Training Toolkit: Communication

MEW Topic: Communication (I) Exploring and understanding how communication can enhance your emotional and mental wellbeing

Why do it?

Understanding and exploring communication can help mitigate distress associated with strategies you may use currently to communicate. To mitigate this type of trigger for distress you may wish to consider learning more about communication and to consider skills which can enhance communication. This topic will explore 3 discrete but interlinked components of communication which can help:

  • Active Listening
  • Effective Questioning
  • Intercultural Communication

By accessing the materials in this topic, it will enable you to:

  • discuss interpersonal relationships and personal well-being
  • understand the value of actively listening
  • demonstrate awareness of the elements of effective interpersonal communication
  • understand the link between developing interpersonal trust and building effective human relationships
  • be aware of the perception process influencing interpersonal relationships
  • be aware of effective questions strategies
  • be able to manage conflict constructively and collaboratively
  • be aware of simple techniques to perform a job interview
  • understand the main barriers to effective intercultural communication
  • be aware of simple techniques to deal with interculturality at the workplace
Active Listening

Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It essentially means hearing mindfully and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another person. Patience is crucial to successfully develop active listening abilities.

While a passive listener usually hears only the words that another person is saying without making a conscious effort to capture the complete message being communicated, an active listener focuses fully on the speaker with all senses, showing verbal and non-verbal signs of listening. In fact, research suggests we only remember 20% of what we hear and 50% of what we hear and see, learning best when we use perceptual learning styles that are sensory based, as described by Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience.

Active listening is a communication technique particularly suitable for activities such as counselling, training or conflict resolution. It is an approach you can use not only to listen and perceive carefully the reasons and feelings of others, but also to facilitate a clear and correct expression of emotions or arguments. It is one of the best ways to create a solid relation with diverse audiences and effectively communicate with them. No one likes to listen to someone who is interested only in their own message. Being a good listener means focusing on others’ opinion, asking them questions and making sure they understand.

Active listening techniques are mainly due to the work of Thomas Gordon, an American psychologist who used to define it as the “sixth sense of communication”, arguing every sense is involved in the process, including sensitivity and intuition. The way you listen to others creates a style of communication that influences, positively or negatively, the environment around you. Knowing how to listen empathetically and how to put others at ease through effective communication will lead you to the creation of a safe environment in which everyone can express themselves at their best.

According to the objective you are trying to achieve and the message you want to communicate, basic techniques you can practice in your daily interactions include:

  • Active silence: when someone ends their speech or takes a break, you could deliberately choose not to intervene and let the other remain with their thoughts. Usually, the more space you give to active silence, the more important will be the amount of information you will receive back. This occurs because active silence is often seen as an encouragement to keep talking, reflect on what has been said or clarify what has been expressed. However, you should carefully assess the use of active silence in relation to the context and the person in front of you. Silence that is too long or out of context can be read as punitive or experienced with embarrassment by the others.
  • Non-verbal signs: they are used to show presence and attention, without commenting on what has been said, especially during moments of pause and hesitations. They may consist of eye contact, smiles, posture (e.g., leaning slightly forward when the story becomes more intense), or gestures (e.g.  hand-to-hand, hand-to-shoulder contact). It is imperative not to be distracted: an active listener never looks at a clock or watch, doodles, plays with hairs or picks fingernails.
  • Empathetic mirroring: when you provide neutral feedbacks that simply reflect what has been said, just like a real mirror. The mirroring technique is very powerful because, when the feedback is precise, non-interpretative and aimed at transmitting empathy and genuine interest, the others feel themselves truly listened, validated in their thoughts, and really accepted. It may take the form of:
  1. simple reformulation, reflecting attention and acceptance while enabling the interlocutor to verify how the meaning of their words is perceived (e.g., “you’re telling me that…”).
    1. summary, synthesising the salient elements of a detailed or unnecessary communication to sort information and set priorities.
    1. complex reformulation, inducing reflection and eventually an effort towards a richer, more accurate and more truthful thought (more balanced, less radicalised) than the one expressed so far. In general, it starts with standard sentences such as “If I understood what you said…”, “So, your opinion is…”, “In other words, you mean that…”

By placing focus, through active listening, squarely upon the speaker, it is possible for you to avoid most of the communicative mistakes that cause the erection of barriers and misunderstandings, while grasping the feelings and emotional experiences embedded in all types of communication that often remain in the background or are not perceived. Please refer to the How to Do It section below for further practical examples.

