Act: What does it mean?

At a basic level it simply means “Doing Something”.

You can keep physically active in any number of ways – by taking a walk, doing some gardening, kicking a footy, going for a swim or cleaning the shed.

You can keep socially active by talking with salespeople while shopping, saying hello to your neighbours and maintaining contact with family, friends and workmates.

You can keep mentally active by reading a book, working on your car, doing a crossword puzzle, going to the movies or visiting a museum.

You can be spiritually active by attending religious services, engaging in meditation or prayer, experiencing the wonders of nature or practicing tai chi or yoga.

Some activities, like visiting a zoo with friends, can involve physical, social and mental aspects all in one. As we’ll find out on the next pages, you are probably already doing a number of mentally healthy things.

My Nana was a health expert...

“Use it or lose it” she used to say.

And according to the health experts she was right. Be physically active, she said. Take a walk, ride a bike, dance a little, dig the garden. Keep mentally active, she said. Do a puzzle, read a book, play cards, knit a scarf. Keep socially active, she said. Say hello to your neighbours. Have a chat down the shops.

Health experts now tell us that keeping physically, mentally, socially and spiritually active is how we keep mentally healthy

What's your Act score?

Answer the following questions and find out how active you are.

Physical Activity

Q1: Apart from your job and household tasks, how often do you do something physically active?

(e.g. walk, garden, dance, jog, swim, and so on)

Mental Activity

Q2: Apart from your job, how often do you do something requiring thinking and concentration?

(e.g. read, paint, learn something, do a crossword puzzle, play video games)

Social Activity

Q3: Apart from on your job and with members of your household, how often do you have contact with other people where you stop for a chat, talk on the phone or chat online?

Spiritual Activity

Q4: How often do you engage in spiritual activities like attending a service, meeting with others for a spiritual purpose, meditating, reflecting on the meaning of life or the natural world?

Your Act Results

Act Score

Retake questionaire

When you have finished the Guide and started on some of your plans, answer the questions again after a month or so and calculate your score. Then do it again 3 months later and 6 months later

Your Act Workbook

Becoming more physically active

Any physical activity is great for your mental health (and your physical health). You don’t have to go to a gym or exercise class, you can be more physically active simply doing regular everyday activities.

Some ideas you can try

  • Leave the car keys on the hook and walk or cycle to the shops.
  • Kick a ball in the park with your kids or throw a frisbee.
  • Turn up the music, sing along and dance.
  • Hop off the bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • If you work in an office, take a break from your desk and walk over to speak to your colleague instead of emailing them.
  • Plan active outings such as swimming, bush walking or bike-riding.
  • Get your mates together and kick a footy around over the weekend.
  • Join a walking group.
  • Wherever you can, take the stairs instead of a lift or escalator.
  • Take up gentle exercising like tai chi.
  • Tidy up the garden regularly.

Get involved

Think of physical activities that you enjoy doing, would like to try doing, or would like to do more of. If you need some ideas, take a look at the list on the next page. Which of these would you find easiest to fit into your daily routine?

Select an activity and pick three days on which it would be easiest to try it out.

TIP: Get active outdoors: There are increased mental health benefits from being active outdoors, especially in natural environments. So keep that in mind when you need an extra boost.
Once you have successfully increased your physical activity levels, celebrate or reward yourself for this achievement and aim to make it part of your regular routine.

Your Act Workbook

Becoming more socially active

Spending time with other people not only brings joy, laughter and fun to our lives, it also provides us with people to support us in times of need.

Sharing the good times and being supported in the not-so-good times is what friendships are all about. ‘Friends are good medicine’ is indeed a scientific fact—and having several close friends is very good for our mental health and wellbeing.

But even just being around other people whether at work, amongst crowds at sporting or music events, in shopping centres or at the movies seems to satisfy an in-built human need.

Some ideas on you can try

  • Acknowledge people you walk past with a friendly smile or a hello.
  • Interact with sales assistants and ask them how their day has been.
  • Spend some time with a person over the age of 70 or under the age of six to get a different perspective.
  • Learn the name of someone you see regularly, such as at the post office, in your local coffee shop or pub, your child’s school friend’s parent, or your pharmacist, and introduce yourself.
  • Make the effort to keep in touch, respond to emails, reply to text messages, acknowledge missed phone calls and get back to people.
  • When using social networking sites provide positive comments and praise friends’ successes.
  • Ask friends to introduce you to other friendship circles. This can introduce you to new activities and places you can share with existing friends.
  • If you are already physically active try being active in places that increase your social interaction, for example, in an exercise group or in a popular park. This allows you to be both socially and physically active.

