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Mental Health and Wellbeing

Episode 1 - Mental Wellbeing
What is mental health and wellbeing?

This episode is about mental wellbeing. What is mental wellbeing, how can we look after it and why is it so important? Tony Coggins, a mental wellbeing expert, explains what mental wellbeing is and the best ways look after it. We also explore the six building blocks of mental wellbeing and head to the streets to find out what everyday Queenslanders know about mental health and wellbeing.

My Amazing Body is a podcast where we explore interesting, unknown and misunderstood parts of your body with help from medical experts and stories from real Queenslanders. Join us for our special five-part series focused specifically on mental health and wellbeing.

This episode is about mental wellbeing. What is mental wellbeing, how can we look after it and why is it so important? Tony Coggins, a mental wellbeing expert, explains what mental wellbeing is and the best ways look after it. We also explore the six building blocks of mental wellbeing and head to the streets to find out what everyday Queenslanders know about mental health and wellbeing.

Meet our Guest

Tony Coggins

Put most simply, mental wellbeing is about feeling good and doing well.”

Episode Material and Support

The building blocks of mental wellebing

Queensland Health Dear Mind website. - Taking some ‘me time’ is important. And it also helps strengthen your mental wellbeing. Having a healthy sense of mental wellbeing has many benefits. It lifts your mood, promotes resilience in difficult situations and helps you get the most out of life. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or how you’re feeling – taking a few moments for yourself each day will help you be a happier and more resilient you.

Beyond Blue - provides information and support to help everyone in Australia to achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.

Queensland Health Help lines, counselling and support groups – Including 1300 MH CALL (1300 642255) a confidential mental health telephone triage service that provides the first point of contact to public mental health services to Queenslanders.

Lifeline - a national charity who provide all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.

If you or someone you know need support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, and if it’s an emergency, please call 000 immediately.


Host: Hi! I’m Elise, and welcome to season 3 of My Amazing Body—a podcast where we explore interesting, unknown and misunderstood parts of your body. This season is a special five-part breakout series focused on mental health and wellbeing.

Throughout the season we'll explore mental health conditions and how they affect our brains and bodies. We'll also learn about the best ways to look after our mental wellbeing and improve our mental resilience. Make sure you subscribe and join us on this journey as we learn more about mental health and wellbeing.

In this episode we dive into mental wellbeing. What is mental wellbeing, and how can we look after it, and why is it so important? We took to the streets to find out what Queenslanders knew about mental wellbeing.

Vox pops: “I think mental well-being to me is about taking care of your mind as much as you would your body.”

“Mental well-being for me is finding time to, I guess, spend some time with family and friends have a run at touch football, and maybe a beer at the pub.”

“Mental well-being, I think, is your thoughts and your feelings and how you cope with everyday pressures of life.”

“I think it's taking care of your inner voice and sort of listening to how it's going and taking time to make sure you're well balanced.”

“Mental well-being, for me, is getting pleasure out of life, finding things that make me happy, being able to departmentalize, and leave work at work and be present when I'm at home with friends and family.”

Host: Mental wellbeing means different things for all of us. We spoke with Tony Coggins, a mental wellbeing expert, who is dedicated to promoting global mental wellbeing and helping people understand how they can take care of their own mental wellbeing.

Tony Coggins: Hi. My name's Tony Coggins. I'm the director of a company called Thrive Wellbeing Consultancy Limited. I'm also the population mental health lead for Implemental which is a not-for-profit community interest company dedicated to promoting global mental wellbeing.

Host: Imagine you’ve just finished a long, warm bath, or listening to your favourite song, or perhaps a great run. How are you feeling? Relaxed, happy, pumped up?

What do you think is happening in your body when you do these activities?

Your body is releasing happy hormones like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. These hormones promote positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, and even love­—they can help you build strong mental wellbeing.

Building strong mental wellbeing is important for us all—whether you have a mental health condition or not—it lifts your mood, promotes resilience in difficult situations, and helps you get the most out of life.

While mental wellbeing has quite a few names, like mental health, mental wellness, social and emotional wellbeing, and even happiness. The emphasis is always on wellness rather than illness and Tony says for him it's about feeling good and doing well.

