What is wellbeing?

What is wellbeing?

With life being so frantic now-a-days, focussing on our wellbeing and quality of life has become so important. I would like to explore exactly what wellbeing means and how you can benefit from delving a little deeper.

What does wellbeing mean to you? Some people think that wealth is the ultimate happiness, yet various international studies have revealed that it is the quality of our personal relationships, not the size of our bank balances that has the greatest affect on our state of wellbeing.

Well being isn’t just the absence of disease or illness either. It is, in fact, a complex combination of a personal’s physical, mental, emotional and social health that determines an individual’s wellbeing.

So what factors influence our wellbeing? The answer is EVERY aspect of your life influences your wellbeing. Based on research from government and market research (in western countries), here are some factors that enhance wellbeing:

  • Adequate sleep
  • Network of supportive friends
  • An enjoyable and fulfilling career
  • Sufficient money
  • Regular exercise
  • A nutritious diet
  • Fun hobbies and or leisure pursuits
  • A healthy self-esteem
  • Spiritual or religious beliefs
  • Realistic / achievable goals
  • Living in a fair and democratic society
  • The ability to adapt to change
  • A sense of purpose and meaning
  • A sense of belonging
  • An optimistic outlook

All of the above factors are interrelated. For example, a job provides not just money but purpose, goals, friendships and a sense of belonging. Some factors can also make up for the lack of others – religious beliefs can help a person cope with physical illness.

Let’s get back to money – and what it really means to us. Money is linked to wellbeing simply because money assists us to eat well, live in adequate housing and to help us build our lives. However, it can also be used in an unhealthy way – to increase our social status via what kind of car we drive, where we live and what labels our clothes are. But will that ever be enough? Likely not – someone will always have more money than you and if your wellbeing is dependent on social status, then ultimately, you will end up unhappy because there will never be enough money to satiate the perception people have of you.

When it comes to how we obtain money also comes to play – do we work unreasonably long hours in order to earn enough money? Does working so much overtime meant that we miss out on valuable family time? Time with our friends and pursuing leisure activities? Are we working so hard to the exclusion of a balanced life?

The added stress of working long hours can reduce a person’s health and ultimately, life satisfaction. Research shows us that people who pursue “extrinsic” goals like money and fame are more anxious, depressed and ultimately, dissatisfied than those with “intrinsic” goals, such as close relationships with loved ones.

Wellbeing is important but it also seems to be hard to come by! In a recent mental health study carried out in the USA, it was discovered that one in four respondents were depressed and only one in five were happy. The rest fell somewhere in between ie neither happy nor depressed!

Most respondents wished that they could spend more time on improving their  health and wellbeing, and many were prepared to pay more  money for goods and services that enhance their feelings of wellbeing.

How do we measure wellbeing? It’s actually quite difficult to survey a population on something that is quite subjective. How you feel about your life actually depends on the way you view it – one person might think a situation is horrible, yet to another think that it’s quite acceptable! Governments try to measure wellbeing in order to keep abreast of its people’s living conditions. A typical approach in measuring wellbeing is to count the number of individuals affected by a particular ailment or factor. For example:  health status (cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc), marital status, how often a person exercises / plays sport, do they smoke or drink? Are they on unemployment benefits, their level of education etc.

So where do you fall within the statistics? And how do you think you could improve your own wellbeing? Here are some ways to achieve a deeper sense of happiness and wellbeing:

  • Make regular time available for exercise, social contact and being with people who make you feel good
  • Develop and maintain strong relationships with family and friends
  • Try to have a career that you find enjoyable and rewarding rather than a “job” where you are just working for the money
  • Eat well – try to avoid processed, packaged foods and focus on wholefoods that are nutritious and help keep you healthy
  • Set yourself achievable goals and then work towards them. Ensure that you are measuring and tracking your progress.
  • Try hard to be optimistic and focus on the wonderful things you have in life, not so much on what you do not have.
  • Focus on what you can control in life and help that shape your overall wellbeing

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill