The journey to greater wellbeing
Join TV presenters Joanna and Simon on The Wellbeing Journey. Catherine Butcher reports
‘I absolutely loved going on the Wellbeing Journey.’ That’s the verdict of Joanna Adeyinka-Burford, who presents this new eight-part video series with sports TV pundit Simon Thomas. Joanna, who has appeared on shows including Cbeebies The Let’s Go Club, Home and Away, Little Britain and Holby City, said the journey was ‘incredible – we met so many great people who were so inspiring’.
The Wellbeing Journey is a series run by churches around the UK exploring holistic wellness: body, mind and spirit. It’s based around seven key areas of wellbeing – the wellbeing mindset, physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, financial and vocational – to help us discover how to run on a full tank, rather than running on empty.
Joanna said the experts they met challenged them to think about each of these areas, to know what steps to take to improve their overall wellbeing: ‘I found it so interesting that your physical wellbeing has a knock-on effect for your relational wellbeing and your emotional wellbeing.’ The way different aspects of our wellbeing are connected made the journey ‘definitely something I’ve got to take hold of,’ she added.
Simon explained how to start the Journey: ‘Firstly, we need to be honest with ourselves about where we are at. But then we need to be honest with others – those we trust around us that we can off-load on; people we can be vulnerable with. That’s not always easy.’ And, he added, ‘This journey’s a marathon, not a sprint!’
To make the series, the duo took to the road in two Wellbeing Journey minis, interviewing a range of experts around the country to find ways to improve different aspects of their wellbeing. ‘Even part-way through the filming, I’d already started to make changes,’ Joanna said. ‘I’m already on the journey.’
Joanna’s first change came as a result of meeting John Kirkby, the founder of CAP (Christians Against Poverty). The charity offers debt counselling, money management, job clubs, life skills groups and support for people breaking habits which are controlling their lives. John is one of the experts featured in the Financial Wellbeing session.
‘Finance is one of the areas I needed to address,’ Joanna admitted. ‘I’m self-employed and I find budgeting really difficult because I never know what’s coming in each month. John gave me some really good tools to put in place. Before the end of filming the series I’d already done those things and felt a sense of freedom. It was not that I had any more money, but I knew what I was doing. I had a plan in place.’
Joanna was also inspired by the physical wellbeing session. ‘I met lots of people who exercise with their partners – it’s such a good way to build relational wellbeing at the same time as improving physical wellbeing.’ She put the idea into practice by taking her seven-year-old son out running with her.
‘As he gets older he’s probably going to talk to me less. If we are exercising together out on a run, there are no distractions, no TV, nothing else to stop us talking. It will keep us fit and will also help with our relationship.’
Time for God
Simon’s key take-home lesson came from the spiritual wellbeing session. As a Christian, he said, ‘I know this already, but it was a reminder that when it comes to our overall wellbeing, particularly if we do have a faith, developing our relationship with God means carving out time, being disciplined when it comes to listening to him. We’ve got to learn to hear God’s voice and to recognise his voice. We’ve got to set aside time. It doesn’t mean everything becomes easy but some of the other areas in life – our emotional wellbeing, our finances, our jobs – do become easier to manage even if they aren’t going particularly well.’
That lesson hit home for Simon in an interview with Pastor Agu Irukwu, one of the experts he met filming the Wellbeing Journey. Pastor Agu once topped a poll organised by the Metro newspaper and the Mayor of London to find Britain’s most influential black person. HE is based at Jesus House in North London and leads the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in the UK – the RCCG is the world’s fastest growing group of churches.
Pastor Agu regularly blocks out extended periods of time to listen to God and spend time worshipping him. Simon asked him what gets in the way of hearing from God. Pastor Agu’s immediate response was to point to our busy lives. ‘We get on this treadmill – it’s frantic, it’s frenetic – and there are so many competing voices in the world today. It makes it challenging and difficult to hear God with all that noise.’
But to encourage us to make a start to improve our spiritual wellbeing Pastor Agu added, ‘He speaks to everybody. There are no favourites; no special people.’
