In 2008, the UK Government Office of Science commissioned the New Economics Foundation (nef) to develop a set of actions people could take to improve personal wellbeing. Drawing on psychological and economic literature from the inter-disciplinary work of over 400 scientists, nef created the Five Ways to Wellbeing.
There is nothing surprising in these messages as they were developed to be practical, memorable, and achievable for all individuals. The intent was not to create a comprehensive model of mental health promotion but to encourage personal commitment to engaging in behaviours that evidence suggests will influence wellbeing and mental capital. The messages take a positive approach by focusing on what individuals can do to improve their wellbeing instead of the things they shouldn’t do. Each action does not need to be practiced at the same time, but the model suggests that the greatest benefit comes when all five actions are performed as part of a balanced lifestyle.
In 2010, nef undertook a scoping exercise to identify where and how the framework had been implemented since its creation. A variety of groups have adopted the framework, including health practitioners, local health authorities, community groups, charities, and government organizations. Additionally, the framework has been adopted outside of the UK, including in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada at the University of Toronto and York University.
The scoping report also looked at how the Five Ways to Wellbeing had been applied. Some applications focused on improving wellbeing by encouraging individual behaviour change whereas other approaches recognized that behaviour change could be achieved by changing the circumstances in which people live. Interventions focused on individual behaviour change generally used information provision and knowledge transfer to raise awareness and literacy about wellbeing. Some examples included: campaigns, events and festivals, social marketing, and self-help materials (print or web). Interventions focused on changing the environment looked at removing barriers to participation or providing services that supported more ‘five ways’ behaviours. One such example involved using the Five Ways to Wellbeing to assess clients entering and leaving mental health services to inform changes to programming that would support participation in 'five ways' activities. Another example involved delivering staff training and supporting clinicians to promote the ‘five ways’ through existing services and client interactions.
The Mental Wellness Network of Waterloo Region held a community workshop in March 2017 to ask local groups and organizations how the Five Ways to Wellbeing could be applied in the work they do. Many suggestions were provided including:
Connect into Existing Programs, Services, and Policies
Mandate employees to integrate framework into client services.
Include framework into existing group or one-on-one programming.
Use framework as an overall lens to guide organizational service provision; “a way of being” when interacting with clients.
Educate clients/employees on the ‘five ways’ to encourage individual behavior change.
Train employees to use framework with clients.
Client journals or diaries to track participation in ‘five ways’ activities.
Clinician assessment questionnaires to measure client participation in the ‘five ways.’
Pamphlets, brochures, posters.
Messaging on facility television screens.
Social media campaigns.
Create referral system to link clients to organizations that support ‘five ways’ behaviours.
Integrate into Organizational Culture
Input framework into organization value statements.
Incorporate framework into existing employee wellness initiatives.
Systems and Environmental Supports
Use framework to guide community planning.
Review and revise policies to ensure support for the ‘five ways.’
How to Get Involved
If you’re an organization or professional in Waterloo Region and you’re interested in applying the Ways to Mental Wellbeing in the work you do, please see the below resources. Additionally, if you’re passionate about mental health promotion in Waterloo Region, consider joining the Mental Wellness Network of Waterloo Region. You can get in touch with the network by visiting the contact page.