It's the New Year and a new decade too and typically a time when people think of self renewal - taking on a resolution or a new challenge and thinking of this reminded me of a learning experience I had just before Christmas.


Whilst hosting a conference on loneliness and isolation in early December I was introduced to the concept of 'self care' from a charity that provides suicide prevention and it rung some bells for me in my work too.


It's a simple concept really - that it is really important for people to find and know means by which they can basically look after themselves - mentally as well as physically.  Activities that basically provide comfort and warmth to the mind and soul as well as the body.  There were a number of pictorial examples on the slide including something as simple as having a cup of tea but also included on there was taking a walk in the outdoors and also one with someone doing some exercise.


As I say it struck a chord with me and as well as reminding me of the importance of living an active lifestyle for mental wellbeing it also demonstrated the importance of physical activity as a means by which others can achieve their objectives - whether that be suicide prevention, other forms of health care or achieving improved performance in education or work.  Learning to include physical activity as part of 'self care' is a really important element within the hierarchy of human needs.  Being active isn't a luxury - it's a basic need.  And learning to be active in a way that re- Energize's you is a critical life skill which needs nurturing in young and old.  Assuming that once learnt it will never be forgotten is dangerous as clearly activities which were enjoyable when we are younger may not be physically possible when we're older.


I've also been involved in lots of conversations about developing resilience in recent times - resilience in individuals (e.g. To look after self in some circumstances rather than always turning to local GP) and resilience in communities (e.g. To provide local support and services running local facilities and responding to need rather than expecting govt to do it for us).  And it struck me that the concept of self care is fundamental in developing resilience too.  So how can we encourage it.


We certainly need to think about it and talk about it.  At Energize we talk about finding something that makes your heart beat faster - something that provides that mental respite from daily worries and cares as well as something that literally makes your pulse rate rise.  And like anything in life you do have to try lots of things in order to find the things you like and work at them to sustain your involvement.  For many people just getting outside in the fresh air and experiencing the great outdoors is all it takes.  It doesn't have to cost a huge amount although sometimes it may seem like hard work.  It should certainly not be considered a luxury (although it can be very uplifting and sometimes can be expensive - depending on the activity) and I would argue it is a critical element of life.  It's easy to put it to the bottom of the list - to ignore it - to think that other (often easier) things are more pressing or important - but this is the temptation we must avoid.  Also are you asking friends and family about their active lives - what makes their heart beat faster - are you supporting and nurturing each other in your passions?


Asking these questions of groups of people who may not have learnt this important life skill yet is a key part of the work many of the Energize team are involved in.  Helping a range of people and organisations to consider what they like and when and how it might be convenient so that we can increase motivation and remove barriers to getting started.  Not assuming we know the answers and / or that everyone will like the same activity.  We often find that this little bit of 'self care' can lead to other improvements and improved confidence or feelings of self worth.  Often it involves meeting others who might start appreciating a similar mindset too and this improved positivity can result in all kinds of other proactive actions.

The recent #WeAreUndefeatable campaign is a movement supporting people with a range of long term health conditions, developed by 15 leading health and social care charities. The purpose is to support and encourage finding ways to be active that work with each person’s conditions, not against them. Here at Energize we fully support this campaign and its goals and I mention it here as there is a real fit with the message of this new year blog. 

I've written before about the importance of trying lots of activities and learning to lead an active lifestyle when you're young - and the worrying evidence that some children (more commonly from poorer backgrounds) are actually doing less and less.  But it's not just a responsibility of schools and parents - we also know that mental wellbeing is becoming a major issue for many working adults and so perhaps the workplace has a responsibility to consider how active lifestyles could be promoted and and encouraged through the working day?  Inevitably the older we get the less physically able we become but this isn't a good reason to stop altogether - although it's entirely an understandable reaction following illness or any kind of injury / fall.  We have to find ways to encourage and support older people to stay active - certainly developing skills of volunteers and the activity workforce has to have a major emphasis in the future.  Rightly as a nation we put a lot of emphasis on maintaining our National Health Service but one way we could and should protect it from the challenges of the future is to encourage preventative measures - prevention should always come before cure - and if we could encourage more 'self care' I think it would go a long way to achieving this.   

I'll finish with a question - which comes first - learning to love, learning to achieve examination results or learning to get a job?  I think you know which I believe is the start and so I'll conclude that I hope all readers find something active to love in 2020.