Effective Questioning

Asking questions is fundamental to successful communication because it is the key to extract and gather relevant information while showing interest and demonstrate a high level of attention in the other person’s speech. This simple human activity, therefore, is much more than just asking for information.

A question allows you to go deeper into a specific topic, move a conversation from one topic to another or highlight a specific aspect you are interested in. Sometimes, questions are aimed at making the speaker clarify their ideas or points of view to themselves or even formulate them at the moment (“I had never thought about it, this is the first time I’ve done this”).

Effective questioning has a lot to do with how, when and what questions are asked. Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a challenge and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the challenge in less than five minutes.”

The way you structure a question can help you to quickly reach the core of a discussion, but it can also waste time or create tension between you and the person you are conversing with. Therefore, you need a method for asking powerful questions during a conversation. A correct formulation can become an effective technique, knowing how to choose among the various possibilities that a conversation offers and being able to figure out which reaction a single question can promote or provoke in others. Please refer to the How to Do It section below for further practical examples.

Intercultural Communication

Interculturality has become a reality in contemporary societies, where the traditional concept of culture, which is geographically delimited and specific to certain groups of people, has been replaced by the idea that cultures are mixed, interdependent and subject to mutual influence. It has been defined, in fact, as “the existence and equitable interaction of diverse cultures and the possibility of generating shared cultural expressions through dialogue and mutual respect”.

Today, technology and globalisation have made the world much smaller and faster, forcing us to confront multiple diversities, whose most tangible sign lies in the language used to communicate. These changes have determined the encounter – and the clash – of a plurality of relational modalities, lifestyles and new values, giving rise to both advantages and problematic aspects. In order to respect cultural differences and establish a common ground where no single culture can claim a monopoly, it is necessary to acquire the right communication skills to properly manage situations and relationships in an intercultural context.

According to the UNESCO Guidelines on Intercultural Education, key skills and competencies serving as the basic requirements to meaningfully value our own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others are:

  • Respect (“valuing of others”)
  • Self-awareness/identity (“understanding the lens through which we each view the world”)
  • Seeing from other perspectives/world views (“both how these perspectives are similar and different”)
  • Listening (“engaging in authentic intercultural dialogue”)
  • Adaptation (“being able to shift temporarily into another perspective”)
  • Relationship building (forging lasting cross-cultural personal bonds)
  • Cultural humility (“combines respect with self-awareness”).

When confronting another culture, your reaction goes in two different directions: I) dealing with cultures that are “close” and perceived as similar to your own culture – in this case, you assume there are similarities, but you might make mistakes because of several norms you ignore; ii) dealing with cultures that are more “distant”, understood as completely different from your habits and tradition, leading to overlook the similarities you should leverage to establish a solid relationship. In order to overcome these errors, it is crucial you do not to take anything for granted, always show respect and communicate effectively.

Following the sharp rise in xenophobic and hateful discourses in the European political arena which has brought a tendency towards radicalisation in schools and our societies, the Council of Europe recently took the initiative to develop a framework to assess intercultural competences for lifelong learning in teacher-training programmes, recruitment tests and school curricula. Having the right set of intercultural skills and competences, in fact, is the key to unlock “the full potential of education and culture as drivers for jobs, social fairness, active citizenship as well as means to experience European identity in all its diversity” (2018/C 189/01).

When it comes to contemporary working environments, it is common that people from different cultures work hand in hand. They have to interact, coordinate their tasks and collaborate towards the achievement of set objectives. It is therefore important for both workers and managers to create a climate of mutual understanding and respect of each other.

Examples of challenging communication styles in the workplace include:

  1. Aggressive: individuals express their feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others, being abusive, dominant, over-critical etc.
  2. Passive: people avoid expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, and identifying and meeting their needs
  3. Passive – aggressive: people tend to express their negative feelings harmfully, but indirectly. Instead of dealing with issues, they behave in ways that veil their hostility and mask their discontent.

Please refer to the How to Do It section below for further practical examples.

How to Do It

Active Listening

Key tips for active listening are:

  • face the speaker and actively encourage to talk
  • avoid interrupting and minimise external distractions
  • focus solely on what the speaker is saying – don’t start to think about your answer or response
  • keep an open mind,


  • wait until the speaker has finished talking.

