Endorsed by the World Federation for Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off in New Zealand on September 23 – and this year is all about encouraging Kiwis to explore their way to wellbeing (Whāia te ara hauora, Whitiora).

The week is an opportunity for you and your team to explore the experiences, actions, relationships and surroundings that make you feel good and uplift your wellbeing – in essence, discovering the things that make you feel good, individually and as a team, and doing more of them! 

What are the Five Ways to Wellbeing?

In 2008 the British government contracted the New Economics Foundation to come up with a set of actions that improve personal wellbeing. 

The idea was to develop a 5+ a day style set of principals for wellbeing that were evidence-based and accessible to everyone. The New Economics Foundation reviewed studies from around the world and conducted an enormous number of interviews – resulting in a report that identified five key actions, which, if done regularly, were scientifically proven to enhance wellbeing.

These five key actions or themes have been adopted around the world as the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Connect | Me Whakawhanaunga
The first principle is based on evidence that people are stronger when they pull together and build meaningful connections with others.

Connect 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. 

Be Active | Me kori tonu
The second principle focuses on the proven physiological and psychological effects of being 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. 

Take Notice | Me aro tonu
The third principle relates to mindfulness, and the importance of being present.

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. 

Keep Learning | Me ako tonu
The fourth principle is about the proven benefits of challenging oneself and experiencing new things.

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. 

Give | Tukua
The fifth and final principle is based on research linking the act of giving with physical and health benefits, as well as emotional benefits such as ‘helper’s high’.

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.

How Ways to Wellbeing can Benefit Your Business

Mental wellbeing is one of your organisation’s most valuable business assets, and it’s been proven that workplaces where mental health is prioritised have better engagement, reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, greater morale and higher job satisfaction among staff.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are proven to help people find balance, build resilience and boost mental health and wellbeing – and can support workplaces to meet their health and safety obligations to manage risks to mental health and wellbeing. 

The Ways to Wellbeing at Work

Here are some simple ideas you can implement in your workplace, utilising the Five Ways to Wellbeing to support your staff, boost morale, and increase productivity.

Encourage Connection
Support your team members to build meaningful relationships at work. This could include:

  1. Setting up a staff social club where team members organise a quarterly outing 
  2. Organising shared lunches at work
  3. Hosting weekly games or competitions in the office
  4. Finishing two-hours earlier one Friday a month for a trip to the bowling alley
  5. Annual team-building trips

Encourage Giving & Generosity
It feels good to give! Supporting your staff and colleagues to give could include:

  1. Participating in national charity events like the SPCA Cupcake Day
  2. Holding an annual food drive, where staff can bring canned goods for donation
  3. Giving staff one paid day off a quarter to volunteer in the local community
  4. Fostering a culture of generosity, where staff give compliments and champion one another
  5. Donating company time to a local charity 

Encourage Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness can be a great way to help your staff find balance. At work, this might look like:

  1. A weekly guided meditation or yoga class
  2. Quiet break spaces, where staff can take a few moments to decompress
  3. An ‘unplug’ policy, where staff are encouraged NOT to check emails on days off
  4. A gratitude wall, where staff share notes on things they’re thankful for
  5. Weekly ‘celebration’ breakfasts, where the team catches up on good news

Encourage Learning
No matter what their role within your business, every employee wants to be challenged and enjoy variety. Your organisation could:

  1. Sponsor professional development courses and continued education
  2. Host a ‘random facts’ brunch each month, where employees share fun trivia
  3. Hold fun peer learning sessions, where employees lead a workshop on a project, hobby or passion
  4. Set up a mini library in the break room, stocked with books staff can borrow
  5. Partner with a local dance, cooking or sewing school, and offer classes free to staff

Encourage Movement
Being active isn’t just good for your employees’ physical health – it has also been proven to increase their mental and emotional wellbeing. Your organisation could:

  1. Establish daily walking meetings at the local park
  2. Get together a team for local indoor netball or touch rugby
  3. Eradicate tired office chairs in favour of Swiss balls and standing desks
  4. Set up a phone loop around the building so staff can walk while on calls
  5. Implement a stand and stretch policy, encouraging staff to get out of their chairs and every couple of hours

Looking for ideas to further integrate the Five Ways of Wellbeing into your company’s policies and workplace culture? Check out the Five Ways Toolkit from the Mental Health Foundation and Health Promotion Agency for free resources.