These are the inspiring words of Satish Kumar about the importance of focusing on wellbeing. However, when putting such a big and holistic wellbeing vision into practice it can be hard to know exactly where to start.
This is why, through our work at the Network of Wellbeing (NOW), we have chosen to adopt the Five Ways to Wellbeing as an invitation into the concept of wellbeing and how to put this concept into practice in our lives and communities.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing are Connect… Be Active… Take Notice… Keep Learning… Give…
These are a “set of evidence-based actions which promote people’s wellbeing”, developed by the New Economics Foundation (nef). They present an invitation to wellbeing, which is represented by the three dots “…” after each term.
Rather than an ultimate definition, the Five Ways to Wellbeing are used in NOW’s work as a starting point, a beginning of an engagement that can lead to more wellbeing-inspired actions.
There is a wealth of evidence that shows the importance of engaging with wellbeing at the policy-level, and fantastic and cutting-edge organisations such as nef are demonstrating that “as individuals get richer, there are diminishing marginal returns to increases in income, so as an individual becomes richer and richer, income matters less and less in terms of improving their wellbeing”.
In recent years we have seen some policy progression in this area, with increasing numbers of leaders looking at how they can measure and prioritise wellbeing. This all demonstrates movement in a positive direction, and is certainly important to promote and encourage. What the Five Ways to Wellbeing contributes is an accessible framework which can help us to integrate an awareness of wellbeing into our own lives and our own communities.
We have already begun putting the Five Ways to Wellbeing into practice at NOW. To give a practical example, through our community work based in Totnes, in Devon, UK, we found that many people in the local area want somewhere to go on a Friday or Saturday evenings without having to spend lots of money or buy any alcohol, somewhere which could provide a relaxed atmosphere, whilst also being good fun and open to all.
Therefore, we took notice of this request and decided to provide a way for people to connect through running a Community Potluck event. A Potluck is a meal where everyone gives a dish to share, coming together to share good food and good company.
We find this kind of collaborative event a great way for people to keep learning about others and the community around them. Also, at our first Community Potluck there was a chance to get active, dancing to the music from the wonderful musicians who played at the event. This first Community Potluck was so successful that we plan to continue running them regularly in Totnes, as it is a simple yet effective way to help people improve their personal and community wellbeing.
Here at NOW we aim to promote the importance of wellbeing locally in Totnes, nationally in the UK, and internationally across the world. There is a project which is part of our wider global outreach and which also has clear links to the Five Ways to Wellbeing. This is our Wellbeing Ambassadors project, which is a global volunteering project for those who are passionate about promoting wellbeing.
Being a Wellbeing Ambassador involves finding ways to make a positive difference to the quality of life experienced in your own community and beyond, with support from the wider NOW network.
This can involve many different actions, large or small, which Wellbeing Ambassadors carry out in order to help encourage wellbeing; for example, hosting an event or meal to share ideas about wellbeing with others, distributing accessible resources on wellbeing, or sharing experiences of wellbeing through NOW’s blog and social media.
Wellbeing Ambassadors take notice of wellbeing and get active in response: they keep learning and sharing their ideas about wellbeing on our blog, they give their time through volunteering, and they connect with each other across a global network. It really is inspiring to hear about all the different projects and passions our Wellbeing Ambassadors have, and how being involved helps improve their wellbeing too.
What is also important about the invitation to engage in the Five Ways to Wellbeing is that you can do so in a way which is sustainable and respectful to nature and the planet. Our vision at NOW is of a world in which everyone’s wellbeing needs can be met within the planet’s natural limits.
As Satish highlights, wellbeing is about the personal, social and community, but it is also about the wellbeing of our planet earth. These areas of wellbeing are deeply connected. It is clear that nature and our planet provide us with life. It is also proven that spending time with and appreciating our natural environment is good for our wellbeing. We regularly hear from other projects that are inspired by the Five Ways and use this inspiration to help people connect with nature, demonstrating the health and wellbeing impacts of doing so.
When looking for ways to practice the Five Ways to Wellbeing in your own life, it may be that you can find examples in activities that you are already doing and you just need to build upon them, focus on them and appreciate them.
Imagine, for example, a walk in the countryside, and you can see how simple activities can provide all of the Five Ways to Wellbeing in an accessible way: Keeping active, enjoying the exercise your body receives through the walk, connecting, by spending time with those you share the walk with, giving, by perhaps sharing food with others on the walk, taking notice of nature and spending time to keep learning from beautiful natural processes.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing helps us to focus on how to nourish ourselves in a way that is good for ourselves and our communities, and can also be practiced in a way that is respectful to the planet.
To find out more about wellbeing check out the Network of Wellbeing’s website and get in touch if you are interested in becoming a Wellbeing Ambassador or if you would like to find out more about our work.