)! The theme this year is FIVE WAYS, FIVE DAYS - 5 proven tools to boost our mental health.

To give us all some inspiration, we asked a few of our top Mental Health Speakers for their FIVE WAYS to stay mentally strong.

What's the most important and effective of the FIVE WAYS? Make sure to scroll down to video from Dr Lucy Hone!

Kristina Cavit

Take notice - Whenever I worry about the apparent bleak future, I do my best to stop and see if I can enjoy the present moment. Taking just one full deep breath can calm my entire body and mind. A 30 second way to get present is to tune into your 5 senses - what can you see, hear, feel, smell and taste right now?

Give - helping others always gives me perspective. I volunteered at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for 2 years and it was one of the happiest times of my life. No matter how stressed I am, spending just five minutes with the teenagers I works with reminds me of what’s important. There's also great research that giving back to the community boosts our mental health and wellbeing! Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, feelings by releasing dopamine.

Be active - Having a chronic illness can make it hard to exercise. I follow a 10 minute rule: no matter how terrible I feel, all I need to do is walk, practice yoga or move for 10 minutes. This 10 minute rule takes the pressure off and it almost always turns into more. I'm a fan of finding a form of movement that excites you. I co-founded FAT YOGA which is a body positive community fighting to make a safe space for everybody to practice yoga. Exercise gives me so much clarity and research shows that being active is disease prevention!

Connect - When I'm feeling low, it's tempting to stay inside with Netflix and ice cream. But spending time with my whanau and mates ALWAYS lifts my spirits. I love challenging myself to smile at strangers - it makes my day when I get a big grin back! I also take the time each night, to pause and get specific about what I’m grateful for. It might be the small things - how cute my dog is - or the big things - my health - but just ending the day with some gratitude means I’ve been waking up happier and with more energy for the day ahead.

Keep learning - We learn so much in school but we miss out on the most important lesson - how to deal with life when things get tough. I love learning about mental health & I get so much joy from finding an awesome nerdy podcast or author. I see learning as more than just formal education, it can be about unlearning things that have held us back. Something we practice in Mindfulness is having a “beginners mind” where you approach each experience as though it’s the first time you’re seeing it. This helps me to let go of judgements and to be more open to the environment around me.

Jehan Casinader

Take notice - When I travel for work, I always choose the window seat. While gazing at the view, I have some of my best ideas – and get a fresh perspective on the problems I'm dealing with. So refreshing.

Give - This week, I had a drink with someone who wanted to improve their public speaking. I enjoy encouraging people, but in this case, the other person ended up encouraging me!

Be active - On Saturday mornings, I love to grab a coffee and walk down Oriental Parade in Wellington. No matter how windy it is, it's the perfect opportunity to shake off the week's stresses.

Connect - Wellington has an annual festival called "Burger Wellington". I never pass up an opportunity to smash a burger, and it's a great reason to catch up with friends. Sharing food with awesome people always fills my tank.

Keep learning - I'm not an avid reader, but I love listening to podcasts, especially when I'm on the road. Today I listened to a podcast about how to silence your inner critic. It gave me so many lightbulb moments.

Gen Mora

Take notice - I love practicing gratitude as it helps me take notice and appreciate the things around me.

Give - I love giving my time, my words and my love to those in my life.

Be active - I love moving my body and one of my favourite ways to do so is a walk with my dog and husband along the beach.

Connect - Connecting / spending time with friends and family always fills my cup.

Keep learning - I am in the process of learning more about my Whakapapa which has been a really special journey so far

Jase Te Patu

Take notice - ME ARO TONU - Each day begins with Taumārire or Mindfulness. That looks like Karakia, a 15-minute meditation practice and journaling on my Te Whare Tapa Whā, three things I am grateful for and three things I aspire to do that day.

Give - TUKUA - I am privileged to be in a position to do mahi putea (or well-paid work) so that I can donate my time to mahi tautoko (volunteer mahi). I get to give back this year and beyond to TEDx Wellington, a not-for-profit that shares local TED Talks. I am head speaker coach and speaker selector, as well as a board member. I also do speaking events complimentary for chosen kaupapa, especially mental health related.

