The concept of wellbeing represents a proactive stance toward emotional heath. The wellbeing literature examines the elements which contribute to a happy, fulfilling life. It encourages us to look at how we can actively foster resilience and contentment in our lives.
The state of wellness, being and remaining well includes the following aspects.
Values and meaning
Most happy people have important beliefs and values that guide their choices in life, plus habits of reflection, quiet thought, and ways of calming themselves. Mentors, people whose wisdom and inner strength you admire and trust, are also very useful. These can easily be people you know already.
There is clear evidence from research that one of the most pivotal factors of “happiness” is how closely you live towards your values. You can read more about it in this article about The Science of Happiness.
Is your life purposeful? Are you making the right decisions about your goals, how you spend your time (and money), setting boundaries and limits on certain people and activities that deflect you from your desired goal?Creativity
When did you last catch yourself doing something spontaneously? It's time to sing, paint, dance, play an instrument, act, tell stories, joke around, embroider, cook, or do anything with sensual enjoyment, beauty and grace. Join with others to jam, rehearse, debate, wonder, think or create something together.Altruism
"Think global, act local". There are almost certainly some initiatives or roles you could take to create a better university, neighbourhood, or workplace. "What comes around goes around". If you received goodwill and encouragement lately, have you passed it on to others? How open and tolerant of differences are you? Empathy and listening carefully really open you up, and reduce loneliness and isolation.Spiritual wellbeing
Another aspect is spirituality, which means many things to many people. We see it as an individual's exploration of things of ultimate value, and their relationship with these issues. Some important indicators of spiritual wellness are:
- Feeling alive and aware of the moment, engaged fully with living your life ("being switched on").
- Being contented with what you are doing now, and where it may lead you.
- A sense of purposefulness and energy.
- Being aware of having finished a task well, a sense of completeness with matters.
- Ability to take the time to reflect and think things over, not feeling that some problems are best avoided and not spoken about.
- A sense of balance and control in your life.
- Being able to take 'time out' without feeling guilty.
- A sense of peace.
Being kind to yourself and others could be a good guideline overall for your well-being, and your social embedding.
Carol Ryff believes wellbeing can be described through a number of components:
- personal growth
- purpose in life
- environmental mastery
- positive relations with others
For each area, consider:
- "What does this mean day to day?"
- "How much am I 'doing' it in my life, today?"
- "How could I increase that tomorrow?"
- a positive attitude toward your self; acknowledging and accepting multiple aspects of self; feeling positive about your past life. Being able to say, "When I look at the story of my life, I am pleased with how things have turned out so far”.
"When I look at how I handled today, can I say, 'I did my best with that. I feel OK about how I went'".Personal growth
- feelings of continued development and potential and being open to new experiences; feeling increasingly knowledgeable and effective. Being able to say; "for me, life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and growth."
"How did I learn and change today? What was I open to?"Purpose in life
- having goals and a sense of direction in life; feeling that both present and past experiences are meaningful; holding beliefs that give purpose to life. Being able to say; "some people wander aimlessly through life; I am not one of them."
"What goal did I set myself and achieve today?"Environmental mastery
- feeling competent and able to manage a complex environment; choosing or creating personally suitable contexts. Being able to say; "I am good at managing the responsibilities of daily life."
"How did I manage the practicalities of getting through today. What did I do well in there?"Autonomy
- being self-determining, independent, and regulating your behavior internally; resisting social pressures to think and act in certain ways; evaluating yourself by personal standards. Being able to say; "I have confidence in my own opinions, even if they are different from the way most other people think."
"What did I do or say today that expressed my opinion or belief?"Positive relations with others
- having warm, satisfying, trusting relationships; being concerned about others' welfare; being capable of strong empathy, affection, and intimacy; understanding give-and-take of human relationships. Being able to say; "People would describe me as a giving person, willing to share my time with others."
"What gesture did I make today toward another person, that showed my ability to care?"
[Adapted from CD "Ryff's Scales of Psychological Well-Being"]
Relationships help us we discover who we are, a sense of identity is formed in relationships with others. We learn to cooperate or compete, a sense of autonomy and to know our own mind, interdependence and how to resolve the inevitable conflict.
They also aid a sense of security and self-worth, fed by a subjective appraisal of self, and by feedback from others about performance of expected roles.
A healthy sense of self-worth is related to feeling psychologically in control and having a sense of purpose in life.
The benefits of enduring relationships upon a person's mental and physical health are well documented.
People with strong personal connections are both healthier and happier than people who are more alone in the world. And it is certainly possible to build skills that will help us to develop effective relationships.
Care of mind and body
It's very important in life, to get enough sleep, vigorous exercise and good food. Moderate recreations, regular relaxation and just day-dreaming in positive ways can also enhance feelings of well being. You might need to look at the balance of study, paid employment, friends, family and personal time, and your workload and time management; it's easy for things to get out of balance.
What are your good points, the things you can give yourself credit for? Perfectionism, self-doubt and unrealistic expectations can easily sour your life if you let them.
Above all don't forget what makes you laugh, what delights you or gives you a sense of wonder. Maybe it's time to let go and have fun? You're probably doing all right, if you can keep things in balance.
Read our information sheet about Work, rest and play (PDF 96kb).
Wellbeing linksAustralian sites
- Seligman's Authentic Happiness
- Wellness Promotion Unit at University of Illinois
- Wellbeing Journal Online
- Reflections on wellbeing from the online Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
There are many tools designed to measure aspects of wellbeing. Many of these can be found at the Positive Psychology page at: http://www.authentichappiness.org.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of wellbeing, please contact Counselling and Psychological Services.