Tony Coggins: Put most simply, mental wellbeing is about feeling good and doing well. There’re quite a few different definitions. For example, the World Health Organization defines it as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. So, it's not just about the absence of mental illness, it's about the presence of something positive. For me that's a sense of feeling good and doing well.

Host: Building strong mental wellbeing is different to addressing a diagnosed mental health condition, like PTSD or anxiety. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition, you'll need extra support like the help of a professional and sometimes medication.

If you break a bone or have a cold. You know to go to the doctor. Tony explains that physical and mental health are very similar. Just like there are different types of physical conditions, there are also different types of mental health conditions.

Tony Coggins: The easiest way to think about it is like physical health and physical illness. Just as we all have physical health, we all have mental health. Which is essentially about how we think and feel. Like physical health, how we think and feel can fluctuate. For example, we all experienced periods when we feel depressed, anxious, stressed, or sad. These are natural reactions to things that happen in our lives. It's when these feelings extend for a long period of time and stop us from being able to function that they become an illness. There are lots of different categories of physical illness, broken bones, infections, heart disease—the list goes on.

It's the same for mental illness. There are different categories. So, for example, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, anorexia, psychosis. And just like when you have a physical illness and you experience one of these conditions, you need to seek help from your GP. Mental wellbeing is not, just as I said, the absence of mental illness, but the presence of something positive, of feeling good and functioning well. Some people call this flourishing. The other thing that I'd say is that just because you have a mental illness, it doesn't mean that you can't experience mental wellbeing in aspects of your life. It's not necessarily one or the other.

Host: While looking after your mental wellbeing can be achieved with small simple steps, it’s important to remember that mental health and wellbeing is complex. Tony says that building your mental resilience should be practised regularly—not just when you are starting to feel low.

Tony Coggins: I guess we all feel low or sad at some points. It's a natural reaction to things that happen in our lives. Emotions like sadness, grief, fear, anger, they all serve a purpose. They’re our bodies alarm system telling us that we need to take notice—something's happening. It's really when these feelings don't improve and start to stop us from functioning properly in our day-to-day lives that they actually become a problem. And that's the time to seek medical help. Looking after your mental wellbeing is something we can do that builds our resilience and enables us to bounce back when we face adversity. It's important to be proactive and invest in your mental health all the time, not just when you're starting to feel low.

Host: Tony says that looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. And just like moving your body each day and eating well is good for your physical health, finding  time to focus on your mental wellbeing each day is good for you mentally. Luckily for us it's actually pretty simple.

Tony Coggins: We're all pretty familiar with what we can do to look after physical health. And we know that it's important to invest time in looking after it. It's the same for our mental health. We need to invest in building it. This not only helps prevent mental illness, but it builds our capacity to bounce back when we experienced negative life events. The definition of resilience is doing better than expected in the face of adversity. And we certainly faced some adverse events in the last year or so.

Host: Strengthening your mental wellbeing doesn't have to be a hard task. In fact, there's lots of simple things you can do each day that will make a big difference. Because everyone is different, the way you choose to practise mental wellbeing will be different too. To help you break it down we created six building blocks so you can easily find an activity you like that will help improve your mental wellbeing.

These building blocks cover:

  • getting healthy—so, eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep
  • continuous learning—so, challenging your mind through learning or enhancing a skill
  • showing kindness—by doing something small, or big, to help someone else
  • connecting more with other people—by reaching out to friends or loved ones
  • taking notice—by being more mindful of the world around you
  • and embracing nature—by getting out and enjoying the great outdoors.

Tony Coggins: Really good news is looking after mental wellbeing is not rocket science. In fact, we probably already know how to do this, we just don't know that we know, if you like. The second thing to mention around some of this stuff is that we are all different, and so what works for one person may not work for another. So, we have to figure out what's going to work for us."

Vox pops:

“To take care of my mental well-being, I like to go on hikes, climb mountains, play social sport throughout the week. Seeing people at sport has a really positive impact on my mental well-being, because it has that social aspect as well as the exercise and outdoor aspect.”

“For me, mental health means spending time playing a little bit of touch footy having a bit of a run around and a laugh with friends. And it's just a really good outlet for me to forget about what's happening at work and have some fun.”

“I try to get outside every day. So, usually, I take my dog for a walk every morning and I make sure I do it unplugged. So, I won't listen to any music and it just means I can pay attention to what's around me as well.”