Are you ready to work on developing your listening skills to improve communication? If so, you may start by referring to the Case studies/videos and then consider the identified activities in the Ready to take the leap section.

Effective Questioning

Let’s have a look at some of the most common types of questions:

  1. Open questions: you can use them to gather information, elicit an opinion or simply stimulate a continuation of the facts told, maintaining neutrality without influencing the speaker. It essentially represents an invitation to speak freely, with no obligation to limit the answer to some specific meaning: “what do you think of mental health?” “why did you decide to study English?”. On the contrary, closed questions need only yes or no answers.
  1. Hypothetical questions: when you pose a question, which is not based on facts but rather on an imagined scenario. It can be used to suggest an approach, introduce a new idea, or learn about values and personal beliefs of others: “if you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?” or “if you were on a desert island, what would you bring with you?”.
  1. Probing questions: when you want to gain additional detail and in-depth information, going beyond surface level. The method of asking effective probing questions can be traced back to Greek philosopher Socrates, who used to challenge his students in order to encourage them explore ideas, get to the root of things, uncover assumptions, and analyse complex concepts: “what could you assume instead?” or “on what basis do you think this way?”
  1. Leading questions: those that subtly lead to a certain answer that you consciously or unconsciously want. While sometimes you may not even realise you are implicitly suggesting an answer, you can also use them to help the other person reach a conclusion or have an idea that you feel will be beneficial: “how would you describe this feeling: discouragement?” or “do you want to stay in this company that has already taken so much away from you?”
  • Rhetorical questions: given that the aim of rhetoric is to persuade your audience through a speech (the term means “art of saying”), when you ask a rhetorical question you are not really looking for an answer, because it is already implicit, or it is so obvious that there is no need to add anything else: “wouldn’t you rather get along with your partner?”. Often used in presentations to get the audience to think, they are designed to promote creativity and reflection: “instead of giving food wouldn’t it be better to help to produce?”.

A question is only as good as the answer it evokes, and questions thus contribute to success or failure across different contexts. When you have to prepare for a job interview, for example, trying to anticipate the questions that the interviewer may ask you is not enough: to be a successful candidate, you should prepare a list of questions to be asked at the interview, increasing your chances of getting your ideal job.

Examples of appropriate questions you can pose when performing an interview for a job position are:

  • Why is this particular position available?
  • How will the job performance be assessed, and how often will it be reviewed?
  • What are the long-term opportunities for me in this position?
  • What kind of support is planned to improve my qualifications and skills?
  • What are the main challenges related to this position?
  • How would you describe the typical working day for someone in this position?

Remember that, although questions are usually verbal in nature, they can also be non-verbal. In fact, you can use facial expressions to ask all sorts of subtle questions at different times and in different contexts. Raising the eyebrows or tilting your head to the side represent alternative ways of asking: “are you sure?” or “could you be more specific?”. However, try to conform to the tone of the discussion and make a cautious use of them. Generally, non-verbal questions are more appropriate in informal communication and their adequacy must be carefully assessed.

Are you ready to work on developing your questioning skills to improve communication? If so, you may start by referring to the Case studies/videos and then consider the identified activities in the Ready to take the leap section.

Intercultural Communication

Some cultural aspects that have a great impact on how communication takes place are the perception of time, message clarity, the degree to which emotions are expressed. Generally speaking, in Scandinavia, Germany and English-speaking countries time is viewed as something that should be controlled. People focus on the sequence of tasks and deadlines to be adhered to and, for example, may prefer to have a detailed agenda for meetings and regular milestones throughout the life cycle of a project. In Mediterranean countries time is rather perceived as a constant flow. Different items may be dealt with at the same time, while deadlines tend to be much more flexible. In countries such as Greece, Italy or Argentina, it is not uncommon to reschedule a meeting at the last minute, show up a few minutes after a meeting starts or miss an agreed deadline.

Unfortunately, not everyone has good verbal skills, resulting in inappropriate and potentially harmful behaviours that make communication a real challenge. A further aspect you should pay attention to is, therefore, non-verbal communication. Based on the simple fact that you are first seen and then heard, in fact, information concerning sight is processed in advance of linguistic information. You need to think about eye contact and gestures.