When asked what steps to take to hear God, he explained, ‘The first thing, of course, is to show up. Set a time and get into a pattern of meeting with God. The second thing I encourage people to do is to study the Bible. Create time to read, study and meditate on the Word of God. Intentionally develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Since he’s the one who’s going to do the speaking – it’s through his Spirit to my spirit that God speaks – so we should pay attention to him.
‘No matter where you are – in a difficult place going through a trying time or in a challenging period – just a word of comfort from God makes all the difference. You know “I can get through this”. God might not have told you how to get through it but he might tell you “Don’t worry, I’m with you in this!”.’
Simon described the experience of hearing from God as ‘rocket fuel’ and ‘a rudder’ for life and Pastor Agu agreed: ‘My life unravels once that part of my life is out of sync.’
The Wellbeing Journey is the brainchild of another church leader – Dave Smith from KingsGate Community Church in Peterborough. He devised it because he became aware that ‘wellbeing’ was of prime concern in our culture. He explained, ‘In a conversation with the CEO of our local council, she simply declared that from her perspective wellbeing was “the key issue” in society. This was in late September 2019. Now we have had the whole world seriously impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Far from these ultimate life and death concerns diminishing the need for a focus on wellbeing, it seems as if the hugely disruptive effects of the crisis have only made this subject of even greater importance for so many.
‘Whether you consider yourself a person of faith or not, whether you are struggling with areas of wellbeing, or just want to get healthier, I hope The Wellbeing Journey will be of great benefit to you and that you, in turn, might pass on your experience to others!’
As a result of taking part in the Wellbeing Journey Joanna said, ‘I’m going to get real with myself and ask myself some difficult questions. And I’ll ask the people around me to help me as I start to make changes because they do have a massive effect, not only on me but on the people closest to me. If I can sort out my own wellbeing, it is going to affect my family and my children.
‘I don’t think this is something you can do alone. I think it is really important to find people to do the journey with.’
Get a group together to go on the journey together. Find out more about The Wellbeing Journey at wellbeingjourney.org or at a church near you.
These are some of the questions you will tackle on The Wellbeing Journey
- Think of a time when you felt in great shape physically. How did this make you feel?
- What challenges do you think we face through the areas of diet, sleep and exercise?
- What do you think motivates people to make a positive change?
- What extremes in these areas can cause us to move into an unhealthy place? (e.g. gym obsession, eating too little, caffeine addiction etc.) Why might this happen?
- If you believe in God what do you think he thinks about the human body? If you’re not sure about God, what do you think the Christian God thinks about our physical wellbeing?
- What do you like to do to refuel when you are under pressure? Where do you like to go?
- Which statement do you think your closest friends would say best describes you: heart on your sleeve OR a closed book? Why?
- How often do you take note of how you feel?
- How do you respond when you face challenging times?
- What practices does society associate with spirituality?
- Which traditions are part of the UK’s Christian heritage?
- Do you think of God as a Father with the door always open or do you have another picture of God?
- Pastor Agu organises his life so he hears from God. Have you ever consciously connected with God?
- Are you someone who prefers a few close friends or a wide social network?
- When you are under pressure, what is your natural tendency – to be left alone or to crave company?
- When you’re in trouble, who are you going to call?
- Who do you love being with? Who energises you? What kind of relationships replenish you?
- How can forgiveness and reconciliation have an impact on our wellbeing?
- What experiences in life can affect our finances? When have you experienced changes in your life that had an impact on your financial position?
- Think about your current financial situation. What three words come to mind?
- John Kirkby from CAP says ‘How you use your money reflects who you are.’ What do you think of these three words: spending-giving-saving.
- How does the way we think about money affect our wellbeing?
- What do you think of the idea that God is the provider and wants you to be financially healthy?
- How do you answer the question ‘What do you do?’
- What does Monday morning feel like to you?
- Describe an occasion when you felt ‘I was made for this’. What energises you?
- When have you lost motivation, what was happening and how did you turn this around? How do we keep motivated in what we do?
- Who do you invest in? How could you/do you contribute to the wellbeing of others through your vocation?