The word wellbeing arises regularly in our conversations and in the media, but what does it really mean and how can we create it?
Being well, or experiencing wellbeing is so much more than just the absence of illness. Complete health and wellbeing is often described as flourishing or thriving. It’s not just surviving, that would be better described as languishing. Who wants to languish? Not me if I can help it.
According to well-known researcher and author of the How of Happiness, Sonya Lyubomirsky, 40% of our wellbeing is potentially within our control. What we intentionally, do, say and think can increase our happiness. No longer should we blame our workload, friends or the weather because we can do something about it. It may sound a bit overwhelming to begin with, after all those excuses have worked for us in the past however this 40% is our opportunity to take action.
There’s a really simple way to find what your next steps to wellbeing could be. Just take a few minutes to pause and think of a time you were at your very best, when life was great, you were truly happy and achieving all you set out to achieve. Note in as much detail as you can the conditions that enabled you to be at your best.
What was the context at that time, where were you, what were you doing, who were you with? This process is one of gathering insight into what makes you, your best self, and if you can come up with just one or two things that enable you to be at your best, you can recreate these conditions again. Maybe you were working in team, leading others, problem solving, creating, writing, exercising, helping others, travelling or cooking for friends.
If working in team enables you to be at your best then create opportunities for teamwork, if time alone energises you then take a long walk after work, or first thing in the morning. If exercise elevates you, book in some new classes, perhaps invite friends to join you. Don’t just think or talk about it -do it! Accomplishing tasks is also great for achieving wellbeing.
Interestingly Lyubomirsky found similar patterns in the thinking and behaviours of the happiest people in her studies. These included spending time with family and friends, building and nurturing relationships, expressing gratitude and appreciation, being the first to offer help to others and practicing optimism, by imagining bright futures.
They also engaged in savouring life’s pleasures and being present, made physical exercise a daily or at the very least a weekly habit and committed to lifelong goals. People in these research groups did have their share of challenges and stresses just like us, but they used a range of coping strategies to help them manage these times.
We are all unique and wellbeing for one person could be ill being for another. I love to exercise but running a marathon, oh my that would be my ill being. Continue to be curious about yourself and your happiness, you deserve the best. Regularly pause and ask yourself, who am I and what do I love to do? If you do more of what energises you, before you know it you will be flourishing and even when you have challenging times, you’ll bounce back quicker.
Experiencing complete wellbeing enables resilience and flexibility, so we can return to our flourishing state relatively quickly. Of course we can’t always do what we want, but balancing our lives with what we must do and what we love to do makes sense. It’s not selfish to look after yourself, although it may feel like, in fact perhaps it’s selfish not to.
Happy, healthy people are wonderful to be with, they radiate positivity and a “can do” attitude that is contagious. The more positive emotion we feel the more open we are to new experiences. We can live fuller lives, learn more readily and contribute to the health and wellbeing of others.
So we have a choice…….languish or flourish? Let’s all plan to be the best we can be for ourselves and for others. What’s your first step to a flourishing life?