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Thursday 20 December 2018

With the Christmas season fast approaching, attention often turns to celebration, fun, well-deserved relaxation, and indulgence. Then after it’s all over, a rapid focus on forming new healthy habits, both physical and mental. We promise ourselves that we will keep these up well past the new year! But many of these habits may involve making great effort and may eventually be difficult to maintain. 

The World Health Organization recognises that health is created in the places where people spend their daily lives, where they work, learn, play and love, and that health is a resource for daily life.  

How can we use the settings of our daily lives to make sustainable changes and use the scientific evidence to help us focus our efforts on the most effective actions to improve our wellbeing? If we care able to do this, it can enable us get the most our lives all year round and when times get hard, be better able to cope. 

What does scientific evidence say about how to improve our wellbeing?  

The Five Ways to Wellbeing is one evidence based model that has been used extensively in the UK. It emerged from the 2008 Government Office for Science report on Mental Capital and Wellbeing. In this report 400 experts reviewed multidisciplinary scientific literature to see where the evidence was strong in improving wellbeing across the life course - from children all the way to older adults. From this report the New Economics Foundation was commissioned to produce an easy to understand public health message around improving wellbeing and the Five Ways to Wellbeing was launched.

What are the Five Ways to Wellbeing and how can they help me? 

Over the Christmas period you may find you have some time to reflect on how you currently include in the following five actions in your daily life, and how you might create opportunities in the settings of your daily life to engage more in these simple, but strongly evidenced, behaviours. Small changes made in the places you spend your day can add up to big differences in your wellbeing over time. 

Connect 

Why is connecting with others so important? We are a social species and the evidence suggests that people with stronger social connections and social support have improved levels of wellbeing, as this helps buffer against the effects of stress. 

Be active  

Why is being physically active so important? A rapid increase in technology over the last 40 or so years has engineered physical activity out of our work, transport and leisure patterns. It is now difficult to be physically active enough in modern society. Evidence suggests that physical activity helps to prevent and manage over 20 chronic diseases and mental health issues. 

Take notice 

Why is taking notice so important? With our fast paced modern lives, ever increasing demands on our time, and the rise of the ‘always on’ culture facilitated by technology, it can be difficult to slow down, unplug or live in the moment. A growing evidence base around mindfulness suggests that being able to meditate and live ‘in the moment’ reduces stress and improves wellbeing and ability to cope. 

Keep learning 

Why is learning through adult life so important? Evidence suggests that learning through adult life improves wellbeing. When learning something new you often connect with others, set and achieve goals, which improves self-esteem and wellbeing. 

Give

Why is giving to others so important? As a species we are hard wired to help each other. If you have ever volunteered, donated to charity or just given someone who was looking a bit down a smile, it makes you feel good. Evidence suggests that those people who are more interested in the wellbeing of others and contribute to their communities have higher levels of wellbeing themselves.