Practising mindfulness, performing small acts of kindness and finding a keeping a gratitude journal are among a range of effective strategies people can adopt to improve their personal wellbeing, a new study has found.
Researchers at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Flinders University conducted the largest meta-analysis of wellbeing studies from around the world to uncover the best ways to build personal wellbeing.
The analysis included more than 400 clinical trials involving over 50,000 participants. Researchers divided people into three main groups – those in generally good health, those with physical illness, and those with mental illness.
The found it is possible to build the wellbeing of all individuals, however, there is no one-size fits all solution.
“During stressful and uncertain periods in our lives, proactively working on our mental health is crucial to help mitigate the risk of mental and physical illness,” co-author Joep Van Agteren said.
“Our research suggests there are numerous psychological approaches people should experiment with to determine what works for them.”
The research found practicing mindfulness, and using techniques such as meditation and conscious breathing, was effective at boosting wellbeing across the three groups.
Positive psychological interventions, such as working on one’s sense of purpose, performing small acts of kindness and keeping a gratitude journal were also shown to be effective, but only when done in combination, and not individually.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) proved beneficial for people who experience mental illness, while acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) was most useful among those in generally good health.
Co-author Matthew Iasiello, from SAHMRI, says all interventions share a common need for consistent and prolonged practice in order to be effective in improving wellbeing.
“Just trying something once or twice isn’t enough to have a measurable impact,” he says.
“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.”
Professor Michael Kyrios, from the Orama Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Flinders University, says the study illustrates that in addition to seeking professional help when distressed, people can also adopt many practical steps 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 formal, either in person or online,” Professor Kyrios said.
“It is therefore potentially a cost-effective addition to current referral pathways and treatment methods.
“We need to take everyone’s wellbeing seriously and ensue 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.”
Researchers will continue the meta-analysis year on year to build on the evidence and ensure it stays up to date.
The data forms the foundation of the ‘Be Well Plan’, a wellbeing program that is delivered in-person via an app, which can be accessed here