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What is Wellbeing?

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What is Wellbeing?  Wellbeing is a general term for the condition of an individual or group, for example their social, economic, psychological, spiritual or medical state; high wellbeing means that, in some sense, the individual or group’s experience is positive, while low wellbeing is associated with negative happenings.

Wellbeing is also the process that gives people a sense of how their lives are going, through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources or mental capital.  Wellbeing is an important factor in this subjective experience, as well as, contentment, satisfaction of the past, optimism for the future and happiness in the present.  People are more likely to experience positive psychology if they take in the good things in each experience or situation.  Even in the past if a person only focuses on the negative the brain will only be able to recognize the negative.  The more the brain has access to the negative the easier it becomes because that is what is more memorable.  It takes more effort for the brain to remember the positive experiences because typically it is the more numerous smaller actions and experiences that are the positive ones.

Economists, on the other hand, use the term for one or more quantitative measures intended to assess the quality of life of a group, for example, in the capabilities approach and the economics of happiness.  The New Economics Foundation, who looked for evidence-based key drivers for mental wellbeing, based the Five Ways to Wellbeing on the results of their researches.  Instead of eating five fruit and vegetables day to support our physical health, we will be looking at five activities each day that can support our emotional health.

The course offered by Pharos explores all these aspects and facilitates discussions and feedback on how we may discover and incorporate this five-a-day practice into our lives.

What is Wellbeing?

We think of wellbeing as having two main elements:

Feeling good and functioning well

  • “Feeling good” has a range of meanings, including having positive experiences and emotions, such as happiness, contentment, curiosity, and engagement in your life.
  • “Functioning well” describes how we manage in the world: having positive relationships, having some control over one’s life, and having a sense of purpose in life.

Wellbeing is not just the absence of mental illness or distress

Mental wellbeing is a state in which every individual can realise his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to her or his community.

Wellbeing is associated with better physical health.

Different studies have shown that wellbeing is associated with how long we live as well as our susceptibility to illness.  People with higher wellbeing tend to be less prone to ill health, experience lesser symptoms, and to recover quicker than do people with lower wellbeing.

Wellbeing is associated with emotional resilience.

The term resilience in mental health describes a person’s capacity to cope with changes and challenges, and to bounce back during difficult times.  The concept developed from research looking at risk factors for developing mental health problems and substance use.  Risk factors are circumstances or experiences which increase the possibility of a person developing a mental health problem or illness, such as having a parent with a mental illness, being bullied or abused, or experiencing a stressful life event.

Wellbeing is associated with creativity and problem solving.

The space afforded allows you to explore issues related to problem solving, creativity, and learning as well as spending more time pursuing personal interests.  As you develop your intellectual curiosity, you will actively strive to expand and challenge your mind with creative endeavours.  Intellectually well people are also curious and interested in the communities as well as the world around them.  The world becomes a wider, more open place, as we open ourselves to opportunities, rather than close down the risk of perceived adversity.

What five factors positively enhance our wellbeing?

Connecting

With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school, or in your local community. Think of
these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them.  Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Learning

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course.  Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an
instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

Activity

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance.  Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical
activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Noticing

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the  changing seasons.  Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you
appreciate what matters to you.

Generosity

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile.  Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in.
Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

Links

New Economics Foundation research: http://www.neweconomics.org/search?q=Wellbeing
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