What is wellbeing and why should I care?
Date: March 4, 2021
Author: AIMEE MAKEHAM, RAMHP Coordinator, Wagga Wagga NSW
Wellbeing seems to be a catch cry for all sorts of health and social programs – but what does it actually mean and why should you care about it?
Aristotle considered the idea of Eudaimonia1 – humans flourishing and living well, as imperative to the human condition. More contemporary definitions of wellbeing can be found in the Oxford Dictionary2, where wellbeing is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy, and happy.
The more appropriate definition can be debated for millennia (and has been) however, the modern definition does seem to be a bit narrow. Happiness is integral to our wellbeing, but as wellbeing is a multi-dimensional concept, the same can be said for the fulfilment of goals and a sense of meaning.
Wellbeing is subjective. It will be different for everyone on the planet and is based entirely on our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and body. Past experiences, our attitudes, our outlook, and our choices all impact our sense of wellbeing.3
But why is wellbeing important?
Wellbeing is fundamental to our health and overall happiness.
Having a strong and well-adapted sense of wellbeing can help us overcome difficulties and help us achieve our goals in life3. Research has shown that a greater sense of wellbeing relates to increased physical benefits, such as lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, stroke and sleeping problems, and with increased productivity and creativeness in both employment and personal lives4.
In short, having high levels of wellbeing helps us to be the best versions of ourselves.
How do I increase my wellbeing?
Wellbeing is holistic – we must look after all the aspects of our lives if we wish to increase our wellbeing.
Enhancing your wellbeing isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.
Eating a healthy balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercise, and creating healthy habits to look after your physical health are some of the easiest ways to help develop your sense of wellbeing (although, this is often easier said than done).
Martin Seligman’s PERMA theoretic model of happiness5 helps us to understand the elements that contribute to our happiness, and in turn, our wellbeing. By breaking down the broad concept into smaller, more manageable aspects, we can identify how we are tracking with our wellbeing and where there might be room for improvement.
P – Positive emotion
Positivity is more than just smiling. We need to have a positive and optimistic outlook on life, which can help us deal with any difficulties we might have. Having a silver lining approach to your day can help you overcome difficulties and remain optimistic in challenging times.
- What was one good thing to come out of today?
- What was one thing that gave me pleasure (satisfying a bodily need) and enjoyment (intellectual or creative stimulation) today?
- What am I optimistic for tomorrow?
E – Engagement
Partaking in an activity that fully captures our engagement helps us to be “in the moment” and enables time to “fly by”. These types of activities flood our brains with happy hormones and neurotransmitters and help to enhance our intelligence, skill and emotional capabilities.
- What is one thing I did today that truly absorbed my attention and gave me true joy?
- What is one thing I did today that was just for me and my engagement in life?
- What is one thing I will do tomorrow that will completely immerse my attention and let time “fly by”?
R – Relationships
Humans are social animals who need connection with others. Isolation can be detrimental to us physically and emotionally. Positive relationships with other people can bring us great joy, a sense of safety and value, and can provide support when times get difficult.
- Have I truly connected with someone today?
- Did I take part in a positive interaction with one of my relationships today?
- Who is someone I can reach out to tomorrow who I haven’t spoken to in a while?
M – Meaning
Having meaning and purpose in life is key to driving us towards fulfilment. It doesn’t matter where we derive this sense of meaning from; you might derive it from your position in your family, or what you do for work, or from your connection with your religion and spirituality. Understanding what you do and how it impacts yourself and the wider world can help you clarify your purpose in life.
- Did I do something that gave me a sense of fulfilment today?
- Did I contribute to my family, community, workplace, religion (or place of choice) in a meaningful way?
- What is something I can do tomorrow that I am passionate about?
A – Accomplishments
Having realistic goals that can be achieved helps to give us a sense of accomplishment and something to look forward to. Chipping away at these goals will give you a sense of satisfaction, and when you finally achieve the end goal a sense of pride and fulfilment will be reached.
- Did I work towards any of my long-term goals today?
- Was there something I accomplished today that brought me pride, fulfilment or satisfaction?
- How can I work towards my long-term goals tomorrow?
Increasing your wellbeing isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is well worth it in the long run. Looking at these five areas, is there any area you think you might need to work on? Acknowledging an area that needs a bit of work is the first step to increasing your wellbeing. Keep the PERMA model in the back of your mind and try to integrate as many of the aspects into your day-to-day life as possible. Remember, your wellbeing is about YOU!