Wellbeing no doubt means different things to different people. But at its core, wellbeing can simply be defined as ‘feeling good’ – when you’re happy, healthy and comfortable.
When phrased like this, it becomes plainly obvious just how important wellbeing is. But when we’ve got our hands full with all the other things daily life throws at us, it’s easy to put it to one side. Some of us neglect it for years.
Our experts know how crucial it is to be intentional with both our physical and mental wellbeing. We asked them what wellbeing means to them, how they practise it and what advice they have for others.
Ranging from GPs and therapists to chefs and pet experts, each of our experts has a very different approach to wellbeing – we’re sure you’ll resonate with at least one!
1. Laura Adlington, body confidence media personality
Bake Off finalist, social media creator and podcaster Laura Adlington is an advocate for the plus size community, body positivity and mental health awareness. Speaking out against diet culture, Laura wants to help others to find peace with their body, expose how detrimental diet culture is and build confidence within themselves.
“The dieting industry is a multi-billion pound machine designed to make us feel bad,” says Laura. “I’m just not here for it. Personally, I’d like to see more emphasis on wellness as a whole.” For Laura, keeping a positive mind isn’t necessarily about loving your body 24/7 – but about body acceptance. “I don’t think anyone loves their body all the time,” she says. “Accepting it and not letting it hold you back is where it’s at – for me at least.”
As a plus-size fashion content creator and lifestyle influencer, Laura also understands the power of clothes and style when it comes to wellbeing. “When I was growing up I couldn’t buy clothes easily, if at all,” she says. “It reinforced the fact I was different, that I was somehow ‘less than’.” This is why Laura is delighted to be releasing her own clothing range, (details coming soon…!).
2. Dr Nighat Arif, GP and women’s health expert
For Dr Nighat Arif, women’s wellbeing is her life’s work. As a practising family GP, Dr Nighat has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of menopause and female health – particularly in Black and Asian communities. As well as speaking about menopause on social media and TV, she runs her own women’s health clinic in Hemel Hempstead.
“There are over 42 different symptoms of the menopause,” explains Dr Nighat. “And when those symptoms occur, you’re impacted in the workplace. So one in ten women consider leaving.” Dr Nighat points out that by not prioritising the physical and mental wellbeing of women, many workplaces are inadvertently pushing them out of the workforce – when they should be at their prime.
Dr Nighat is passionate about breaking down misogynistic taboos surrounding women’s physical wellbeing. Her new book, titled The Knowledge: Your guide to female health – from menstruation to the menopause, aims to give everyone the tools to understand female health, and ultimately advocate for their own health.
3. Lucie Clifford, fashion stylist
Speaking of the power of clothes, no one understands this better than style expert Lucie Clifford. Lucie, who has a BSc in Psychology, recognises the importance of fashion and style as a tool for self-expression. “No matter what shape, size or age, dressing for yourself can enhance wellness and overall positivity,” she says.
For Lucie, wellbeing and style are very much interlinked. As a body positivity advocate (having been a brand ambassador for size-inclusive brand Simply Be) Lucie sees fashion as a way to boost body confidence. She believes self-improvement isn’t about looking a certain way, but instead about enhancing character and aiming to increase self-esteem.
Lucie offers personal styling and shopping services, and was the expert stylist giving makeovers on BBC1’s show You Are What You Wear alongside other TV stars. Lucie especially loves working with plus-size individuals. “It’s a great feeling being able to change someone’s opinion of themselves and really grow their confidence, which a lot of makeover shows fail to do,” she says.
4. Gemma Longworth, art therapist
For art therapist, furniture restorer, upcycler and TV presenter Gemma Longworth, being creative has been essential to her mental wellbeing. Speaking about her younger brother, who died in a road accident when she was just eleven, Gemma says, “He loved to draw and I started to draw in his honour. It wasn’t until I began working with textiles that I discovered it was all therapeutic and it could help heal my feelings of loss.”
Drawing on her own experience, Gemma created an art therapy book for children going through bereavement. It contains interactive activities to help children express themselves through certain aspects of grieving. She also runs workshops at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, using art as therapy or just for fun. “My aim is for people to know how important art is,” says Gemma, “how useful a tool it can be to help you express yourself.”
Gemma is currently a presenter on Channel 4’s upcycling show Find It, Fix It, Flog It, where she shares her expertise in interior design. But it’s not just about home improvement; Gemma is a strong believer in the power of a simple creative project to improve mental and spiritual wellbeing.
