Running for Wellbeing (part two) – The Five Ways

Sick of wellbeing? We don’t blame you!

Wellbeing is quite the topic right now and, because of that fact, wellbeing might possibly be a source of confusion, concern and annoyance for you. As something currently quite ill defined, tricky to grasp and without any consensus on actions or deliverables, I can really understand this. 


Without being overly reductionist, let’s try in this short blog post to clear up the issue. 

What is “wellbeing”? 

Oxford English Dictionary – ‘The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy’ 

As much as we might respect the Oxford English Dictionary, this is possibly one of the least helpful definitions imaginable in terms of developing our understanding, or taking steps to change our wellbeing status in some way. 

Wellbeing will always be a subjective term – by this I mean that “wellbeing” will look different and be understood differently for everyone – but a more useful way to frame it could be ‘feeling good and functioning well’. Research undertaken by the New Economics Foundation characterise these terms by, for example, experiencing positive relationships and having a sense of purpose in life. You can read more of their insights in their Five Ways to Wellbeing report 

How do you ‘do’ wellbeing? 

There are lots of people out there willing to give advice on wellbeing in our workplaces, in our social circles and in all the far-flung corners of the internet. As I mentioned previously, Wellbeing is subjective, but it isn’t a free for all. I’d strongly recommend being guided by only research, evidence and qualified experts in the wellbeing space at all times. The New Economics Foundation report linked aboveis a fantastic resource and key reference text for those looking for somewhere to start.  

Simply put, you can both maintain and enhance your wellbeing through the ongoing practice of the Five Ways to Wellbeing: 

  1. 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. 
  2. Be 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. 
  3. Take Notice – 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. 
  4. Keep Learning – 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. 
  5. Give – 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. 
5 Ways To Wellbeing

 Joining the Dots between Wellbeing and Running  

Hopefully it’s becoming a clearer picture already from my previous blog post on this topic, but to make it plain – the links between running and wellbeing go far beyond just the be active category of the Five Ways. 

Running (and physical activity more broadly) has a superpower in its unique ability to integrate all of the Five Ways into a single practice, and as a result can deliver behaviours which lead to evidence-based enhancements and maintenance of your wellbeing. Running is your wellbeing lifehack:one activity, five benefits, one very positive result.  

In case I’ve lost you somewhere along the way, let’s create a fictional (but entirely plausible) scenario which demonstrates the power of running on wellbeing, using the Five Ways model.  

Running and the Five Ways – A Case Study 

Pete is new to running. Currently he hates it and believes runners to be “not his kind of people”. However, late one evening he pushes a button on a whim and registers for Run Series – largely because he really wants that quite spectacular looking medal. 

What happens to Pete now?

  • Connect: Pete gets in touch with his friend Lisa who he hasn’t seen for a while and they agree to start running together as Social Distancing guidance permits  
  • Be Active: Pete puts on his smelly trainers and goes for his first run  
  • Learn: After a few weeks Pete is starting to enjoy running for fun but also increasingly the science of running mechanics and training principles, so he gets a book and starts reading articles online
  • Notice: Running outside Pete starts to remark in the beauty of nature and notices the beginnings of spring in a way he’d never noticed before. He is also finding himself more present and focused on his breathing and foot placement whilst running.
  • Give: Mental Health is important to Pete, so he decides to set up a Just Giving page to raise money through his running endeavours for the University’s Healthy Minds programme which supports Students facing wellbeing difficulties whilst at university and sounds pretty awesome  

Can you recognise the Five Ways in your own experiences of running? The ‘Keep Learning’ and ‘Notice’ categories are typically the ones that people overlook, but it’s likely you’re already benefitting from them in some way through your training – especially if you’re new to running, like Pete in our Case Study. 

Running (or any physical exercise) might not be your favourite self-care or wellbeing activity, but it’s definitely one to consider for all of the Five Ways benefits that it embodies! 


More detailed guidance on the topic of wellbeing, how to improve and measure it can be found in this video we made to support Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. 


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