Best For You

The five ways to wellbeing is a set of suggestions for things that people can do to support their own wellbeing.

Nowadays, we understand that everyone has mental health and that it’s important for all of us to take care of our minds. Organisations like the New Economics Foundation (NEF) carry out research to help us understand the most effective things we can do for our wellbeing. The NEF launched the five ways to wellbeing in 2008 to tell people about these five actions because evidence suggests they can boost mental health.

Since then, lots of different groups have talked about the five ways to wellbeing, including the mental health charity Mind and the NHS.

The five ways to wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, learn, give.


Beyond the five ways to wellbeing

The five ways to wellbeing are a really helpful tool for thinking about self-care and the things we try to build into our lives to help us feel good – but they’re not the only thing that affects wellbeing.

People with mental health conditions might find the five ways to wellbeing helpful as part of their self-care – but they aren’t designed to replace treatments such as talking therapies and medication.

It’s also important to recognise that wellbeing is complicated – we know that factors bigger than individual people like poverty, discrimination (including racism and homophobia), and life experiences (including things like bereavement, being a carer, or experiencing violence) all affect mental health too. The five ways to wellbeing focus on the things that individual people can do alongside other work and projects that focus on bigger organisational or societal changes.


Research has found that being involved in things that give you the chance to interact with other people and having friends or family you can count on are both good for your mental health. In fact, it suggests that feeling close to (and valued by) others is a ‘fundamental human need’.

We think that it’s supportive to have strong relationships with at least a few people as well as additional relationships (that might not be as deep) with a bigger network. Together, these relationships help us feel connected and boost our self-esteem.

If you want to make your connections stronger or build new connections, you could:

For more ideas, check out our post about connecting with others.

If you need to talk to someone urgently, you can always text NATTER to 85258 to chat with a trained volunteer through text. It’s free, confidential, and anonymous.

Which ways of communicating or spending time with other people help you feel most connected?

Be active

There’s still lots of research to do to find out specific details about the links between exercise and wellbeing, but we do know that, in general, physical activity is associated with good wellbeing.

There’s some evidence that suggests it can protect us against symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety, and that, for some people, exercise can be a part of treating their mental health condition.

The research we have so far suggests that it’s not just about the physical act of exercising itself – we think that exercise helps distract people from negative thoughts and gives us a chance to show ourselves that we can manage challenging things. It also suggests that small changes can make a difference – for example, that exercising for as little as 10 minutes can boost your mood.

It’s important to remember that exercise isn’t healthy for everyone. Some people in recovery from an eating disorder, for example, might need to limit their movement to stay well. Other people might struggle because of anxiety or panic attacks, or because they have difficult relationships with exercise and are more likely to overtrain.

If exercise is healthy for you and you want to try some new ways of moving, you could:

Take notice

Our lives are often so busy that we miss the little details in the everyday. When’s the last time you paused and really focused on the world around you?

Research has shown us that being taught to be aware of sensations, thoughts, and feelings had a long-term positive effect on people’s wellbeing.

Building up your ability to take notice is the first step to being more in tune with the world and yourself. Want to give it a go? You could:

  • go for a walk and focus on the information you can gather with each of your senses
  • focus on a creative activity
  • try cooking or baking and notice how your senses get involved in each step
  • practise mindfulness – there are mindfulness apps to help you on the Best For You app library
  • take some time to journal and check in with how you’re thinking

We know that learning doesn’t always boost wellbeing – it depends on the environment you’re learning in, what you’re learning, how you’re learning it, and what’s motivating you to learn. The good news is that if you choose to learn in your spare time, you can be in charge.

Learning throughout our lives has been shown to be good for wellbeing – it helps us feel good about ourselves, gives us a sense of purpose, and proves that we can do and achieve things, boosting our self-belief. If you’ve ever picked up a new skill, you’ll know how great it feels when you master something after lots of practice.

Not sure what to learn? You could:

  • pick up a new creative hobby, like drawing, collaging or sewing
  • follow one of the arty video tutorials available through the charity CW+ and their project Virtual Connections
  • learn some words in a new language
  • try a new kind of puzzle – you can find sudoku, word searches, and logic puzzles online
  • follow a new recipe
  • borrow an interesting book from your local library – you can find out more about libraries through the government library

We know from research that working with people sets off the ‘reward’ systems in our brain, making us feel good. Research also shown that doing just one act of a kindness a week can increase wellbeing.

It makes sense if you think about it – working with people gives us a sense of purpose and boosts our self-worth – and it’s nice to see that we’ve made someone else happy too. It also fits with some of the other ways to wellbeing by helping us connect with others and learn new things.

Obviously, it’s important to balance giving to others with taking care of yourself. We need to make sure our basic needs are met before we focus on others!

If you’re looking for a way to give something back, you could:

  • find a volunteering opportunity – you can find out more about volunteering on the government website
  • try a random act of kindness
  • think about a thoughtful way to say thank you to someone who’s important to you
  • call someone who would appreciate some company, for example, an older relative
  • send an encouraging message to someone going through a tough time
Share the five ways to wellbeing

Now you know more about the five ways to wellbeing, it’s time to put them into practice. Stay curious as you try them out and see if you can notice how different actions make you feel.

For more examples of actions, or to spread the word about the five ways to wellbeing, you could use the five ways to wellbeing posters from Good Thinking, a campaign that’s made a range of resources to help Londoners to improve their mental wellbeing.

Good Thinking have also created five ways to wellbeing guides for people of different faiths including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Rastafari, and Sikhi.