Ways to Wellbeing


I’ve just finished my ‘Public Health’ module at university, which was a lot more interesting than I anticipated…I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but we covered so much – neighbourhood regeneration, risk assessments, environmental health, biochemical disasters…and our group was friendly, happy to share knowledge and experiences and multi-skilled, which really helped. I’m looking forward to starting ‘Health Promotion’ with them next term.

The most interesting lecture for me though was our final one, which was about ‘wellbeing’…after some discussion it became apparent that defining wellbeing very much depended on the individual and their circumstances – it meant very different things for different people. As someone who is interested in positive health, both mental and physical, I was riveted by what we learnt and how I can relate some aspects to my own understanding of wellbeing…There were three things in particular that I felt were worth sharing. I wonder how many other people can relate to them…

The New Economics Foundation (not the most expected of sources, I grant you) has developed a set of five evidence-based actions that, if practised regularly, they say can improve personal wellbeing:

1. CONNECT – with people around you: family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, at home, work school or in the community…

2. BE ACTIVE – go for a walk or run, step outside, cycle, play a game, garden, dance…

3. TAKE NOTICE – be curious, catch sight of the beautiful, remark on the unusual, notice the changing seasons, savour the moment whether walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflect on and appreciate what matters to you…

4. KEEP LEARNING – try something new, rediscover an old interest, sign up for that course, take on a different responsibility at work, fix a bike, learn how to cook your favourite food or how to play an instrument. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving…

5. GIVE – do something nice for a friend or a stranger, thank someone, smile, volunteer your time, join a community group, look out as well as in…

(nef, 2012: http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/five-ways-well-being)

This social experiment, which was part of a BBC2 documentary, took place in 2005…specialists from a variety of disciplines worked to improve happiness levels in the town. 50 volunteers were recruited with the aim of planting the “seeds of happiness” amongst them, with the idea being to spread their cheer to others in a ripple effect. Based on their research, the team came up with a ten point plan for happiness:

1. Plant something and nurture it
2. Count your blessings – at least five – at the end of each day
3. Take time to talk – have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week
4. Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up
5. Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it
6. Have a good laugh at least once a day
7. Get physical – exercise for half an hour three times a week
8. Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once each day
9. Cut your TV viewing by half
10. Spread some kindness – do a good turn for someone every day

(BBC, 2005: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4436482.stm)

According to the ‘World Happiness Report’ published by the Earth Institute of Columbia University, rich countries awash with wealth have a lot to learn from the kingdom of Bhutan, which is admired less for its gross domestic product than for its gross national happiness index (the highest in Asia, according to recent reports).

The report suggests that it’s not just wealth that makes people happy; political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are far more important when explaining wellbeing differences between the top and bottom countries. On a more personal level, the researchers argued that good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial.

The point I guess I got from this lecture (and indeed from the whole Public Health module) was that health and happiness are not always found in obvious things such as money or material aspects of life. In this day and age public health practitioners are concerned with making healthy choices easier for people, rather than forcing things on them – allowing people access to the information and resources they need to enable them to make informed choices – collaboration and working in partnership with communities rather than autocratic policies and enforcement. It has got me thinking about whether a career in public health or health promotion might be for me…

I could go on, but I fear I may lose some of you if I don’t end now…In summary, I feel that positive thinking and action is fundamental to leading a happy life and increasing levels of wellbeing…I will certainly be incorporating some of my recent learning into my resolution-making for 2013…Perhaps you will do the same? Maybe you can think of some of your own? If the messages resonates feel free to spread a little positive festive cheer of your own 🙂

Until next time, love and wellbeing, sm x


One thought on “Ways to Wellbeing

  1. Pingback: Walking & Wellbeing | sharonmanship

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