10 year anniversary: Five Ways to Wellbeing

It’s 10 years since the New Economics Foundation (NEF) published its Five Ways to Wellbeing. Here’s a timely reminder on how focusing on yourself every day can improve your wellbeing and happiness

The NEF claims wellbeing has two components: feeling good and functioning well. Feeling happy, contented, curious and engaged are all characteristic of someone who is positive about life. As important to wellbeing is our ability to function effectively in our environment; having control over our own lives, and a sense of purpose, are equally important components of personal wellbeing.

With one-in-four of us experiencing mental illness at some point in our lives, it’s important that we find personal strategies to help us cope. In the decade since they were launched, the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ have become a popular framework for personal meditation, with evidence showing the positive impact they can have on mental wellbeing.

So, if you’re looking for some inspiration, leading mental health charity MIND has created a set of simple things that everyone can do to improve our sense of wellbeing and satisfaction.


There is strong evidence to indicate that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world. It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.

With this in mind, try to do something different today, and make a connection.

  • Talk to someone instead of sending an email
  • Speak to someone new
  • Ask how someone’s weekend was – and really listen when they tell you
  • Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is
  • Give a colleague a lift to work or share the journey home with them.

Be active

Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.

Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being. However it doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good – slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise.

Today, why not get physical? Here are a few ideas:

  • Take the stairs not the lift
  • Go for a walk at lunchtime
  • Walk into work – perhaps with a colleague – so you can ‘connect’ as well
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey to work
  • Organise a work sporting activity
  • Have a kick-about in a local park
  • Do some ‘easy exercise’, like stretching, before you leave for work in the morning
  • Walk to someone’s desk instead of calling or emailing.

Take notice

Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness.

Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being, and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities. Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and enables you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations.

Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. Here are a few ideas:

  • Get a plant for your workspace
  • Have a ‘clear the clutter’ day
  • Take notice of how your colleagues are feeling or acting
  • Take a different route on your journey to or from work
  • Visit a new place for lunch.


Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities, particularly, helps to lift older people out of depression. The practice of setting goals, which is related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing.

Why not learn something new today? Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find out something about your colleagues
  • Sign up for a class
  • Read the news or a book
  • Set up a book club
  • Do a crossword or Sudoku
  • Research something you’ve always wondered about
  • Learn a new word.


Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research.

Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.

Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing.

What opportunities are there for you to give? Here is a final crop of ideas from Practice Business:

  • Volunteer in your locality – schools, libraries, hospitals and hospices are often in need of help
  • Is there a sports club or youth club nearby that could do with an extra pair of hands?
  • Visit an elderly neighbour and have a chat
  • Think about how you can help out a work colleague
  • Go to a pub quiz or karaoke night.

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