In Mediterranean Europe, South America and Russia, facial expressions used to communicate are expansive and often instinctive. In northern Europe and Buddhist cultures, for example, they are interpreted as voluntary communication and, thus, expected to be controlled. In Europe, during a conversation, you usually look into the eyes of the person in front of you, but in many Asian and African cultures the same behaviour is not allowed when talking to a superior. In Arab countries, staring a man straight in the eye can be interpreted as a challenge. In China, on the other hand, this is a sign of attention, while in Japan it is common to keep your eyes lowered to the ground as a sign of respect. Doing the same in Europe would probably be interpreted as a lack of respect and attention.

The way you move your arms and hands is also very important in non-verbal communication. Hands and arms accentuate and replace the spoken language but have different meanings depending on the culture. The arms crossed at the chest represent a sign of closure whereas the hands in the pocket can create an excessive feeling of informality. In Chinese culture there are gestures of respect and greeting that have no correspondence in Europe, such as raising the hands to the chest, covering the right hand, closed fist, with the left hand and then moving them back and forth. In England, the sign of victory could be perceived as an insult if done with the back of the hand facing the listener while the OK sign, made with the thumb and index finger, can also be an insult in Russia and Eastern European countries.

Tips to constructively face these challenges:

  • Stay calm,
  • Identify the behaviour,
  • Identify the cause,
  • Use language carefully,
  • Keep it simple,

Create a safe environment.

Are you ready to work on developing your skills in intercultural communication? If so, you may start by referring to the Case studies/videos and then consider the identified activities in the Ready to take the leap section.

Case study/video

    1. Video – Tips on how to improve listening skills through active listening
    2. Video – Five ways to listen better
    1. VideoThe power of effective questioning
    2. VideoTips to improve your questioning skills
    1. VideoCross cultural communication
    2. VideoThe cultural iceberg and its limitations

Develop your Active Listening Skills

Are you ready to work on developing your active listening skills? If so, you may start considering the following activities by clicking on the hyperlinks and following the instructions:


Take 5 minutes to complete this questionnaire, test your listening skills, and find out how you can improve them

Develop Your Questioning Skills

Are you ready to work on developing your questioning skills? If so, you may start considering the following activities by clicking on the hyperlinks and following the instructions:


This game will read your mind making use of a set of 20 questions. Don’t you believe that? Give It a try!

Developing Your Skills in Intercultural Communication

Are you ready to work on developing your skills in intercultural C? If so, you may start considering the following activities by clicking on the hyperlinks and following the instructions:


Find out how culturally competent you are

For further information and References See Appendix: MEW Topic: Communication/respect: active listening, questioning


MEW Topic: Communication (II) Using communication skills to promote emotional and mental wellbeing

Why do it?

Accessing the materials in this topic will enable you to:

  • Understand why communication with others is often harder at times of experiencing emotional distress
  • Realise there are many other people with similar feelings that are also looking for answers, you are not alone
  • Have practical tools to use that can simply help you speak up for what you want and need from others
  • Understand that some of your demands may be unacceptable and how to manage your own and other expectations
  • Be able to start changing your mental health in a non-threatening way in a safe environment with people who care.

Communication is a key ingredient in how you can mitigate emotional and mental distress to improve your wellbeing. Being able to communicate how you feel can help others to understand you better – and we all want to be understood.  Effective communication is essential in building rapport with those who you may need to talk to resolve distress by developing relationships that works for you and those you communicate with.

However, at the times when you do experience emotional and mental distress, this can affect how you communicate, when it can be much harder you to find the words to ask the questions which can help.

Even when you are not distressed, and fully able to explain your feelings and emotions, recall how it feels when you try and tell someone something that’s really important to you, but they just don’t ‘get’ it. Or they’re just not listening or giving you their full attention. Or quite simply, you’ve been listened to, but not heard. Experiences like that can make you feel diminished, unimportant, misunderstood, alienated, without value, and alone. It can and is normal to feel hurt at these times, making communication increasingly difficult whether it’s coming from a friend, a family member or another individual.

Communication for Healthy Relationships

Conversely, poor communication by others can add to your feelings of isolation and mental distress. It is important for everyone to know how to communicate with our fellow human beings who are experiencing emotional and mental distress which is impacting on their sense of well-being. However, we still need to recognise that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not be the perfect solution for everyone.

