Download our 'looking after your mental health' factsheets

Every year, the third Monday of January is dubbed “Blue Monday” because it is claimed to be the “most depressing” day of the year.

We want everyone to rethink Blue Monday, as it represents a chance to break down stigma and raise awareness – especially around prevention - because any day of the year can be a challenge for people living with mental illness 

Around the world, one in four people will have some kind of mental illness during their lifetime. Around 676 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide right now, making it one of the biggest health issues in the world.

But this doesn’t need to be the case. The Five Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give) are simple and proven actions that can help you find balance, build resilience and boost mental health and wellbeing.


We all need to feel close to other people, and valued by them. At work, having good relationships with colleagues helps us stay motivated and engaged. Connecting is about being there for others, talking and listening, and feeling a sense of belonging.

How to connect:

  • Chat with the Extern's Reach Out team
  • Join a team or club
  • Talk to someone and really listen
  • Organise a shared lunch
  • Reconnect with an old friend
  • Eat lunch with colleagues
  • Find ways to collaborate
  • Plan a social event at work
  • Play with your kids

Evidence shows that connecting with others and forming good relationships – with family, friends and the wider community – are important for mental wellbeing.

Be active

As well as improving physical health and fitness, being ACTIVE can also improve our mood and overall mental wellbeing, and decrease stress, depression and anxiety.

Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. Evidence also shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing by:

  • raising your self-esteem
  • helping you to set goals or challenges and achieve them
  • causing chemical changes in your brain which can help to positively change your mood

Being active does not have to mean going for a run. Do what you can to move your mood. Any form of physical movement can be beneficial:

  • Jogging. You could try Couch to 5k or your local parkrun.
  • Do some gardening
  • Try some stretches
  • Go for a gentle stroll at lunchtime
  • Join a sports team
  • Break up long periods of sitting
  • Take a yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi class

From reduced anxiety to clearer thinking and increased self-esteem when we see positive changes to our physical fitness or social life, being ACTIVE really can be a great way to work through mental health illness.

Take notice

TAKING NOTICE to increase awareness, concentration, and focus on the current moment and the task at hand, has been shown to improve wellbeing and mood.

One of the reasons why we sometimes find ourselves struggling mentally is that our thoughts drift off to bad memories or things we regret or regret not doing from our past

Here some ideas to help reconnect with the world around you:

  • Keep a beautiful object near your desk
  • Practise gratitude
  • Try mindfulness meditation
  • Sit quietly in a garden or park
  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Take a break from digital devices
  • Single-task – do one thing at a time

As we start to improve our awareness of the present, we can start to train ourselves to notice patterns and recognise thoughts for what they are, ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.

Keep learning

Setting goals, being open to new ideas and continuing to LEARN throughout life helps boost wellbeing and build resilience.

Continuing to learn throughout adult life has been associated with improved mental wellbeing. It can improve self-confidence, self-esteem and maintain a sense of hope and purpose. It can even instil a greater ability to cope with stress.

Here's some simple suggestions to exploring new ideas, seeing opportunities, embracing new experiences and sharpening our skills:

  • Take on a new task or help someone
  • Get to know your colleagues more
  • Join a book club
  • Add to your work knowledge
  • Organise lunchtime workshops
  • Listen to a podcast or read a journal article
  • Take a course
  • Learn an instrument or language
  • Set a goal and work towards achieving it

Learning improves our self-esteem, keeps us connected and involved and helps us adapt to change and find meaning in our lives.


GIVING is more than just sharing material things with others. It’s about cultivating a spirit of generosity and actively supporting others.

Helping others and working towards a shared goal can stimulate the reward areas in the brain and help generate positive feelings.

Here's some ideas to boost your self worth and happiness by GIVING:

  • Volunteer with Extern
  • Express gratitude - thank someone
  • Compliment someone
  • Help a colleague with their work
  • Share your ideas or feedback
  • Make someone a cup of tea
  • Perform a random act of kindness for a colleague, friend or even a stranger

Giving makes us feel good. Carrying out acts of kindness, whether small or large, can increase happiness, life satisfaction and general sense of wellbeing.

Asking for help and talking about our feelings can be difficult and takes a lot of courage, but telling someone you trust really can help you to feel better and realise you are not alone.

Download our 'looking after your mental health' factsheets

For more information

Want some information or advice? Need more specialist care? or are you simply worried about your own or a friend’s mental health?

Browse the section here to find out about Extern's local services which you can contact or visit if you need to talk to someone.


If you or someone you know needs help, you can telephone Lifeline free at any time. Lifeline is a crisis response helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to people in Northern Ireland. It offers immediate help over the telephone if you, or someone you know, is in distress or despair.

Telephone: 0808 808 8000

If you have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose – call 999 for an ambulance or go straight to A&E.

Or ask someone else to call 999 or take you to A&E.