5. Nisha Katona MBE, chef
Trailblazing chef Nisha Katona may have founded a chain of 15 restaurants, judged on Great British Menu and authored five cookbooks – but she still sees cooking as a form of self-care. “I’ve got back-to-back meetings, but I know that I’ve got a 45-minute break for lunch,” she says. “I’m going to find somewhere really nice and eat exactly what I want. For me, there’s nothing else I want in life.”
In her latest cookbook Meat Free Mowgli, Nisha takes the Indian cooking of her mother and grandmothers and translates it into quick, easy, comfort food recipes. Meat Free Mowgli joins the ranks of many of the best Indian vegetarian cookbooks by sticking mainly to vegan food (there’s one chapter on eggs and dairy). Each recipe reflects Nisha’s passion for eating healthy, flavourful food that doesn’t rely on meat.
Wellbeing is also essential to the work culture at Mowgli, Nisha’s chain of Indian street food restaurants. “I rail against that ‘Yes, Chef!’ military discipline,” she says. “If I’ve got happy chefs, you taste it in the food. If you’ve got happy servers, you see it in the service.”
6. Verity Hardcastle, dog groomer and trainer
If you have a furry friend in your life, you’ll know how wonderful they can be for your wellbeing. The benefits of pet therapy, as well as owning pets for companionship and physical health are well-documented. For Verity Hardcastle, who was one of the expert judges on BBC’s dog grooming show Pooch Perfect, animals are an enormous source of joy and emotional support.
In her book Happy Dog, Happy You, Verity lays out a different kind of dog training and care manual – one based on positivity, mindfulness and wellbeing for both dog and owner. As a highly experienced dog handler and reiki practitioner, Verity explains how to create calm routines and look for the signs of a happy dog. She even advocates for bonding activities like massage, meditation and dog yoga to inspire wellbeing.
“It’s about positive training, ignoring the stuff you don’t want to see and rewarding the stuff you do want to see”, says Verity. Verity hopes that by building relationships that are warm and loving, all owners can experience a truly fulfilling relationship with their dogs.
7. Dr Linia Patel, dietician
As a dietician, sports nutritionist and biochemist, Dr Linia Patel takes a science-based approach to physical wellbeing. She’s passionate about translating science into easy-to-understand advice – something she has excelled at on BBC’s Food: Truth or Scare. “There are so many fads and I seem to spend my life fighting them,” she says.
Dr Linia doesn’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to nutrition and good eating. Instead, she curates a variety of methods for every individual to get them to where they want to be. “My consultations have a strong focus on nutritional education and coaching,” says Dr Linia, “to help patients understand the basis of my advice and the practicalities of following it.”
And when it comes to eating healthy? “I think that eating whatever you want around 20% of the time is a really healthy approach to diet. Taking healthy eating to the extreme can become an obsession but, equally, being too lenient obviously catches up with you in one shape or form.”
8. Dr Anna Colton, clinical psychologist
For Dr Anna Colton, protecting your mental wellbeing is all about having the right tools – and that’s something that you can learn. As well as working extensively with adolescents suffering from eating disorders, anxiety and trauma, Dr Anna also specialises in the mental health and wellbeing of elite performers – particularly those on the West End stage and at the Bar.
“Having to perform at your best, for long periods of time, under immense pressure can feel like walking the tightrope, trying desperately not to look down,“ she says. In a high-pressure environment, it’s essential to have effective, healthy strategies for dealing with stress and staying in the present moment. Dr Anna offers therapy and counselling for these kinds of professionals, equipping them with the tools to perform at their best.
Dr Anna has also appeared as a guest expert on several TV shows including ITV’s This Morning, BBC’s Food: Truth or Scare and Sky Living’s DKW (Different Kind of Woman). In particular, she has spoken about the impact of social media on young people, and the importance of positive body image. “If you are worried about your child, seek help early, before difficulties become entrenched,” she says. “Early intervention is key.”
9. Andrew Clarke, chef and mental health advocate
The hospitality industry can be a gruelling place – and no one understands this better than chef and restaurateur Andrew Clarke. After sharing his struggles on World Mental Health day in 2016, a wider conversation was triggered about the lack of support for those in the industry. “I never believed in depression and only ever saw the world in a positive light,” Andrew said in his original Instagram post. “But it’s not until you experience it, that you realise just how real it is.”
Andrew went on to co-found the Pilot Light Campaign, which works to combat the stigmas around mental health in the hospitality industry and support those suffering. “Along with our dedicated teams of mental health advisors, our focus will be on prevention,” says Andrew, who is also a strong believer in early intervention.
As a trained shaman, Andrew also believes in the importance of spiritual wellbeing. He runs a weekly session of meditation and music in his local community, promoting wellbeing through spiritual healing. For Andrew, a sense of spiritual wellness is interlinked with physical and mental wellbeing.
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