Saturday, 13 September 2014

Pathways to well-being and happiness

Fundamental ingredients for a happy life at the individual level, according to Diener (2008), are to have important goals and values, strong and supportive relationships, material sufficiency, positive emotions and the ability to make wise choices. Based on the psychological approach, happiness can be achieved by learning to understand what matters for us as individuals. Trying to find answers to the question: “What do we want?” and to achieve happiness by answering this question.   

In NEF’s report ‘The role of local government in promoting wellbeing’ (2010) a 5-step model for promoting and integrating well-being into Children’s Services in Local Authorities is provided (Table). It identifies some ideas that Local Authorities can consider adopting and this type of practical advice for Local Authorities might inspire the children’s services workforce to develop strategies that are appropriate in local contexts.  One interesting aspect of the 5-step model is the fact that it promotes
pathways to well-being as activities. (Connect, Be Active, Take notice, Keep learning, and Give.) Sen (1992) points out that focusing on activities when looking at welfare and wellbeing is important instead of focusing on recourses, capabilities or rights. Sen argues that life is composed of functions such as ‘being’ and ‘doing’ and we should concentrate on these elements when assessing what makes life good.

Any “step-by step” guide to well-being and happiness might need to be adapted both to the local context and to take age and developmental stage of the individual or group into consideration. 

Table.  ‘step-by step’ guide how to promote well-being by Local Government Improvement and Development and NEF (2010).

The 5 step model of prompting and integrating well-being into Children’s services in Local Authorities.
Example: Facilitating contact between younger and older residents.
Be Active:
Example: Support buddies for disabled young people to help them to be active in sport and physical activities.
Take notice:
Example: Public art project devised in collaboration with young people to encourage appreciation of public spaces.
Keep learning:
Example: An online directory of informal learning activities to encourage participation.
Example: Peer support award for young people to recognise their efforts in helping others.


Diner, E. and Biswas-Diener, R., (2008). Happiness: Unlocking the mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Malden, USA: Blackwell Publishing.

NEF (2010).’ The role of local government in promoting wellbeing.’ Local Government Improvement and Development and NEF. London, England: The New Economics Foundation.

Sen, A. (1992). Inequality Reexamined. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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