Five Ways to Wellbeing

by Linda Hindle - Deputy Chief AHP Officer, England and Anna Ashton - Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at Chester University.

This month, I asked Anna Ashton, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at Chester University, to help me write an article on the five ways to wellbeing. Anna has just completed the NHS Improvement Public Health Learning Collaborative. She is passionate about wellbeing and, through the collaborative, she developed and tested a webinar for dietitians to increase awareness and use of the Five Ways to Wellbeing in dietetic practice.

What does wellbeing mean?

One definition is “a positive state of mind and body, feeling safe and able to cope, with a sense of connection with people, communities and the wider environment.” Wellbeing isn’t static; it evolves and fluctuates throughout a person’s life, with dips in adolescence and middle-age. It is influenced by a range of factors, not least good jobs, homes and friends; and it is linked to better physical health. Healthy behaviours promote wellbeing.People with good wellbeing are less likely to smoke and they tend to eat a healthier diet.

Improving wellbeing across the population requires social change. However, there are changes we can all make at an individual level to improve the health and wellbeing of ourselves and those around us. It is suggested that we can impact our wellbeing by up to 40% through our outlook on life and the actions we take.

Dietitians are well placed as public health practitioners; we routinely incorporate questioning around healthy lifestyles and have strong communication and behaviourchange skills. We endeavour to take a holistic view of the care we provide rather than focus solely on the nutrition problem. This can be a challenge when time is limited, so in this article we wanted to focus on the Five Ways to Wellbeing as a simple tool to support wellbeing.

Evidence-based advice

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of evidence-based actions which promote people’s wellbeing. They were developed by the New Economics Foundation and based on the findings of the 2008 Government Office for Science Foresight report on Mental Capital and Wellbeing that aimed to develop a long-term vision for maximising wellbeing in the UK.

They are:

  • Connect
  • Be Active
  • Take Notice
  • Keep Learning
  • Give

A very brief summary of the ‘Five ways to Wellbeing’:

Connect: With those around you, family, friends, colleagues and neighbours etc.

Evidence shows that being connected is a human need associated with feeling valued. Other ways to connect can be having quiet moments with yourself, nature, animals or looking after your spiritual needs. Teamwork is common practice in healthcare and feeling part of a team can act as a buffer to life’s problems by promoting a sense of belonging.

Be active: Single bouts of physical activity as little as ten minutes can improve wellbeing.

Physical activity is associated with enhanced wellbeing, self-belief and resilience and decreased rates of depression and anxiety later in life. As dietitians we routinely promote physical activity, however we may not always promote the possible benefits to mental wellbeing.

Take notice: Having an awareness of our thoughts and feelings can enhance wellbeing.

Working in busy environments means our minds are constantly active throughout the day. We can forget to take notice and be mindful of our surroundings, often lost in thought, or on our phones and not aware of what is happening around us. It’s important to reflect on the areas of work we enjoy and experience job satisfaction.

Keep learning: Continued learning is associated with enhanced self-efficacy, optimism and satisfaction.

Learning is also associated with goal directed behaviour, a sense of purpose and hope. The world of dietetics is constantly evolving and learning is a routine process for many of us. However, stop and think about what you enjoy, learn to cook a new recipe or research new skills for your continuing professional development.

Give: Evidence shows sharing and just one act of kindness per week is associated with enhanced wellbeing.

As healthcare professionals there are many opportunities to give. However, in our busy environments taking time to smile and support your colleagues can result in you feeling happier and possibly feeling more job satisfaction. We hope the webinar will be available on the BDA website in the future.

 


References

1. Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). Is it possible to become happier? (And if so, how?). Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1(1), 129-145

 

2. Five Ways To Wellbeing: The Evidence

3. Mental capital and wellbeing