What the F**k is Wellbeing
What is wellbeing?
Have you heard this lovely fluffy word being banded around a little lately? When we think of wellbeing it might make us think of our health, how we are feeling, maybe you don’t care - if this is the case you're on the wrong website. I can recommend www.ignorantasf**k.com.
The word wellbeing is derived from the same narrative of mental health. There is an acceptance that mental health is no longer just the absence of mental illness (1). It is also a myth that if we have a mental health diagnosis that every day is going to be a bad wellbeing day. We can have any diagnosis and have good days and bad days aside from our illness.
The below continuum from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) aims to illustrate this:
So if we accept mental health and wellbeing is a part of every human being, just like physical health, it’d be useful to know how to pimp it up to be our best selves. If we have fannytastic wellbeing we are more likely to not overspill our stress bucket when say, we find out we’ve been dating a sociopath.
Similar to Brexit the government's conversation surrounding mental health has been slow, confusing and cost shit tons of cash with nothing much to show for it. Therefore it is no surprise that it was only eleven years ago that the UK Government bravely decided that it was about time to give us a message on how to look after our basic mental health. This being The Five Ways to Wellbeing, this message was aimed to mirror its much better known physical health counterpart The Five a Day (which is now Ten btw - IKR).
(this has now been expanded to 10 points by https://www.actionforhappiness.org/10-keys but we’ll keep it a bit less cheesy).
To break the Five ways down a bit further:
Connect: go get deep (and dirty if you like) with another human. Surprisingly we are designed to be around others, loneliness is one of the biggest killers. When we are sociable we trigger oxytocin (happy hormone) production in the brain (3).
Keep Learning: try something new, burlesque dancing, a course on the evolution of humpback whales, how to achieve the perfect orgasm. Whatever it is, using the brain stops you from losing it and learning gives a sense of purpose.
Being Active: unfortunately ‘they’ keep telling me that activity is good for the brain. The good news is this is any type of movement not necessarily that swear word ‘exercise’. In fact, activity is proven to increase serotonin, another happy hormone, a chemical that is actually used in anti-depressant medication (4). However it is important to find your activity, be that wild swimming, a ménage à trois or tree climbing.
Giving: now this doesn’t have to be of monetary value - although prosocial spending is shown to benefit us (5). Giving of any kind to another, particularly those we have a connection with improves life-satisfaction, self-realisation and physical health (6). This is something I’ve been trying to practice on the tube in London recently through the gift of a smile. Needless to say, I’ve received looks that could kill back.
Taking Notice: going back to an earlier blog post, Taking Notice borrows its principles from mindfulness and meditation. Taking notice is about being observant of your current environment, being in the moment and avoiding distractions like Instagram.
Now if you really want to get into this a great way to start is by looking at how much of the above you're currently doing. The aim of this is to un-fill your stress bucket through good coping strategies. Rather than say hours on pornhub washed down with a bottle of Rioja (don’t panic it is ok occasionally).
We know quick fixes make us feel good, but for a limited time. So after you’ve considered how much of the above you do, look at how you can build more in, even though it may be more time-consuming. For example, going out and ‘connecting’ can seem a pain in the ass, but how many times have we gotten home and thought ‘i’m so glad I went’.
If it all feels a bit overwhelming why not set yourself a small goal by using the SMART goal principles (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). It might sound ridiculous, but even pencilling in a diary entry to look up local life drawing classes is a goal achieved. Achievement gives us a sense of purpose and a step towards the ultimate aim of becoming the next Leonardo Da Vinci.
If your interested in exploring what your current wellbeing is like try the WEMWEBS (Warwick & Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale).
(1)Lamers, S. M., Westerhof, G. J., Bohlmeijer, E. T., ten Klooster, P. M. and Keyes, C. L. (2011), Evaluating the psychometric properties of the mental health Continuum-Short Form (MHC‐SF). J. Clin. Psychol., 67: 99-110. doi:10.1002/jclp.20741
(2) The Five Ways to Wellbeing (2008), The New Economics Foundation. https://neweconomics.org/2008/10/five-ways-to-wellbeing-the-evidence
(3) Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13(1), 81-84. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00415
(4)Young S. N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN, 32(6), 394-9.
(5) Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Burns, J., Biswas- Diener, R., ... & Norton, M. I. (2013). Prosocial spending and
well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 635. doi:10.1037/a0031578
(6) Post, S., & Neimark, J. (2007). Why good things happen to good people: The exciting new research that proves the link between doing good and living a longer, healthier, happier life. New York: Broadway Books.