All of us have been affected in some way by the challenging times we’ve been through over the past two years and with the current pressures on our lives. Being in the depths of winter can make it all seem even harder to cope with. Based on up-to-date research from the UK, the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (https://mentalhealth.org.nz) provides the Five Ways to Wellbeing. They are:
• Connect with people – talk and listen.
• Give your time, words and presence.
• Notice and remember the simple things that give you joy.
• Keep learning, embrace new experiences.
• Be active.
We are very fortunate in this beautiful country of ours that we don’t have to go far to find places where we can achieve these ways to wellbeing. Having been a volunteer at Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary for many years, I’ve experienced firsthand the benefits of being there. The sanctuary includes native bush resounding with birdsong, wide open spaces (farmland), intriguing wetlands, rugged rocky coastlines, and pristine white-sand beaches. The latest issue of New Scientist states that places where water meets green space can be the most restorative of all to spend time in. And just like in the safety briefing on an aeroplane, we need to put that ‘wellbeing mask’ on ourselves first before we can support the wellbeing of our whānau and communities.
At Tāwharanui, I’ve worked alongside many others who help with a wide variety of tasks like working in the native tree nursery, planting trees, monthly checking of a trapline for predator control, removing invasive and non-endemic weeds, maintenance of tracks and basic infrastructure. All tasks can be selected depending on interests and fitness levels. Skills can be learned from experienced volunteers.
Tasks can be carried out individually, or in a group which can be an opportunity to find all five ways to wellbeing. New volunteers are always welcome.
The Mental Health Foundation explains that, “Volunteering and being involved with your community is strongly linked with feeling good and functioning well. Carrying out acts of kindness, whether small or large, can increase happiness, life satisfaction and a general sense of wellbeing. Giving is important for everyone – no matter what age you are. Giving helps develop children’s brains and supports them to learn to be kind and generous. Giving gives adults a sense of purpose and improves self-esteem. Older people who have left the workforce benefit hugely from sharing their time, knowledge, skills and resources”.
To volunteer at Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary, go to www.tossi.org.nz