What is the good life – and how do we get it?

11 Feb 16

New insights into wellbeing suggest that a joined-up and enabling approach to services could be crucial

This week, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing published the findings from our series of wellbeing public dialogues. We asked people across the UK what contributes most to a good life.

The project brought together members of the public with local and national policy makers and third sector organisations to discuss how best to support wellbeing. They focused on the three broad areas covered by the centre: work and learning; communities; and participation in culture and sports. The findings have been used to inform the centre’s work plans, also published this week.

What did people tell us?

Some things are seen as really essential to a good life. These include feeling safe where we live, financial security, good physical and mental health, good quality food, a job, affordable housing and access to green spaces. People also want reliable and affordable transport.

Social connections and a sense of belonging are also crucially important – in our homes, in our communities and leisure activities, in education and at work. Feeling loved, respected and appreciated are central to wellbeing.

Beyond the wellbeing essentials, choice and opportunities for personal growth are all part of leading lives in which we thrive, including the chance to learn new things, feeling fulfilled in what we do, and being inspired by things and people around us.

Were there any surprises?

Wellbeing spans traditional divides. It is about how all the bits of our lives fit together – home, work, family, friendships, community, education, health and mental health.

But there were surprises for us. The same issues came up as important to wellbeing across the different topics we covered. We live and experience our lives as a connected whole and looking at just one piece of the puzzle misses the bigger picture of how it all fits together. This suggests a much greater focus is needed on joined-up approaches to policies and services to support wellbeing.

People were also clear that we are all responsible for our own wellbeing and for supporting the wellbeing of those around us – friends, family and community. It’s not necessarily about government doing things to or for people, it’s about providing the right conditions to enable people to have a good life and getting rid of the barriers that can get in their way.

What next for the What Works Centre for Wellbeing?

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing will be looking at the evidence of what works to improve wellbeing, as well as thinking about who this can help and at what cost, and we will publish our first evidence reviews in the spring. We will also be talking to local and national decision-makers, businesses, and third sector organisations to bridge the gap between evidence and action on these important issues.

The work is only just beginning. Please do get in touch with us via email (info@whatworkswellbeing.org) or stay connected via our blog or follow us on Twitter at @WhatWorksWellbeing. We also have a forum where you can connect with others working on wellbeing.

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