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The Five Ways to Well-being is a recognised health maintaining set of ideals that can have a positive impact on social, mental, physical, and emotional well-being. It is something I have used within my practice as a mental health nurse and psychotherapist as a way to look at how specific therapies impact on the general well-being of children and young people.
The five ways is a method that was developed by the New Economics Foundation as way of finding ways to maintain good health and is described in their document: ‘The concept of well-being comprises two main elements: feeling good and functioning well.
‘Feelings of happiness, contentment, enjoyment, curiosity and engagement are characteristic of someone who has a positive experience of their life. Equally important for well-being is our functioning in the world. Experiencing positive relationships, having some control over one’s life and having a sense of purpose are all important attributes of wellbeing.’
These aspects which can help on a daily basis to maintain general well-being are Connect, Give, Learn, Be active, and Take notice. I have used it in particular with children and young people who attend a weekly horticulture therapy group I co-run in schools.
Over this time I have refined how I get the evidence in a way that is helpful and meaningful for ourselves as the clinicians but also more importantly for the young people. We have used mixed methods to do this but have come up with the idea of using the image of a flower with four petals and a centre to highlight the specific areas of the five ways. This makes it easier for those who need a visual image to either draw or write and is also relevant to the task at hand: namely working and being together in the garden space.
Previously, I have tried just writing it down like a list and as a questionnaire but allowing for some freedom of expression and imagination has been more productive although from a research perspective makes it more of a challenge to highlight what is working.Through this process what we have noted is often very similar themes of what is important:
- Connecting with each other, the plants they care for, and particular spaces to relax and just be
- Giving time for one another and sharing food/plants and taking home what they have grown is highlighted as important
- Learning about how things grow, how to climb a tree safely, and that certain things are prickly/ and or sting
- Being active by digging, planting, and using my mind to think about where to grow things
- Taking notice of the seasons and what they feel like and that there are bugs large and small in the garden.
In one school they developed the themes further and created a small video for the teachers and parents about what the gardening club, as they called it, did for them in respect of the five ways and also produced an information board as well.
The Five Ways is a really good way to note how the work you do impacts on who you might be working with. I feel it has many potential uses, is a creative and reflective tool that is not too intrusive or difficult to do, and shows the participant what aspects of the work they are doing is important to them and having an impact on their well being. Nature and working with it gives us the chance to look at the Five Ways as a way to maintain and enhance our well-being.
Carl Dutton is a psychodrama psychotherapist working in the NHS in FRESH CAMHS at Alderhey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.