When someone is distressed, the things that help humans warm to others – a smile, a friendly greeting or appropriate eye contact – may be missing. This can sometimes affect how we react to those in distress. It is common for people to misinterpret the distressed behaviour of others as a sign of hostility, and they themselves often mirror this misperception in a hostile fashion in return. This can get a helping relationship off to a bad start as the person may respond to the persons distress by talking too much and not listening enough. When we talk to someone who is experiencing distress it is very important to remember the power of hearing and listening to the factors contributing to the person’s distress.

This may also extend to others who you reach out to when experiencing emotional and mental distress. How can they know what to do or say to help you? What questions to ask to support you? How much of their advice may be the wrong advice? The most important question is… how do they know?

It is easy for us to say, “you don’t help me”, but how often do we actually ask for what we feel will actually help us? Could it simply be a case that in general, people offer advice or ask the wrong things but for all the right reasons?

So, we all (us and our immediate social supports) need to look differently at how we communicate to our support group more effectively and what behaviours we can adopt to help this happen.

To our social support network, we need to explain to them that simple things can make a big difference for us: a genuine smile, an empathetic look, a cup of tea… small, human gestures than can mean so much in times when we are experiencing emotional distress.

In developing your communication skills be non-judgmental. Try to understand. Create time and space. Listen actively and show that you’re listening, using nods and encouraging gestures. Use open body language. These things can come naturally to some but need to be learned by others. Reflect on your own attitudes and behaviours and commit to making a difference by using the therapeutic value of communication when to anyone, in this way you can also help mitigate the emotional and mental distress in others when you notice it. Good communication works, full stop!

Family: Tips to Improve Communication

Communication challenges can raise any family’s stress level; especially when a family member experiences mental and emotional distress. At these times communications can sometimes require extra effort. High levels of mental and emotional distress can cause people to withdraw or misread people or miss social cues. Strategies that the emotionally distressed person may use to try and help themselves such as the use of alcohol or other psychoactive substances can further complicate communications by interfering with the message trying to be conveyed and the reaction of the family member who is trying to listen.

Effective communication serves as preventive maintenance, reassuring family members that they care about each other and appreciate each other’s efforts. Good everyday communication can also make it easier to bring up issues, make requests when needed, and resolve conflict when it arises.

How Can High levels of mental and emotional distress, Affect Communication in a Family?

When a family member has a pattern of experiencing high levels of mental and emotional distress, communication may take extra effort and awareness on everyone’s part. Sometimes the levels of distress will hinder the individual’s communication. For example, the person may withdraw and not talk when experiencing low mood, increasing irritability, and feelings of anger. The persons may appear or behave unpredictably perceiving the help of others inaccurately, which can lead to further feelings of fight flight or freeze coupled with a sense of alienation. This may result in them making unreasonable demands of others or showing a distinct lack of concern for others. High levels of stress exacerbate their ability to process information accurately leading to a misinterpretation of common social cues, such as facial expressions or hints, which can lead to communication breakdown. These challenges can be magnified if the person also tries to cope whilst using alcohol or other psychoactive substances.

For example:

Interactions with others can be influenced by the immediate effects of substance use, cravings, or withdrawal symptoms. Where a person is using alcohol or other substances as a coping strategy to deal with emotional distress can result in conflicts with others. The use of substances in this way can also exacerbate physical health symptoms which further impact on the persons sense of emotional wellbeing.

Good communication with others can help address conflict in a productive way, let family members be heard, and help them stay connected to one another. Family group work can help families work on crucial communication skills. Please refer to the How to Do It section below for further practical examples.

How to Do It

Strategies for your Support Network to achieve Good Communication

Print this section out and hand it to members of your support network, including family friends, it might help you achieve being listened to instead of receiving a ‘lecture’ or being given the ‘wrong advice’.

Get to the Point

Be brief and up-front when you’re talking with someone who is experiencing mental and emotional distress. Long-winded, roundabout statements are hard for anyone to follow, but especially someone who has trouble concentrating-as do many people whose information processing is compromised when experiencing mental and emotional distress. Try to get to the point quickly to be sure you are heard and understood.