Be active - ME KORI TONU - Six days a week are dedicated to my tinana. Whether it's HIIT classes, strength training with weights, hīkoi up local maunga or a yoga class. Moving my body is a MUST to lower my cortisol levels and get that natural hit of dopamine. After exercise, my body and mind are ready for the day.

Connect - ME WHAKAWHANAUNGA - Friends and whānau are super important to me. I believe in quality, not quantity, time spent, tools down, devices down and being present with each other. Instant cup filler! My partner and I still have "date days", which are essential for navigating our full individual calendars.

Keep learning - ME AKO TONU - I am loving being a student this year. I'm studying te reo Māori Level.7. at Te Wānanga or Aotearoa. I get a fill-up every week of our beautiful language and culture with a whānau of dedicated students who love the reo as much as I do. Mīharo rawa atu - super special!

Brooke Neal

Take notice - It’s easy for me to get swept up in the never ending ‘to do’ list, so whenever possible during the day, I use the 5 senses exercise to bring myself into the present.
You can try it for yourself! Look around right now. Notice 5 things that you see, 4 things that you can touch, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, one thing that you can taste.

Give -
When I was an athlete, I felt that my life was quite selfish. When I started to give my time to younger athletes and share my learnings with them, I had an immense sense of pride and purpose.
Giving can often seem quite overwhelming, where do you even start? For me, sometimes it’s as simple as giving a small compliment to the person you see at the supermarket.

Be active -
For almost a decade, my sport kept me from ever having to question how I could be active - we were given an exact programme to follow! Since retirement, I’ve tried to do ‘little and often’ to remain consistent. Having a baby meant I had to focus on small amounts of time. But I would keep asking myself, do I enjoy this? If I didn’t, I’d change to something else. Being active doesn’t have to be a punishment! My favourite ways to be active:
- Walk the dog in nature
- 20 minute online yoga
- 30 minute Pilates
- Bike riding

Connect -
When I go through hard times, it’s easy to close off and keep things to myself. I struggle to ask for help! But when I feel like that, I always get on the phone to a friend or family member. Being a new mum, I was really clear about asking for help.
Connection for me is different depending on what season of life I’m in. It used to look like a lot of online communication since I was away overseas with the Black Sticks so often. Now, it looks like my weekly catch ups with mum friends!
Whatever season you’re in, a good question to ask yourself is - who have I been meaning to connect with for a while but keep forgetting to? Reach out to them today!

Keep learning
- Learning doesn’t have to be boring! Sometime I think our school and university system puts people off learning more. I love learning new things, from learning more about the wellbeing space, to the latest neuroscience, to crochet!
My favourite way to learn is to listen to podcasts interviews. Then if I really resonate with their message, I read their book. Two of my favourite podcast hosts are:
Jay Shetty - On Purpose
The Imperfect

TAKE NOTICE - ME ARO TONU - I’m currently paying attention to my inner talk. It went a little rogue recently and I’ve been reining it back in. Our thoughts are real but not always right. Tara Brach and Kristin Neff’s self-compassion practices help me effectively pay attention, learn from what’s going on, and change unhelpful thinking.

GIVE - TUKUA - Right now I’m focused on giving appreciation and feedback to people around me on their strengths and the good work they are doing. Giving appreciation literally lights people up, puts fuel in their tank, and builds connection. This is a burnout preventer we could all be using more at work.

BE ACTIVE - ME KORI TONU - I have to get outside every day. Get my feet on some grass or stone and remind myself I’m on this beautiful living planet of ours. If I’m working on something challenging, moving helps my thinking. It’s hard for thinking to stay stuck when you’re biking or walking outside.

CONNECT - ME WHAKAWHANAUNGA - When both partners in a house travel for work, time together is precious. When we’re at home, my day starts with two cups of tea in bed with my partner, and a ‘what’s good?’ and ‘what are you looking forward to?’ conversation. If I’m in need of a boost while away from home, the phone is my friend. I’ll talk to someone who loves me – often my kids, sister, or partner.

KEEP LEARNING - ME AKO TONU - Learning and growth make life worthwhile for me. Any difficult project becomes more enjoyable when I can frame it as learning or an adventure. At work, I’m currently learning about human sustainability in wellbeing, economics, design, and policy, and at home, I’m learning to garden again in the dry soils of Central Otago.

What's the most important of the FIVE WAYS for flourishing mental health? We asked our expert, Dr Lucy Hone:

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