mental health

5 Steps to Better Mental and Physical Health - Step 1: Positive Emotion


5 steps to better mental and physical health

Step 1: Positive emotion

To mark “Mental Health Awareness Week” - which this year has its focus on body image - I’m writing a daily blog describing five foundations for wellbeing and happiness. 

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, developed the PERMA model to show what we need in our lives to feel better both mentally and physically:

  • Positive emotion

  • Engagement

  • Relationships

  • Meaning

  • Accomplishments

This week, I’ll consider how each pillar can help us to see body image in a different light and build towards a healthier mind and way of living. Body image has two important aspects:

  1. how we think about ourselves and our bodies

  2. how others perceive us and the effect that can have on our mental state

Looking for what’s good

Today’s post, then, is about positivity - the idea that we should look for the good rather than focus on the bad. This doesn’t imply an approach to life where you believe that bad things won’t happen; they will! Instead, it’s about adopting a positive mindset in adversity - however big or small - and beyond those moments, too.

We can interpret situations in all sorts of ways, even though many may be out of our control (and therefore not a reason for being self-critical). In those parts of life where we feel that we are managing well, the failures can seem larger or more important - and may, as a result, mean that we think less of ourselves.

To be more positive and, consequently, kinder to ourselves, we have to recognise that events aren’t good or bad. Rather, it’s our interpretation of those events, and the meaning we attach to them, that give them a value. And these values, derived from our initially positive or negative thoughts about situations, can drive us into an upwardly positive cycle - or go the other way.

Cultivating gratitude

One way of savouring what’s good is to cultivate gratitude - an approach I’ve blogged about before.

Positive emotion and body image

The concept of body image can provide us with plenty of opportunities for feeling positive about ourselves. Although we can sometimes be tempted to focus more on the things we don’t like. 

Have you ever spent time feeling grateful for how your body WORKS?

When we move from thinking about the negatives - ‘this bit is too big’ or ‘this bit is too flabby’, to ‘wow, that muscles just allowed me to get up from my chair’ or ‘I’m feeling stronger in my back today’ we are cultivating gratitude towards ourselves and generating positive emotion (- one of the core foundations of wellbeing). 

So why not try it today? Spend a minute just noticing all the amazing things about you and your body. Acknowledge the parts of yourself that are working hard to help you perform everyday and supporting you to do the things you want to do. 

Here’s a few from my list:

  • My legs - thanks for being strong and allowing me to walk to the places I want to go, and even to run if I’m a bit late! 

  • My fingers - thanks for connecting with my brain and allowing me to type this blog post on my computer. 

  • My eyes - thanks for working well and letting me see the beautiful colours emerging in my garden. And for being so similar to my Mum’s eyes, that when I look in the mirror, I see her too. 

Tomorrow, we’ll be exploring ENGAGEMENT and I’ll be sharing more tips about how we can build a positive body image and support our wellbeing.

Think:Education, Think:Family

Day 3: Be Mindful - Children's Mental Health Week #ChildrensMHW


Day 3: Be Mindful

This week it’s Children’s Mental Health Week (#childrensmhw) and, at ThinkAvellana, we’re sharing simple ways to boost wellbeing in children. We hope parents, grandparents, carers, teachers - and anyone else who cares for children and young people - will find them useful.

Our minds can be very busy, getting pulled into thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Finding ways to focus on what’s happening in the present moment is another way to build your child’s wellbeing. 

Here are three different ways to help children develop their mindfulness skills, which will probably work best if you join in too (especially if it’s younger children involved). 

1) Draw for 10 minutes

Give everyone a pencil and paper, set a timer for 10 minutes, and draw something you can see. Bring your attention to the shapes, colours, and patterns. Look at the object from different angles. Challenge older children to see if they can spot when their mind’s wandering (or wondering!) and bring their attention back to the drawing. This activity isn’t about how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the drawing is, it’s about whether you can focus on the activity and bring your attention back when it wanders. 

2) Take a bear for a ride

Younger children may enjoy this simple mindfulness technique for bringing attention to their breath. Ask your child to find their favourite small soft toy. Lay flat on the floor and invite them to put the soft toy on their tummy. Set a timer for two minutes, and ask them to watch how the toy moves up and down as they breathe in and out. This simple act of noticing the movement allows your child to remain “in the moment” for more than one moment.

3) Train the “puppy mind”

Older children (and adults) might enjoy watching this video from the Mindfulness In Schools Project. It’s a 10-minute mindfulness practice that uses a fun and playful animation. 

If you’ve got other mindfulness based activities that work for you, your family or school, we’d love to hear about them. Join the wellbeing conversation on our Facebook page

We’ve been sharing other ways to boost wellbeing in children on our blog here


Think:Family, Think:Education

Bright Future

                                                                              Illustration: "Bright Future" by Peter Knock

                                                                              Illustration: "Bright Future" by Peter Knock

When I first saw Shawn Achor’s Tedtalk, I knew that something exciting was happening. I stopped everything. I watched it again. I rushed in from my office to show it to my husband. He watched it and at the end, smiled and said ‘Hey, he just said what you’ve been saying for the last few months’. 

And this is what I’ve been saying:

I think we need to start teaching our children about emotional wellness.

Children should know as much about their emotional health as they do their physical health. If you ask a 10 year old what being healthy means, they can tell you: eat five-a-day, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. But what if we ask them what emotional health is? Do they know about that? 

Statistically, in a class of 30 children, 3 will suffer from a diagnosable mental health problem. 

3 is too many. 

So here’s the plan. I’m going to share what I’ve learned from my work as a clinical psychologist, both from the research and from my experiences with children and families. I’ll talk about the useful ways we can teach children about how our brains work, the safe ways to explore about ‘big’ feelings and how we can help them develop emotional intelligence and reduce their risk of mental health problems. If you know of other parents who might be interested in learning this, please let them know about ThinkAvellana too.

But for now, I start my journey by sharing Shawn’s TedTalk with you. He figured out the Happiness = Success equation: the first steps towards a bright future. 


Written by Dr Hazel Harrison - Clinical Psychologist