The Five Ways to Wellbeing

The Five Ways to Wellbeing, developed by the New Economics Foundation from evidence gathered by the UK government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing. The Project, published in 2008, drew on state-of-the-art research about mental capital and mental wellbeing through life. They are a set of evidence-based actions which promote people’s wellbeing. The Five Ways have been used by health organisations, schools and community projects across the UK and around the world to help people take action to improve their wellbeing.

The actions are: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.

Designs in Mind provides an environment where members can exercise these actions on a daily basis and incorporate them into their lives outside the studio.

Connect: There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world. It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages. At Designs in Mind there is a strong supportive community. Friendships and networks are created and members are active in the public arena at conferences, events, meetings, workshops and site visits for commissions.

I like being here, getting out, meeting people, making friends. It’s my main social thing. When I’m here I talk to people. At home I don’t see many people to talk to. I found it particularly hard doing the bird sewing, because of arthritis in my fingers and shaky hands. I’d never sewn before – ever. It was good doing the whole process – drawing, paper cutting, helping with the screen printing, and then embroidering it. I felt this was a really good achievement.

Be active: Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being. Slower-paced activities can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise. At Designs in Mind Members participate in active craft and building projects, working alongside contractors installing art works, building large scale pieces and keep physically active and mobile around the studio.

This has given me more confidence and self-esteem. I didn’t think much of myself before I came here. I like following a structure, knowing what I’m doing each week. It helps my pain when I’m here, by being busy and involved, learning new distraction techniques. It’s given me new interests I never would have found. It’s got me out of the house into a positive social setting. I now am able to collect my young daughter from school on my own. I wouldn’t have done that before.

Take notice: Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm life priorities. Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations. Things move at quite a pace at Designs in Mind. Members attend daily morning metings, where projects, visits and business issues are discussed. Members are very aware of others moods and respond with support when others are feeling down.

I’m very pleased with the way my cut-out turned out. There was a good buzz in the studio today; a lot of really good work was produced. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I wasn’t feeling very well when I first got here, but being with everyone soon took my mind off it. I had a great time. It was my birthday, I was 50, and the group got me a present (a glass bowl decorated with one of my cut-out designs), and a cake, and sung happy birthday; it felt good to be appreciated so much. I left feeling really good.

Learn: Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. The opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression. The practice of setting goals, which is related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing. At Designs in Mind We have a continuing programme of skills workshops, some with visiting artists and designers, business and technical support sessions. Members are encouraged to always try new things, challenged to go further and learn to conquer in-bedded resistance. There is a strong culture of peer support which enables people to go further.

Learning new things boosts my confidence, and once learnt, helping others who are slower at learning, boosts me even more. This has given me the confidence to go out and meet the public. This not something I would have done in the past without being at Designs in Mind. Screen printing was totally new to me; paper cutting the stencils and learning the whole process. For me confidence comes from being more confident in the skills and feeling able to help others. I feel more relaxed here because I’m amongst like-minded; I don’t have to pretend to be strong all the time. I’ve worked 1:1 with 2 members on specific tasks. I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing that beforehand.

Give: Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing. At Designs in Mind The ethos is one of compassion; individuals care about each other, and are cared for. We give to each other, but also to the community through public art pieces which enhance public spaces, run workshops in schools, hospitals, hospices and care homes. Members are encouraged to participate fully in the community.

I was told many years ago by my doctor that because of my mental health problems I couldn’t/shouldn’t work with children (I was bringing up my young son at the time). So my confidence was low. When the Hope House workshops came up, it was quite a boost to know I could work with children if wanted to. I went with a small group to one workshop; it was surprisingly enjoyable. So I went a second time when the opportunity arose. Before I wouldn’t have even contemplated going out on workshops. I’m now less fearful going out in public. I was always confident with the public in the past, and as long as I’m knowledgeable about the skills needed, my confidence has come back. I want to go to other workshops as an assistant. It’s encouraged me to feel able to go back to what I used to do.