Get involved

Make a list of activities that you enjoy doing with someone or where there are lots of people around (like at the beach in summer, having a bbq with good friends, phoning your grandparents on Sundays, going to a sporting event, movie or concert by yourself or with a friend).

Now choose one to do next week, make time to fit it into your schedule and put it in your diary.

Get re-connected

Who would you like to re-connect with or see more of? Why not look them up (try Facebook, Google or a mutual friend) and suggest meeting for a coffee or meal or something you both would enjoy doing, and find a time when you can do them together.

Your Act Workbook

Becoming more mentally active

Just as our body performs better when we are physically fit, so does our mind when we are mentally fit. Keeping alert to what is happening around us is good for our overall wellbeing.

One way to increase our mental activity is to be curious about things: How did they do the special effects in that movie? Where does that road lead? Who invented that? Why do dogs sleep so much? What’s in that recipe? How does a car engine work? These days the internet can be a great help, but so can browsing through your local library.

Learning something new or solving a puzzle contribute to feelings of self-confidence and a belief in one’s abilities, which are good building blocks of mental health and wellbeing.

Some ideas you can try

  • Read a book, a newspaper or a magazine.
  • Learn to operate a new device—like a computer, smartphone, the internet.
  • Do a Sudoku, crosswords, daily teasers or quizzes.
  • Teach something you are good at to a friend, relative or neighbour.
  • Learn something new—a language, how to cook, how to change the tyres on a car.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Get creative: paint, draw, take photographs, make scrap books.
  • Start a blog about something you are passionate about.
  • Write down important, funny stories to share with others or younger family members
  • Watch something educational on TV like a documentary, or a history or geography channel, or have a look at for the latest new ideas from around the world.
  • When watching a quiz show, try answering the questions or remember the facts and share your knowledge with someone else.
TIP: Think of mental activities that will benefit other areas of your life—such as finding healthy but tasty recipes, or basic accounting and budgeting.

Get involved

Think of a time when you could do some activity that requires thinking and concentration.

This could be learning something new or doing something you are already interested in such as baking, ballroom dancing, doing crosswords, playing video games, reading a book or working on a hobby.

Pick a day and give it a go this week.

TIP: Try things that you think you will enjoy - not just any old thing.

Your Act Workbook

Becoming more spiritually active

Having a sense of spirituality helps people keep things in perspective, provides hope in times of need, relieves stress and can also have social benefits. While the term spirituality can mean something different to different people, engaging in some form of spiritual activity contributes to mental health and wellbeing.

Being spiritually active can be done through formal religious activities or in non-religious ways, such as spending time in nature, meditation, yoga or creative practices.

Some ideas to be more spiritually active

  • Belong to a faith and take part in services or other activities with other people.
  • Go on retreat.
  • Spend time in meditation and prayer.
  • Read scripture.
  • Listen to singing or music.
  • Engage in reflection (contemplation).
  • Try yoga, Tai Chi and similar disciplined practices.
  • Spend time enjoying nature.
  • Spend time in contemplative reading (of literature, poetry, philosophy etc.).
  • Appreciate the arts.
  • Be creative - in painting, sculpture, cookery, gardening etc.

Get involved

Set aside some time during the week to reflect on what spirituality means to you.

Select one or two and pick a day to try them out.

Additional Act information

10,000 steps

Health promotion campaign that encourages you to monitor and log your daily physical activity levels; includes health and physical activity information, workplace challenges, and an online community.

Shape up Australia

Health campaign promoting a healthy active lifestyle. Includes ‘swap it’ tips, activity finder.

Mind your Mind

Health promotion campaign providing scientific evidence, practical advice on dementia and resources to keep mentally healthy.

Department of Culture and the Arts

Initiatives and partnerships to develop arts and culture in the community.
Phone: 1800 199 090

Country Arts WA

Provides advice and information to regional artists and community groups.
Phone: (08) 9200 6200

TIP: Find events and groups by looking in:
  • Community newspapers
  • Community notice boards
  • Local library
  • Local government websites