Express Feelings Clearly with “I” Statements

Describe your own feelings and avoid putting others on the defensive. By using words such as “angry,” “happy,” “upset,” or “worried,” you can tell your own truth and help prevent the misunderstandings that can occur when people have to guess each other’s feelings.

“I” statements, such as “I feel anxious when . . .,” are direct, and they make an impression. When upset feelings are involved, “I” statements work better than blaming ““your” statements. For example, instead of saying “You pissed me off when you were late for dinner last night” (a blaming statement), try this: “I was angry when you came home late for dinner last night. I’d appreciate it if you’d be on time or call if you’re going to be late.”

Speak for Yourself and Not for Others

People often speak for others because they think they know what the other person is feeling. In some families this takes the form of indirect “backchannel communication” (for example, “Your mother is angry with you”). Be alert to these habits and try to change them.

If you are on the receiving end of a backchannel message, you might want to gently question it as well. All these habits naturally lead to misunderstandings-since each person is truly an expert on only his or her feelings. Such challenges can be avoided if everyone is responsible for expressing only their own feelings-nobody else’s. This may seem hard at first for family members who are not used to direct communication. But in the long run, it can be helpful to everyone.

Focus on Behaviours Rather Than on Traits

People can change their behaviour-what they do-more easily than they can change internal qualities or traits such as personality, attitudes, or feelings. When you are upset with someone’s actions, focus your communication on behaviour rather than on traits, making it clear what you are upset about. Make it a complete statement, linked to behaviour. For example:

Instead of saying: “I’m concerned about your health.”

Say: “I’m concerned about your health because you’ve started drinking again.”

Instead of saying: “You’re thoughtless because you only think of yourself.”

Say: “I sometimes think you don’t care about me because you rarely ask about my feelings. I wish you would show more concern by asking how I’m feeling more often.”

Last but certainly not least, approach conversations with a give-and-take mentality. Listen the way you want to be listened to, and be supportive like you want, and deserve, to be supported.

How to Effectively Communicate Your Mental Health Needs

How to Effectively Communicate Your Mental Health Needs

Everyone needs to be heard and understood, to be treated respectfully and supportively. All people will experience emotional and mental distress there are no exceptions, and at these times our needs to be heard and listened to will be intensified. It is normal that when experiencing emotional and mental distress for our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, to be impacted and this makes communicating mental health needs can be difficult.

We can give these tips a go for effectively communicating our mental health needs.

  1. Be prepared. Before having a conversation with someone, determine exactly what you’re asking for; perhaps write it down. This will help you get the right needs met.
  2. Stick to what’s important. Rather than presenting someone with a laundry list of needs, choose no more than three things that will help you feel better now
  3. Frame things positively. Saying, “I love it when we take a walk together in the evenings; can we do it several times a week?” works better than, “I hate that you don’t walk with me very much.”
  4. Keep emotions in check. When we are experiencing high intensity emotional and mental distress, we feel strong emotions that interfere in how effective we are when trying to communicate. Be aware when your emotions are becoming overwhelming and turbulent, to take a break.

Now consider completing these activities:


How you communicate with other people is vital to improving your emotional and mental wellbeing. Although you could plan your communication before you start. Include these things to work on stopping which becomes the stop in your Stop:

  • overreacting (taking a message too seriously, too personally, etc.)
  • making assumptions (failing to clarify the other person’s true intentions)
  • projecting (expecting that another person holds my exact views on an issue)
  • mind-reading (instead of talking openly and forthrightly)
  • biased listening (rather than genuinely hearing the other person’s heartfelt message)
  • chattering nervously (when it would be better to remain silent)
  • arguing (rather than focusing on areas where agreement is possible)
  • generalising (rather than getting the specific details of a whole story)


According to the World Health Organisation in 2001, one in four people will experience a mental health challenge, with extended insights showing over 450 million people suffer from worldwide. Since 2001, many researchers believe these figures to have risen dramatically.

Despite the rise in mental distress, thanks to a host of tools such as campaigns, social media and face-to-face support, the stigma around discussing how our emotions are affecting us have been slowly breaking down. Schools, workplaces and factories across the globe are embracing healthier practices in promoting wellbeing to reduce emotional and mental distress with the conversations about promoting wellbeing by talking about how we feel is now much more open than it was 10 years ago.

The art of speaking about mental and emotional wellbeing is one that is not yet mastered in all of us. A tricky subject to kickstart and one that leaves many on edge.

