Five ways to wellbeing

Last updated: 11/06/2020

The five ways to wellbeing were developed 12 years ago by the New Economics Foundation based on evidence on what makes people happy and what supports good mental health.


Faced with a pandemic and social distancing, many of us are going through a difficult time, which means it’s more important than ever to look after ourselves and each other. That’s why our new fundraising campaign is all about boosting our wellbeing and helping families in need at the same time.

The five actions – which have been supported by the NHS and mental health organisations -encourage us to:

Sometimes, particularly as a single parent, taking time for yourself can be a challenge, but it’s important to remember that looking after your wellbeing will help not just you but your whole family.

Trying something under each of these headings (in whatever way works best for you) could make a real difference.

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The first of the five ways is about making connections with other people – because positive social relationships and reaching out to other people is one of the most important things we can do to support our wellbeing.

Why not try to take some new steps towards connecting with other people?

  • Take time to sit down to dinner with your children or do something else that will give you a chance to talk and connect – like playing a game or doing some arts and crafts.
  • Phone or video call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. Even in our time of social distancing, there are lots of ways to keep in touch. 
  • Ask someone how they are and take the time to really listen – and share how you’re feeling too.
  • Find online communities where you can meet new people. The NHS has a list of recommended online communities.
  • When social distancing isn’t an issue, some great ways to connect would be to get involved in a new (or old) hobby or arranging a day out (or in) with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. In the meantime, lots of clubs and organisations are still running activities and groups online which can help you feel a part of a community from a distance.
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Keep Learning

Learning new things or building on existing skills is good for our wellbeing. It keeps your mind active, gives you a sense of purpose, it can be fun, and, most importantly, it can help boost your self-esteem and confidence. Learning could mean something big or small – you really can learn something new every day!

Why not try one of these ideas?

  • Expand on your cooking skills by learning some new recipes or learn how to bake a cake.
  • Download an app like DuoLingo to start learning a new language.
  • Develop a new or old skill like playing a musical instrument, gardening, or writing a blog.
  • Work on a DIY project at home.
  • Sign up for a class online.
  • Or simply dive in to reading about a topic that interests you.
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Be active

Exercise is not only good for our physical health but our mental wellbeing too. It can help raise your self-esteem, it allows you to set and achieve goals, and it releases chemicals which are good for your mood.

Why not try one of these ideas to get more active?

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Taking notice

Sometimes it’s hard to stop and take a moment to ourselves, but paying more attention to the present moment without distractions and simply taking in your surroundings can be great for your mental wellbeing.

Why not try one of these ideas to help you take notice?

  • Mindfulness or meditation can be helpful if you are feeling stressed or finding it hard to switch off. Try using one of the mindfulness videos available online, such as the Daily Calm.
  • Yoga can also be a good way to clear your mind, and there are lots of online classes you could try such as Yoga with Adriene.
  • When you go out for a walk, cycle, or to sit outside, just looking around you and enjoying nature can be calming and improve your mood.
  • Sometimes spending too much time on social media or even refreshing the news page continually can make it harder to take notice of what’s in front of you. It might help to limit your time on certain apps or decide to take a few days off at a time to recharge.
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The positive feelings that come from doing something kind for other people can help improve your own sense of wellbeing. This can help you to connect with other people and give you a sense of purpose at the same time.

Why not try one of these ideas for giving back to others?

  • Do something kind for a friend, neighbour, or colleague. This could be as simple as asking how they are and taking the time to listen, or spending time with them if they’re feeling lonely (this could mean talking over the phone or video when you can’t be there face-to-face).
  • Offer practical help to someone who needs it. This could mean delivering their groceries if they can’t get out themselves or fixing something that’s broken.
  • Use creativity to cheer people up. Paint, draw or knit rainbows or other images to put on display, or share a video of yourself doing something silly. (Yes, even TikTok can count as ‘giving’ when we’re all feeling a bit disconnected!)
  • Help raise funds for people who are struggling, for example through One Parent Families Scotland’s Urgent Appeal for single parent families who are unable to cover essential costs during the coronavirus crisis. Find out more on how you could get involved here.
  • Volunteer your time to a charity or community group. There are lots of opportunities to do this during the coronavirus crisis – and there were still be plenty of options in future. You can visit websites such as Volunteer Scotland, Get Involved!, Good HQ or Volunteering Matters to find opportunities to volunteer in your area.