As a team we are interested in ‘positive health’ and would like to share with you some tips from people living with and beyond cancer in Gloucestershire and from the emerging science of health and wellbeing.

What is wellbeing?

Because happiness is such a vague term, wellbeing is often used instead. Wellbeing can be broadly looked at as,

feeling good and doing well

A person can also be said to be ‘flourishing’ if they are experiencing good wellbeing.  If a person is flourishing, they can often feel they are:

  • Doing well
  • Building strong relationships
  • Using their skills
  • Working well
  • Being creative
  • Managing their health
  • Helping others
  • Experiencing feelings of achievement

So, if you would like to protect and improve your wellbeing and feel like you are flourishing, you may wish to focus on taking the next steps to build and strengthen each of these areas. 

Small steps and top tips towards: Protecting and Improving Your Wellbeing

The following small steps are based firmly on the emerging science of health and wellbeing complemented by top tips sent to Macmillan Next Steps from people living with and beyond cancer in Gloucestershire. 

Self help tips

Discover and use your strengths

Our strengths are things we are good at, things we enjoy doing and that other people appreciate about us. Using our strengths can mean we are doing more of what makes us (and others) happy.

Often, many of us concentrate more on what’s wrong with our selves, rather than what’s right with ourselves. Its fine to aim for ‘good enough.’

Top Tip “What simple thing would make you happy?"

Top Tip “Do things you like – this is a time to put yourself first”

People who are comfortable with who they are, who know their strengths and use them seem more resilient, able to bounce back well after stress.

 Discovering your strengths might help, they may:

  • help us feel more positive about ourselves
  • help us make progress and achieve our goals

Notice the good things

Top Tip “Laughter is a good medicine”

 There is more to life when you stop and take notice. Everyday might not be good…but there will be something good in everyday.

 It is well known that the brain is often non-stick for good and Velcro for bad.

 No one lives the ‘perfect’ life free of challenges, pain or setbacks. Our bodies and brain are made to notice these difficult things in our lives and danger and threats.  Our brains evolved to help us survive, not make us happy.

 Good things do happen to us all, but it takes practice to notice them. See life as it is, but focus on the good bits.

Top Tip “Try and approach the day positively but don’t beat yourself up if it’s a struggle – try to be kind and encouraging to yourself”

 Appreciating good things in life, noticing the world around us might help, they may:

  • Help us feel more more positive
  • Help us feel a sense of achievement as we notice what has gone well for us

Take Control - Make some goals

 Top Tip “Start with an achievable goal. This could be a small thing like get dressed and walk to the local shop.”

We all have goals - to be healthier, to increase contact with nature, to learn a new skill, feel better etc.  Goals can help give life meaning and purpose. Goals can help us have structure and direction. It may help to know what you are looking forward to.

The kind of goals we have can make a difference to our wellbeing.  Goals are best if they are about personal development rather than external goals, such as fame and wealth. Goals we move towards and are achievable, are often better for us than goals about avoiding something.

 If goals are no longer achievable, still striving for them can lead to feeling low and even depression. Strive for progress, not perfection.

 Top tip “Adapt your schedule to suit your capabilities – listen to your body and be flexible in your plans”

Goals can give us direction, give us something to look forward to. Making achievable goals might help, they may: 

  • Help us feel more positive about ourselves as we make progress towards a goal
  • Help us feel healthier if we reach health goals - e.g. reach a healthy weight, stop smoking etc.
  • Linking goals to what’s important to us can help us feel more positive and in control of our lives

Active Everyday

Top Tip “Try and take some exercise – from wiggling fingers to running marathons!”

This is one of the most important things many of us can do to protect and improve - and recover - our wellbeing. Activity can help us flourish. Activity can help us take care of our own bodies and health.

Activity isn’t just good for physical health, its great for overall wellbeing too. Activity has a wide range of benefits: wellbeing, sleep, weight, fatigue, health, recovery, depression prevention and treatment, loneliness etc etc

There are many ways to improve your activity levels.  They key thing is to find something you enjoy and will look forward to.  Whatever activity is chosen, research shows it often best to do it regularly, try and get into a habit to really get the benefits of increasing our activity.

Becoming more active might help, it may

  • Help us feel more positive emotions
  • Improve our health
  • Improve our social networks
  • Quickly achieve goals and feelings of accomplishment

Eat well, feel good 

Eat well, feel good 

Top Tip “Look at your lifestyle to make simple lasting changes like diet for example”

We are what we eat…. Eating well helps us take care of our bodies and health.

There are lots of ways to eat better - no need to ‘go on a diet’.  Eating a healthier, balanced diet and sticking with it may help improve feelings of wellbeing and help us flourish.

Eating better might help, it may:

  • Help us experience positive emotions as we feel better and have more energy to achieve our goals
  • Improve our health in many, many ways
  • Feel accomplished as our weight or health changes

Sleep better

Many people struggle with sleep.

Our minds are word machines, generating words and images all day long.  All night too.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our thoughts, they seem like reality. This can lead to stress and poor sleep.
Developing better sleep patterns can make a real difference to feelings of wellbeing, energy levels and quality of life. Sleep for wellbeing, getting more sleep is linked to higher well-being.

Having patterns and structure can help with sleep. Be active, relax, rest and repeat daily. Things that help others include:

  • Having regular bed times
  • Leaving phones, screens etc out of the bedroom
  • Not napping or resting too much in the day
  • Increasing activity levels
  • Avoiding caffeine in the evening
  • Asking for help

Top Tip “Be patient: this is an evolutionary process and it takes time to recover.”

 

Achieving better quality sleep might help, it may

  • Help us feel more positive
  • Improve our health in many ways
  • Being rested can reduce irritability and can help relationships
  • Waking up refreshed and energised can help achieve goals and be more productive

Learn something new

Humans are naturally curious.

Boredom can be painful and lonely so it encourages us to get active, find out what’s going on, get involved and learn new skills.

There are lots of new things to get involved with, or learn in Gloucestershire. The list is huge.

Top Tip “Do things you like – this is a time to put yourself first”

Often, people who flourish engage in life. Feeling like we are flourishing wont come to us, we have to put attention, energy and effort into it.

Learning something new might help, it may:

  • Help us feel more positive
  • Bring joy
  • Help improve our health - dependent on what new thing to learn
  • Help us become more involved with others or help others
  • Help relationships, meet new people if we choose to learn with others
  • Help life feel meaningful, leading to feelings of achievement or accomplishment

Top tip “Build a team of support around you…”

Stay in the present moment

How we feel is often determined by how we allocate our attention and what we choose to focus on.  Savouring simple pleasures can make us feel good.  We don’t have to be busy, its ok to have a calm life being content with what we have.

Top Tip “Try and approach the day positively but don’t beat yourself up if it’s a struggle – try to be kind and encouraging to yourself”

Sometimes we think about the past, when we look back we experience feelings of loss, sadness, guilt, hurt and anger. We may find it hard to let go of grudges, anger and bitterness.  And when we look forward, we can experience worry, dread and anxiety of things that COULD happen.

One way to help these negative feelings is to try and live in the here and now.  Bring our attention back to today, the present moment.  This is a difficult skill as our minds always want to wander, but it’s a skill that can be developed with practice.

Top Tip “Things might never be the same again but some things can be better. This is your “new normal” – give yourself time to get used to it.”

Staying in the present moment might help, it may:

  • Help reduce worry and anxiety and experience less negative emotions
  • May reduce feelings of stress and thus improve health
  • May help improve focus and achievement

Think differently about things

If we don’t like something, change it.  If we can’t change it, change the way we think about it. Different people get angry, sad and distressed by different things.  Its often the way we view a situation or what we tell ourselves about it that effects how we view it.

Top Tip “Cry if you want to: it’s Ok to be fed up or angry”

When something bad happens:

  • Try not to take it personally
  • Try and see that this bad thing affects a few areas of life, not every area of life
  • If something goes wrong, don’t forget all the things that are going right

 

Top Tip “This (cancer) experience can challenge your beliefs about life. Even if you’re not religious, this might be a time to explore your spiritual self.”

Tips for dark moments:

  • Remind yourself “this too will pass”
  • Ignore your thoughts
  • Focus on the good things

Thinking differently can help reduce stress. It may help you to accept yourself more as you are without labelling yourself.  Remember to be kind to yourself too.  This is important as we are often more critical and less kind to ourselves than we are to others.

Top tip “Find someone or somewhere you can be open and honest about how you feel.“

How thinking differently about things might help, it may:

  • Help you feel more positiveImprove your health if you make changes, e.g. lifestyle changes
  • Relationships may change if you stop taking things more personally
  • May help you take risks and learn new things

 

Ask for help

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.  Its actually a sign of great strength.

Top Tip “Recovery isn’t just physical – take care of your mental health. Say out loud if you’re struggling.”

There are a range of problems that can reduce our feelings of wellbeing and stop us from flourishing. Physical and mental health problems that perhaps you are ignoring or don’t know who could help. Macmillan Next Steps can help you readjust to life when you are living with, or after cancer.

If you are waiting for the right time to ask for help, its now.

Flourishing is not the absence of problems, it’s having the ability, knowledge and skills to deal with problems.  If you need help, contact us.  Macmillan Next Steps will aim to support you to make choices and reach your goals.

Asking for help might help, it may:

  • Help you feel more positive about your situation
  • May improve your health if it’s a physical health problem, or if it reduces worry and anxiety to talk to someone
  • If the problem is interfering with the quality of your relationships, and you fix it or reduce it, relationships can improve
  • You may feel a sense of accomplishment if you make progress with a problem you have been ignoring or struggling with on your own

 

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