A 2008 research study commissioned by the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Well-being identified five different areas to focus on, and multiple things we can do, each day to help improve our well-being. When we take action in these focus areas, we help cultivate well-being and improve our overall satisfaction and engagement in our lives. Plus, we build optimism and expand our perspective of what’s possible for us in the future.
The first step to improved well-being is to become more aware of, and honest about, how you are really spending your time. Start by paying closer attention to how well you are doing in each of the five categories listed below. Then select one area to focus on each day and practice the associated action steps. Keep this up for the next 30 days and you’ll begin to see the positive impact your new practices and behaviors will make on your emotions, relationships, and sense of meaning and satisfaction — in other words, on your overall well-being!
- Connect. Cultivate positive relationships with the people around you. Extend yourself and engage with your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
- Move. Exercise. Get outside — go for a walk or run. And for more impact, invite a friend along. Most importantly, find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your daily life.
- Notice. Be curious about the world around you and aware of what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences can make a positive impact on the way you feel about your life and how you approach challenges.
- Learn. Try something new. Set a goal or challenge that you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things keeps you engaged in life and builds your sense of accomplishment and confidence.
- Give. Do something nice for someone. Even the smallest acts count — a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Volunteer your time doing something that is meaningful to you.
Remember, consistent practice is the key to lasting change and the time you spend on your well-being practices will reward you handsomely if you continue to invest in them. At the end of your first thirty day period, select a new focus area and engage in one of the actions recommended for that area. Along with consistent practice, noting the changes that are occurring is important as well. This lets you know you’re on the right track and provides clues about what new actions help you increase your vitality, optimism and resilience – even in the midst of life’s day-to-day challenges.
* The Foresight Project “Mental Capital and Well-Being” was completed in October 2008 under the supervision of the UK Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills for the UK Cabinet Office. A more recent study by the UK Department of Health (2011) studied the implementation and results associated with the Five Ways to Well-Being.