What are Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Activities?

The Benefits of Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Activities have been taken from the field of Group Therapy for addition in this tool kit

There are many benefits to using Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Activities These activities can teach you about yourself and provide you with a strong dose of social skills.

There are plenty of stories of friendships that can support your mental health creating happy endings.

Why Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Activities Can Help Young People?  

The world of social media has connected us with over 2billion other people around the globe. From Calcutta to Edinburgh, the internet opens up the conversation, but for many young people, they feel more alone than ever, and this may include yourself.

With all this noise and constant competition to keep relevant, you may feel out of the loop and feel lacking in social communication skills that can help you tackle anxiety and stress linked to your emotional and mental distress. The Mental and Emotional Wellbeing activities can help you to break down your feelings and emotions and to discuss them amongst your social group who you may feel safer with.

All of the mental and emotional activities recommended below are for all ages. These activities can be extremely useful for young people and those young at heart looking to take part in more social challenges to improve your emotional and mental wellbeing. 

Here are 5 mental and emotional wellbeing Activities to Try with Friends

  1. Two Truths and a Lie

Very similar to the UK TV series, Would I Lie To You this group therapy activity is fun for a small group of friends or even family members (although, it could be easier with friends). The goal is to create three facts about yourself, with one being a lie and the other two truthful.

The team have to guess which facts are correct and which are false as they go around the circle.

  1. Blind Cooking Challenges

Not only an icebreaker but the perfect way to catch up with friends.

Set a cake recipe in front of one person. From a recipe for the other person’s choice, this is the best way to get everyone together, working together. The other person must instruct, but not touch the other person. Please note, you may need to clean the kitchen afterwards, there’s no doubt it’ll get messy and make sure you aren’t involving knives or sharp objects.

Over a cooking session, you might be able to share your emotions, feelings, thoughts or help express some of the stress that comes along with your condition. This hilarious activity can quickly turn into an excellent form of emotional and wellbeing activity talk therapy in a group and build trust between everyone. Talk therapy can be very helpful for discussing and thinking out the symptoms and issues in your condition. 

  1. Colouring Challenge

Adult colouring books are all the rage right now. Take part in a group colouring challenge.

Begin by organising a day and time to visit a coffee shop. Instruct everyone not bring their smartphones or if they do, to have them switched off on entry. The challenge begins by writing down a prompt on a piece of paper for a drawing.

This could be anything, an animal or a member of the group, your grandma, whatever!  

Each of the team submits their slip of paper. At random, the group pick out a slip of paper and colour or draw the stated item on the paper. The results will then be revealed all at the same time. The game is a funny one and commonly sparks healthy conversation and the perfect time away from the stress of your phone. For improving emotional and mental wellbeing the use of colouring books has risen in the last few years, thanks to research pointing to the success of the practice in helping to reduce anxiety and calm mental health .

  1. Fear in a Hat

In a similar way, the “fear in a hat” game is a good way to reveal your group members’ fear in a fun trust-building game. Each team member gets a slip of paper. On the paper, they write out their deepest darkest fear. Entering all of the fears into a hat.

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This typically helps conversations begin about the fear itself and why that fear begins for them. This game has become a smart way to break down barriers and discuss what matters. This trust-based game will help you to uncover what fears people face and open the floor to how they handle this and whether they are currently facing these fears on a daily basis. Fears can trigger stress and grow into mental health challenges if not addressed. 

  1. Three Animals

Ask all of the group members to come up with their three favourite animals. From this, the group needs to write down the name of the animal and three qualities each animal has that you appreciate. The first, second and third animal represents how you want to see people, how you see others, and who you really are. Going around in a circle, you then reveal the traits of your animal and why you agree to discuss with the thoughts.

To round this off, everyone must end the exercise by drawing a merge of the three animals. This is a relaxed, fun way to end the session and help reflect on the discussion learnings. Reflecting is important for your mental health, overviewing why you made those decisions will help to produce insights and learn about yourself in a constructive manner. 

For further information and References See Appendix: MEW Topic: Communication/respect: active listening, questioning


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This is an educative website to help develop strategies for improving mental wellbeing. If you are currently experiencing emotional distress and you have a history of experiencing mental health challenges you are strongly advised to contact your general practitioner /doctor.