The 5WTW came about from the research conducted by the New Economics Foundation at the behest of the government in 2008. It looked at various pieces of research to find ways to improve our sense of wellbeing. Some things you cannot do anything about, eg genetics, some things are harder to change, eg income levels, where you live, but others are within the grasp of most people to be able make changes in the way you live.
The concept of well-being comprises two main parts:
- Feeling good – feelings of happiness, contentment, enjoyment, curiosity and engagement are characteristic of someone who has a positive experience of their life.
- Functioning well – experiencing positive relationships, having some control over one’s life and having a sense of purpose
Relationships of all different kinds are good for our mental health, we are a social animal, relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours; at home, work, school or in your local community. You can keep your relationships in good repair and expand them by;
- If possible, take time each day to be with your family. This could include a fixed “family time” each day.
- Arrange a day out with friends you haven’t seen for a while.
- Switch off the TV and play a game, or just talk.
- Make the effort to phone people sometimes.
- Speak to someone new today.
- Have lunch with a colleague.
- Visit a friend or family member who needs support or company
- Volunteer at a local school, hospital or community group.
- Make the most of technology – there are apps (programmes) on computer devices (tablets & phones) which give free audio or video calls – great if you live far apart.
- Write a letter.
Go for a run, walk, stroll or shuffle. Exercise is good for your body but also for your mind. Exercise causes the release of various chemicals which make you feel better. It doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as you do it so cycling, dancing, gardening, housework, bowling, pétanque, archery, rock climbing are all good. The import thing is to that you; enjoy the activity, it suits your level of mobility and fitness.
NHS recommendations are;
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or walking every week. Or
- 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week. And
- Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms), eg dancing.
Speak to your doctor about exercise if you have health problems or are unsure.
This is about being ‘mindful’ being aware of ourselves and the world around us. This lets us to experience things afresh that we have taken for granted. Taking notice, being ‘mindful’ is known to reduce and help with depression. So;
- Be curious.
- Catch sight of the beautiful, the unusual, the ugly (someone will like it), the bright, the shadows.
- Remark on the unusual.
- Notice the changing seasons.
- Savour the moment, whether you are on a train, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling.
- Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
Try to be like the toddler or dog who takes delight in puddles.
Learning increases both self-confidence and self-esteem and improved resilience. Think of learning in its broadest sense. Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for a course. Take on a different responsibility at work or volunteering. Learn to play an instrument, different styles of cooking. It is important to set a challenge you will enjoy achieving.
Giving, whether it is time, money, attention, is associated with positive well-being. It stimulates the reward centres in the brain and can give a sense of purpose and self-worth. So;
- Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger.
- Thank someone.
- Volunteer your time.
- Join a community group.
Remember that doing one thing in the above will involve others; so volunteering will be part of giving and making connexions; going for a walk is being active and take notice – writing a poem about what you thought or felt or saw is learning. Going to a college to learn a new language is learning and connecting with new people.
The research by the NEF arrived at the above as practical steps that everyone can build into their lives to one degree or another and can improve well-being dramatically.