A personal wellbeing quest

In the era of self-care, one of the biggest conundrums we face is finding an answer to the question: ‘What’s the best way to build personal wellbeing?’.

To answers this question, researchers at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Flinders University have reportedly conducted the largest ever meta-analysis of wellbeing studies from around the world.

The analysis included 400-plus clinical trials involving more than 50,000 participants, who were divided into three main groups: those in generally good health, those with physical illness and those with mental illness.

While the researchers found that it’s possible to build the wellbeing of all individuals, Mr Joep Van Agteren, co-lead at the SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, says there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

“During stressful and uncertain periods in our lives, pro-actively working on our mental health is crucial to help mitigate the risk of mental and physical illness,” says Mr Van Agteren.

“Our research suggests there are numerous psychological approaches people should experiment with to determine what works for them.”

Interventions to increase wellbeing

The researchers found that practicing mindfulness along with using techniques such as meditation and conscious breathing were effective at increasing wellbeing.

They also found that when done in combination, working on your sense of purpose, performing small acts of kindness and keeping a gratitude journal were shown to be effective in enhancing wellbeing.

For those with mental illness, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) proved to be beneficial, while acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) was most useful for those in generally good health.

Professor Michael Kyrios from the Órama Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Flinders University says the study shows that in addition to seeking out professional help when distressed, there are many practical steps people can take to improve their wellbeing and prevent mental health problems.

“Implementing such interventions can be done safely for individuals on their own or in a group format, either in person or online,” says Professor Kyrios.

“It is therefore potentially a cost-effective addition to current referral pathways and treatment methods.”

However, study co-author, Mr Matthew Iasiello from SAHMRI says that for the interventions to work, consistency is key.

“Just trying something once or twice isn’t enough to have a measurable impact. Regardless of what method people are trying out, they need to stick at it for weeks and months at a time for it to have a real effect,” says Mr Iasiello.

Change of tactics needed

The researchers believe the results of this study highlight the need for a change of tactics in how society cares for people’s wellbeing, whether they’re living with a mental illness or not.

“We need to take everyone’s wellbeing seriously and ensure we’re taking the necessary steps to improve mental and physical health so we can prevent future complications for ourselves and keep healthcare costs down,” says Professor Kyrios.

To read the research study, visit: nature.com/articles/s41562-021-01093-w

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