Host: Getting physical isn't just about toning your body and keeping fit, it's also about your brain. Physical activity releases feel-good chemicals into your body, like endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals make you feel good, lift your mood, increase your energy levels, and improve your sleep. Tony says it's also important for creating a healthy mental wellbeing.

Tony Coggins: We know that physical activity is one of the best things we can do for mental health. Research suggests that physical activity can be as powerful as medication when it comes to mild and moderate depression for example. When we're physically active our brain releases endorphins which can relieve tension, energize our spirit, and makes us feel good. The great news is that all activity counts—so, vacuuming, walking, cleaning the car. The suggestion is 30 minutes of physical activity a day is enough to start making a difference. And you can even do your 30 minutes in 10-minute bursts. It's about finding the right type of activity, and the right level for your health and fitness. And everybody can do this. One of the key things about these activities and other of the mental wellbeing activities that I'm going to talk about is to pick something that you enjoy doing. If you hate running at the gym, don't do it. Instead, why not join a dance class or go walking with friends? You're much more likely to keep it up. And it's more fun.

Host: As well as moving your body, eating well and getting a good night’s sleep, staying hydrated also helps lay the foundation for your mind to function at its best.

Tony Coggins:
The other thing to consider when we're thinking about getting healthy is our diet. And like we need to power our body, we need to power our minds. We need to fuel our minds for success, if you like. So, first off, our brains are about 75% water. It's really important to keep ourselves hydrated, otherwise, it's difficult to concentrate. So, drink plenty of water.

The other interesting fact about the brain is 60% of the dry weight of our brains is made of fats. Yes, we are literally fat heads. It's important to keep our brains well oiled. Things such as oily fish, salmon, sardines, or nuts and seeds are great source of omega-3, which is an essential fatty acid that's great for the brain. Ensuring that we are (getting) two and five portions of fruit and veggies is also great for brain functioning. Things like fish, eggs, chicken, are great for keeping up protein levels. And eating things like live yogurt which contain probiotics, which are really important for gut health—and your gut and brain are very closely connected. Essentially, we're talking about eating a balanced diet.

Host: Developing your mental wellbeing is also about those feel-good chemicals in your brain we spoke about earlier—dopamine in particular. A surge of dopamine is like a little reward for your brain, and one of the simplest, least physically taxing ways to achieve this reward is through regular positive interactions with others. It's all about connecting more.

Tony Coggins: As humans, we're hardwired to need social connection. We evolved in tribes of between 50 and 250. In those times, if we were left outside of the tribe, we literally died. So, we are hardwired to collaborate. We do need each other. It's really important to nurture our existing connections and build new ones. Having four to five strong personal connections whether that's family or friends can really help build our resilience. And I guess it makes a lot of sense because they are people you can rely on in a crisis. But they're also someone who can feed your cat when you go away, or they're natural counsellors that can lend a sympathetic ear, or someone who could babysit and give you a break from the kids—really important supports. And I guess if you think about the year that we've just had with the various natural disasters, we've all seen the power of communities coming together and supporting each other. These close and also loose social ties and networks are really important to our well-being and support us in times of adversity.

Vox pops:

“I think the first step for me is just making sure I'm paying attention to what's happening with my mental health and whether I'm feeling happy, or sad, or stressed. And then just taking time to do the things that make me feel re-energized, whether that's playing with the kids or going out for dinner with my partner, or just going for a run by myself.”

“I try to take time out for myself, even if it's just turning my brain off of an evening or listening to something that I don't really need to listen to a hundred percent. Talking to my husband is always really good—it's supportive in a sense, and I feel like I'm offloading a little bit of that mum load.”

“I have some meditation instructions on my phone that I use. And so, I have a time to you know ... 20 minutes. It's a way of just taking the time for myself, but also creating that separation between one activity and the next.”

“Every morning I wake up at five and do a 20, 25-minute yoga routine. Don't go to any classes, just take out my phone and just lay on my mat, and it's just me and my mat and my happy place.”

Host: As important as it is to connect, it's just as important to disconnect. That means taking a moment to focus on the present. Putting the phone down and listening to the world around you and really connecting with the people and the moment you're in.

Tony Coggins: In our ever busy and digitally connected world, it's important that we find time to slow down to be present, to be mindful, and take notice of what's around us.

