Well-being is slightly different from happiness. It includes having good feelings, but also links to taking part in meaningful activities, having a sense of individual vitality and creating an inner reserve to enable you to deal with difficult situations when they inevitably arise. Quite a lot has been written about well-being. Here’s a selection of some of the best.
The New Economics Foundation was commissioned by the UK Government to look into ways that well-being can be improved. They came up with 5 ways to do so:
Be it with friends, family or co-workers, the people we interact with on a daily basis are best situated to make us feel good and provide support when we don’t. Improving our connections with such people will impact on us everyday.
2. Be active
You don’t have to start by running a marathon. Any sort of physical activity that suits your level of fitness is enough to help improve your well-being, so long as you get out there and do something you enjoy.
3. Take notice
Make sure you take the time to observe the world around you. It’s too easy to get lost in the screens that surround us everyday. Also take the time to pay attention to the conversations you have with people and what’s going on in your own inner-world of feelings and imaginings.
4. Keep learning
You can start something new, restart a long-forgotten hobby or deepen your existing skills. Try developing skills you’re likely to enjoy using, such as cooking, making things or in a subject you’re already interested in.
Do something for someone else. Be a part of your wider community through voluntary work or community projects. Making others feel good about themselves is a great source of happiness and well-being.
Bronnie Ware spent several years working as a nurse caring for people who only had a few weeks of life left. In her blog she talks about common themes that were recurring when her patients were asked about anything regrets they had. Ware complied them into a top 5 list that helps show us what’s really important in life:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This shows how important it is to follow your dreams. Even if they fail then at least you aren’t left wondering about what could have been. If they succeed, then you’ve made at least one of your dreams come true.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
There are plenty of ways to help bring yourself financial stability and thus earlier retirement. If you are given the choice between more money or more time, having more time for yourself might be the wiser choice.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
There are many reasons why we don’t tell people how we really feel. Yet as far as I’m aware, no one out there is a mind-reader, so we need to explicitly tell people what’s going on inside our own heads. It can be a painful experience, but ultimately beneficial in the long run.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
This is one I’m acutely aware of in my own life. I know that some of my fondest memories are of times spent in the company of close friends. But as we each get older and more involved in our own lives, finding the time to meet up and enjoy our friendship can be a bit of struggle. A struggle that is always worth the effort once we’re all together and talking again.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Happiness is a choice. Most people won’t admit that to themselves. There can be quite a bit of societal pressure on us to not have fun, to behave seriously, in a ‘grown-up’ manner. However I believe Randall Hall said it best: “Maturity is knowing when to be immature”.
Back in 1972, during his coronation the king of Bhutan announced that Gross National Happiness was more important than Gross National Product. Since then, the government of Bhutan has been doing all it can to ensure that its people are as happy as they can be. To properly measure their populace’s happiness the Centre for Bhutan Studies came up with nine domains of happiness:
1. Psychological well-being
2. Physical Health
3. Time Use (work-life balance)
4. Community Vitality and Social Connection
6. Cultural preservation, access and diversity
7. Environmental sustainability
8. Good governance
9. Material well-being
I find it very interesting to note that material well-being, the thing we seem to spend most of our lives pursuing is only once item on the above list.
If you have a suggestion for number 20, please say so in the comments below.