Wellbeing has been bandied about a lot recently in government, health and community circles. Let’s take a look at how wellbeing relates to individuals and ways we can strengthen it.
So what is wellbeing
It is ‘a state of being positive, healthy or happy’ or ‘a time when things are going well – being healthy and happy, having friends’. Health and wellbeing includes ‘physical, mental and emotional health as well as relationships’
Here’s another way of looking at it. The opposite of wellbeing is distress. Distress happens when life challenges outweigh our capacity to deal with them. We can all relate to difficult and anxious times like health setbacks, job losses or relationship breakdowns.
Here are some simple steps you can action right away to enhance your wellbeing.
Five daily actions
Five simple daily actions were developed by the New Economics Foundation in London over a decade ago to improve our wellbeing. Evidence shows they work.
1. Taking notice – of the world around you. Reflect on the things that bring you joy - the changing seasons, freshly baked bread, beautiful sunsets, playful pups, having fun with friends.
2. Keeping learning – stay open to new experiences, rediscover an old interest, enrol in a course or volunteer for a new project that you are interested in. Investing in lifelong learning ensures we have the transferable skills we need for work and life.
3. Being active - regular daily walking lifts our spirits. Spending time in nature boosts creativity. Tai chi classes build strength and balance. Swimming tones muscles and builds strength. Join a group fitness programme if you prefer to exercise with others.
4. Connecting with others – feeling close to people around you (friends, family, colleagues and neighbours) supports our basic human need for social connection. Social interactions reduce stress levels and improve our quality of life.
5. Giving - helping others, volunteering and community involvement contributes to our own self-worth and sense of purpose. Giving back helps us feel more connected to a local community or a worthwhile cause.
Wellbeing is not a quick fix. It is a lifelong pursuit rather than a goal we can tick off. Wellbeing is shaped by our attitudes, life situation, our experiences and responses.
Life challenges come at us thick and fast. So we need a combination of adaptability, self-awareness, skills and resources to deal with all sorts of challenges.
Developing the right combination of skills and resources gives us a better chance of coping well when we face anticipated or unexpected life challenges.
Resources – include basic needs for food, water and shelter. Self-awareness helps us tune into our feelings, our strengths and weaknesses and how we are perceived by others.
Other resources that contribute to wellbeing are: having a sense of purpose, health and vitality, motivation and enthusiasm, social support and being part of a community. These help us cope when we are under stress or feeling anxious.
Review your personal values and priorities and take time to reflect on the direction your life is heading. Having agency - the power to think for yourself and take control of your life - contributes to a vital and rewarding life.
Skills - include life experience, our ability to communicate with self and others, emotional intelligence, stability, adaptability to change, creativity, innovation and lifelong learning.
Mindfulness practice enhances our ability to live in the moment and calms our emotions. Self-confidence plays an important role in developing resilience. Take on some stretch challenges to remind yourself what you are capable of.
In summary, it's a good idea to keep working on wellbeing - strengthening our skills and resources as well as adopting five daily actions so we are better equipped to handle life challenges head on and to live a purposeful engaging life.