There's a great book called In Praise of Slow, written by a guy called Carl Honore, a self-confessed speed addict. Honore says he was always looking for ways to save time. After all, faster is better, right? We speed dial, we speed walk, we even speed date. We have fast food, super-fast broadband, and we all want to be on the fast track. Even instant gratification takes too long these days. Carl says that his wake-up call came from his son. And what he says is every night he would come home from work still in fast mode just in time to read his son a bedtime story. He said he'd speed through the story, skipping a page here, a paragraph there, but his son who knew the cat in the hat off by heart was having none of it.

Story time, he says became a frustrating battle between his speed and his son slowness. And one day he said he read about the most amazing time-saving idea. It's called the one-minute bedtime story. And he thought how fantastic is that? I'm going to have to try that out. And then he just caught himself and he thought what am I doing? Why am I trying to make that most precious part of the day that one-on-one time with my son a time-saving challenge? And from that moment on, Carl said he started to think about time differently. And that's when he was inspired to write this book In Praise of Slow, highlighting the importance of slowing down. And what he says in that, is sometimes it takes a wake-up call to alert us to the fact that we are hurrying through our lives, instead of living them.

We're living a fast life rather than a good life. Some people find meditation and mindfulness helpful. Mindfulness has been described as paying attention in a particular way on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally. And it's a great way to slow the mind. Works for some people, not for others but it might be worth giving it a try.

Host: Let's take some time, right now, to relax and slow down.

Find a comfortable position, wherever you are. You may wish to close your eyes.

Roll your shoulders forward ... now roll your shoulders back.

Clench your hands into fists ... hold ... and release.

Now relax your hands.

Lower your shoulders, away from your ears. Ease your shoulders back slightly, letting your shoulders relax.

Relax your mouth by dropping the lower jaw slightly. Make sure your teeth aren't touching.

Relax the place between your eyes ... and slowly make you way down your body.

Relaxing your arms, chest, hips, legs, feet, and toes.

Now count silently as you breathe:

Inhale ... two, three, four ...

Pause ... two, three ...

Exhale ... two, three, four ...

Now slowly wriggle your toes and fingers, gently waking your body. And when you're ready open your eyes.

How are you feeling now? Relaxed? Calm?

Have you heard of Biophilia? It means a love of nature, and as Tony explains, we are all drawn to the natural world. Many studies have shown that spending time outside can help to improve your mood and reduce stress.

Tony Coggins: We are drawn to nature and places of plenty. It's called Biophilia. There's a growing awareness of the importance of connection to nature and our wellbeing. There's an increasing understanding of how being in nature can actually lower our blood pressure and boost our immune systems. In Japan, they have shinrin-yoku, which means ‘forest bathing’. And more and more around the world, places are prescribing nature as a health intervention.

Host: You don’t have to bath in a forest to experience nature, you could simply eat a meal outdoors, gaze at the stars, or get up early to watch the sunrise.

Vox pops:

“I like to go on walks. So, after work, I like to go walk around the duck pond outside of work. Yeah, I find that really, like, disconnects me from work to home. It gives me a chance to relax and unwind and clear my head before I get to go through the front door.”

“Every weekend I try to plan an activity with my two little girls, whether it's just to go out to the beach, to a park, and we just sit by the tree, have a picnic.”

Host: Remember those other chemicals I mentioned earlier? Well, while dopamine is the reward chemical, oxytocin is known as the love hormone. It helps promote trust and bonding in relationships, and research tells us that performing an act of kindness triggers the release of this chemical. Tony says this can only be a win-win situation when it comes to your mental wellbeing.

Tony Coggins: Performing an act of kindness is really a win-win situation. Making an effort to be kind and compassionate can make a huge difference not just to how we feel but the people around us feel. The other really important thing to do around this area is to focus on things that we're grateful for and express gratitude. Why not try it. Find someone who you're really thankful for and write them a letter or ring them up and tell them why and see the impact it has on them but also on you. Yeah, we are hard wired to notice the negative. We have a negative bias and it's what's kept us safe. It’s like our warning system.

But what it does mean is that often we're noticing all the negative stuff that's happening and not focusing on the good stuff. You actually have to make a real effort to focus on the positive. Doing things like … on a regular basis just reflecting what's good in your life is really important. The other thing that I did hear was that because we're more likely to notice the negative and it's amplified with your partners. And the example I like to give is that if you say something negative to your partner, you've probably got to say two, three, four positives in order to balance that out, because what they're going to focus on and remember is the negative.

Host: Can you name three things you are grateful for? Practising kindness can be as easy as remembering your manners, saying please or thank you, complimenting someone, or really listening when you ask how they are.

Vox pops:

“I feel like being kind to others is really, really important. We're social creatures. Helping other people does make me happy. It does give me a little lift. I don't know if that's selfish or not, but it does make me really happy.”

“It’s really important to make sure that you're always keeping your mind active and learning new skills. Something I like to do is cooking. I'm constantly looking for healthy recipes that make me feel good and feel happy.”

Host: Your ability to reason and make good decisions depends on how well your brain interprets and processes information. Doing regular mental challenges trains these mental pathways and, unlike the old saying, you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks. Your brain is like a sponge soaking up new information as you learn, and as you get older it still has the ability to grow new neural pathways. So, every time you learn something new or face a mental challenge, you are keeping your brain fit!

Tony Coggins: You can think of your brain like a muscle. We need to keep it active otherwise it gets flabby. So, learn a new recipe, an instrument, join a quiz teams, start knitting—whatever you do, just do it regularly and keep that brain ticking over. The trick is to find something that you enjoy doing but also something that offers you a bit of a challenge that stretches your brain.

Host: Feel like a challenge? Can you solve this brain teaser? We'll reveal the answer at the end of the episode.

I come in different shapes and sizes. Parts of me are curved, other parts are straight.

You can put me anywhere you like, but there is only one right place for me. What am I?

Vox pops:

“I like to encourage my family and friends to come along with me, go to the beach, that kind of thing. Get out there into the nature.”

“Making sure that they're self-aware, that they're in a good headspace, and if they're not, reaching out to friends and family and those that they trust, and also just keeping fit and active also helps clear the mind of any mental stress.”

“I encourage others to look after their mental well-being by staying connected with other people. That's so important, is just having your people, is reaching out if you're feeling like you're lost. It helps you normalize whatever you're going through. And it's always great just to bounce off whatever you're feeling with somebody else.”

“I guess, take a break when you need it. I think our society is all about fast pace and velocity. So, I think at least do an hour of no screen time a day, or take yourself out for a walk and just let yourself decompress a little bit, otherwise you’re just going to get more and more inside your head.

Host: Tony says a great way to build your mental resilience is by creating a habit of happiness with someone else and making sure your habit is something that fits for you.

Tony Coggins: it's about building mental wellbeing and resilience. I'd encourage people to do something with someone. Why not pick an activity that relates to one of the building blocks and do it together? It might be cooking a meal, or going for a walk, or playing a game. Just connecting with people in a positive way is really powerful. And then I guess trying to create a routine, so if you like, some habits of happiness and healthy habits are really good. And I'd say your friendship is probably the most powerful thing you can offer someone to support their mental wellbeing.

Host: Having a healthy sense of mental wellbeing has many benefits. It lifts your mood, promotes resilience in difficult situations, and helps you get the most out of life. Because everyone is different, the way you choose to practise mental wellbeing will be different too.

It’s normal to feel sad or worried sometimes, especially when life gets tough. Sometimes, you might need some help to feel better again. If you or someone you know need support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and if it’s an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

If you'd like to know more about your mental wellbeing and activities that you can add to your daily routine to help strengthen your wellbeing, head to You'll find the link in our show notes.

Thanks for joining us for this episode of My Amazing Body - Mental Health and Wellbeing. In our next four special episodes we'll talk in more detail about mental health conditions, and what you can do to protect your mental health and support others who might be struggling.

If you enjoyed it, don't forget to leave us a rating or review in your podcast app!

Did you guess this episode's brain teaser? The answer is a puzzle piece. Well done if you connected the dots!

Thank you to Tony Coggins for lending his time and expertise to this episode, and to all the Queenslanders who lent their thoughts and voices to this episode. My Amazing Body is brought to you by Queensland Health. Thanks to my podcast colleagues: producer Jess, Carol our audio technician, and Helen on music and sound effects.

Last updated: 8 June 2021