World Wellbeing Week - Why awareness is important.

World Wellbeing Week is a yearly campaign run by Wellbeing World. It gives us the opportunity to promote an overall awareness for the wide-ranging aspects of wellbeing, including social, physical, emotional, financial, career, community, and environmental wellbeing. In this blog we will discuss why it is important to raise awareness of wellbeing as well as the wellbeing week.

So what exactly is wellbeing?

The search for wellbeing has preoccupied people since antiquity and likely before. Perhaps wellbeing starts with feelings of life satisfaction, purposefulness and being in control of our lives. Having good relationships, enough money and good health all also contribute to our wellbeing. A sense of vitality, enjoying outside interests and being in balance with our environment are other factors. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say it is the search for how to best live and fulfil our human potential. The concept of wellbeing runs right across our lives – from our work, home life, leisure time and even the quality of our sleep. Wellbeing involves a complex mix of physical, psychological and lifestyle factors.

A good wellbeing not only means we are happy and fulfilled but it may help us to avoid encountering any mental health difficulties. 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer with mental health difficulties at some point in their life. It is clear to see that we need to make sure we are doing all that we can to maintain a positive wellbeing state and avoid these difficulties – where we are able to.

But, in order to begin these steps, we must first be aware of what wellbeing is and what contributes to a positive wellbeing, and what negatively effects our wellbeing.

How do you know if you have good wellbeing?

As stated above, wellbeing can be described as life satisfaction, purpose and control. There are some questions you can ask yourself to gauge your mental wellbeing:

  • Are you optimistic about your future?
  • Do you feel useful? Both in your personal and professional life.
  • Do you often feel relaxed?
  • Are you socially connected and feeling interested in others?
  • Do you feel energetic?
  • Do you feel you cope well with your problems?
  • Are you able to think clearly and concentrate?
  • Do you feel good about yourself?
  • Are you able to make decisions?
  • Do you feel loved?
  • Are you interested in new things?
  • Do you feel cheerful?

Your responses to these questions will begin to give you a sense of your wellbeing. If you would like a more in-depth analysis of your response to these questions, you can find many wellbeing tests with the same or similar questions online.

Regardless of your answers, there is always things we can be doing to improve and maintain a positive wellbeing.

Positive contributors to wellbeing

The NHS have outlined 5 factors which play key roles in having a positive wellbeing:

Connect with other people

Our relationships with others are fundamental to our wellbeing. They can help us build a sense of belonging and self-worth, they give us an opportunity to share positive experiences and create new ones, they provide emotional and practical support and give us the opportunity to provide this in return.  Regularly take time to be with your friends and family, make sure this is good quality time with minimal distractions. Catch up with a valued friend with whom you may have lost regular contact. Volunteer within your community – your community is an integral part of your social network and sense of belonging. Make the most of technology to stay regularly connected.

Be physically active

Exercise is not only great for your physical health, but evidence also shows it can greatly improve your mental wellbeing. Exercise does this by raising your self-esteem, helping you set and achieve goals and by causing chemical changes in the brain that can help to uplift your mood. Regular exercise can also help you with building a good sleep routine that is fundamental to your wellbeing. It may also encourage you to eat a healthy, balanced, nutritionally dense diet; another key contributor.

Learn new skills

Research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing by boosting self-confidence and self-esteem, building a sense of purpose, and helping you to connect with others. Even if you feel like you do not have enough time, or you may not need to learn new things, there are lots of different ways to bring learning into your life, such as, a new recipe, a new hobby, reading a new book,  or working on DIY projects.

Give to others

Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by creating positive feelings and a sense of reward, it also gives you a feeling of purpose and self-worth, and helps you to connect with other people. It could be small acts of kindness towards other people or larger ones like volunteering in your local community.

Be present

Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. Being in the moment means paying attention and focussing on your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this “mindfulness”. Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

Negative contributors for wellbeing

In your efforts to improve or maintain a positive wellbeing, there are also some potentially negative contributors you should keep an eye on. This is not to say that these things will instantly cause your wellbeing to suffer or that participating in anyone of them may harm your mental health and we are not demonising these things. But, over the long term and if you develop bad relationships with these things, then they may begin to have negative side effects. Some known potential risks to our wellbeing are:

  • Consistent poor sleep
  • Misuse/abuse of substances (smoking, alcohol, drugs)
  • Regular gambling
  • Lack of social activity / poor relationships
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Poor diet / not getting the right nutrition
  • Lack of exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Poor physical health / ongoing illness

It is important every now and then to assess your relationship with these factors and whether there has been any significant changes in how these things are present in your life. For example, if you find yourself drinking more than usual, or being more promiscuous, you may want to step back and evaluate why this has happened. It may signify a decline in your wellbeing.

What next?

How we gauge our wellbeing depends not only on external realities but also on how we experience those realities. We know very well the example of glass-half-full versus half-empty. The reasons for these differences between people are probably a complex mix of our innate character traits, genetic anxiety levels and developmental factors – what sort of life experiences we have had, particularly in the early years. It is also worth noting that your viewpoint on your wellbeing will change frequently, we will all go through high and low moments. The key here is to make those low moments as infrequent as possible.

If you feel you are having more low than high wellbeing moments and are not sure how to improve this on your own, this is where talking to a counsellor or therapist can be useful. They can help you examine whether your feelings and assess your overall wellbeing. If we can change the way we experience situations, then we really might begin to change our psychological wellbeing. As that then feeds into confidence levels, we then feel more empowered to take on some of the externals, creating a virtuous circle of improvements.

A good place to start is the CiC 24-hour Confidential Care Adviceline. A trained counsellor can begin to look at these issues with you or put you in touch with someone who might help in more depth.

Perhaps we all have the power to change wellbeing more than we realise, we just need to work out where to begin.