A different kind of 5 a day

19 February 2015

Blog by Michelle Livesley

This week I found myself having a conversation with someone about my role as a community circle facilitator. I started by describing the purpose of the circles, and the people who the circles are for, and then the different members of the circles and the diverse ways in which everyone contributes.

After the conversation had finished I realized that I hadn’t mentioned the impact that being part of these circles had had on me personally, and that’s because I hadn’t properly reflected on this from my perspective. For a few years now I have been using the New Economics Foundation’s (NEF) 5 ways to well being around my own life. The thinking is, if we pay attention to and incorporate these 5 ways into our lives, then we are more likely to enjoy mental well-being. The NEF set out that the 5 ways are:

Connect…

With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home work or school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be active…

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Play a game. Games. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Take notice…

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the usual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

Keep Learning…

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility t work. Fix your bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

Give…

Do something nce for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

(http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/entry/five-ways-to-well-being)

So, what is the impact on well-being by becoming a circle facilitator?

Each time we have a circle meeting I keep learning more about the person who’s circle it is as well as others there who share their knowledge, ideas, enthusiasm and experiences. I also learn more about how to hold the circle together, creating a safe space for this sharing, planning and problem solving. I’ve learned loads about how resilient and determined people are when it comes to making a positive difference in peoples lives, all learning is good although sometimes it feels like a steep learning curve!

I now have more people in my life from being part of two circles who, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Something very powerful happens when people come together and roll up their sleeves and get stuck in, so I am better connected as a result.

And finally, I have an opportunity to give a couple of hours of my time every 4 to 6 weeks in a meaningful way that feels fulfilling to me.

I think about the 5 ways to well being as my mental 5 a day, and similar to my attempts to eat my 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, I don’t always succeed (I definitely need to do a fair bit of work on be active).

So, the next time I get asked about community circles, I’ll also mention they are good for my health!

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