At this time of year, after the excesses of Christmas and because of the cold dark January days, our thoughts naturally turn to our own wellbeing. We book holidays so that we can look forward to sunshine and relaxation, we go on diets or join a gym to improve our health and we take up hobbies to sustain our mental and physical wellbeing during winter days.
According to research done by the New Economics Foundation (nef) there are five ways to wellbeing (see the link at the bottom of this post). With a little thought it is possible to apply these five ways to most hobbies and activities to demonstrate that they boost wellbeing. For example, photography is a very popular hobby and research also shows that photography is a great way to boost wellbeing using the five ways:
Connect – social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing so taking up photography as a hobby, joining a camera club, sharing your photographs with family, friends and using social media like Pinterest and Flickr, taking part in competitions and so forth are all great ways to maintain existing relationships and to create new ones.
Be Active - Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting wellbeing generally. Photography provides many opportunities to get outside in the fresh air and take exercise.
Take Notice - Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities. Photography is all about taking notice and capturing the moment.
Learn - Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. Taking up photography as a hobby provides great opportunities for learning. We hope that our photography titles will provide interactive exercises that promote active learning.
Give - Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing. There are many case studies that show how photography can be used to give something back to the community. Photography is now an integral part of a great many social and community projects and can therefore be seen as an act of giving in many instances. Also, on a very basic level, sharing photographs with family and friends gives great pleasure to both the photographer and the recipient.
Another example of five ways to wellbeing is inspired by the wonderful HenPower project developed in Gateshead https://www.facebook.com/henpowerproject It is clear that this project, designed to encourage older people to become involved in keeping chickens, improves wellbeing in all five areas:
Connect – keeping chickens has helped the ‘Hensioners’ wellbeing by reducing their isolation and depression. HenPower actively encourages people to connect with other members and to take part in chicken-related activities.
Be Active – as well as advice on practical hen-keeping, which involves physical activity, the HenPower project also includes other hen-based activities like music, art and craft and even dance. Having a pet to care for means you have to get up and get active and physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your feelings of wellbeing.
Take Notice – there are plenty of opportunities to savour the moment and take notice when caring for hens. Taking time to watch your chickens search for food, have dust baths, interact with each other and with you will provide opportunities to notice that hens have personalities, they are not stupid, they make caring mothers and they are a social animal that has complex relationships.
Learn – there is plenty to learn when you start keeping hens. You can learn from others by actively engaging in the hen-keeping community and you can learn from books such as our own edition of Poultry-keeping and from other sources too.
Give – HenPower is clearly an act of giving to older people but the people involved have the opportunity to give their knowledge and experience to others – providing words of wisdom on keeping hens based on their own experience. Also, on a very basic level, having pets provides lots of opportunities for giving care to animals, which is, of course, good for their wellbeing, but having something to care for is good for the carer’s wellbeing too. It is also clear that the HenPower hens give a great deal to their carers in many different ways. For example, it is estimated that isolation increases the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 50% (The Campaign to End Loneliness). The hens provide many opportunities to connect with others and reduce isolation. The hens also give older people a purpose in life, they reduce depression and give laughter and entertainment.
Of course, you could combine your hobbies by taking and sharing photographs of your chickens (we have some lovely photographs of beautiful chickens on our Pinterest Self-sufficiency and Keeping Chickens board).
All our books are designed to support wellbeing in one way or another. Also, of course, there is the pleasure to be had from reading itself, whether it be reading about the exciting airborne adventures of Amy Johnson in Sky Roads of the World and the early aviation pioneers in The Boys’ Book of Aeroplanes, or the more down-to-earth but delightful description of working on a smallholding in The Cottage Farm by F.E. Green. This year will see the publication of our new titles in photography, health and other topics relating to wellbeing. We are also striking out in new ventures including Professional Publishing Services for authors who want to self-publish their work, and our project to sell high-quality prints of some of the lovely illustrations in our Vintage Words of Wisdom titles (see the new ‘Prints’ page). So come and visit us often to see what’s new from Words to the Wise and RHE Media. If you would like to receive a regular email newsletter then please register with us.
Happy New Year! We look forward to helping to adding life to your years and years to your life in 2015.