The 5 ways to well-being

The 8 ways to well-being

New Economics Foundation (nef) was commissioned by the British Government’s Foresight project on Mental Capital and Well-being to develop a set of evidence-based actions to improve personal well-being.

The review of the most up-to-date evidence suggested that building the following five actions into our day-to-day lives is important for well-being: Connect, Be active, Take notice, Keep learning and Give.

To these five actions we have added three more which will not only enhance your well-being but will enhance the sustainability of the environment.

It is interesting to note that this list is all about being and does not include anything about having stuff.

1  Be connected

With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them.

Building these connections will support and enrich you every day. Read more ››

2  Be active

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness. Read more ››

3  Be aware

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you. Read more ››

4  Be learning

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun. Read more ››

5  Be generous

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. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you. Read more ››

Of course, these are not the only ways to well-being. We have added three more which will add to well-being to both people and the planet:

6  Be creative

People flourish in the creative process, experiencing a reduction in stress, an increase in mental abilities, and more energy, engagement, confidence and motivation. Read more ››

7  Be balanced

Balance is about ensuring that all aspects of life are given the proper attention. The objective is to make sure that one or more aspects do not fully dominate to the detriment of others. For instance, work alone cannot define us as people. A life of well-being includes many aspects, paid work being just one. Read more ››

8  Be engaged

To paraphrase Carol Tavris, the way to happiness lies not in mindless hedonism, but in mindful challenge, engagement and flow. Read more ››


In this report, nef presents the evidence and rationale between each of the actions, drawing on a wealth of psychological and economic literature.

New Zealand Mental Health Foundation
Read the Five Ways to Wellbeing best practice guide.