What Is Well-Being? Tips on How to Improve Your Well-Being in 2021
03 Jan 2021 • 9 min read
Are you wondering what the term "well-being” entails and how you can improve yours?
The concept of well-being has gained a lot of attention over the last few years, underpinned by busy lifestyles, increasing workplace-related stress conditions, and the desire to live a meaningful life. These considerations have been reinforced as the pandemic hit the world in 2020, killing over a million people and impacting the lives of many more.
As social distancing and strict lockdowns reshape the way we interact, work, travel, and operate in society, the notion of well-being is becoming more important than ever.
If you're curious about what influences your well-being and how to improve it, this article is for you.
Indeed, in this post, we'll detail the foundations of wellbeing and highlight what the concept means before discussing the contributing factors and ways to improve it.
What is Well-being?
The Cambridge dictionary defines well-being as "the state of feeling healthy and happy," while the Collins dictionary defines well-being as "the condition of being contented, healthy, or successful."
In reality, the answer to “what is well-being?” is more complex than a dictionary definition simply because the concepts of happiness or the feeling of contentment can be interpreted differently and prompted by different things depending on each individual. Indeed, as we are all looking for different things in life, come from different backgrounds, have lived different experiences, have different expectations, ambitions, and goals, our definition of success or happiness can significantly differ from others.
However, even though there isn't a one-fits-all answer to this popular and important question, many agree that well-being is "the combination of feeling good and functioning well."
If we elaborate on this definition, well-being implies flourishing as a human being, functioning well in the world, enjoying positive relationships, experiencing positive emotions, having a sense of purpose, and thriving even when facing adversity.
Types of Well-being
The reality is that well-being is a broad and multidimensional concept. Indeed, it's a complex combination that integrates emotional, social, societal, and physical health, all influenced by multiple external and internal factors relating to one individual.
The WHO (World Health Organization) closely links health and wellbeing, dividing health into three categories, including physical, social, and mental well-being. However, we live in society and spend a big part of our lives at work. As a result, the workplace and societal well-being are also key components that need to be considered when it comes to our overall health.
To help you better understand each of these concepts, we’ve detailed below the different types of well-being:
Mental and Emotional well-being
Mental and emotional well-being focuses on connecting with your emotions, embracing your vulnerability, and being able to prevent unpleasant feelings from impacting your life negatively. It involves managing and overcoming these negative feelings by building emotional skills, implementing stress-management techniques, and showing resilience.
Note that poor emotional well-being can lead to depression and anxiety. As a result, building a diversity of emotional skills such as positive thinking, self-empowerment, or rejection tolerance can be a powerful way to manage difficult situations and unpleasant feelings and ensure your emotional and mental well-being.
Physical well-being is often associated with the absence of disease. But in reality, physical well-being encompasses much more than merely being disease-free. It involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle, allowing you to carry out physical and social activities without being physically limited. Looking after your body and setting up healthy daily routines and habits are all essential components of physical well-being as they can help prevent some diseases and ensure better physical and mental health in the long run.
Research has shown that material things are not the key to happiness. In fact, according to a Harvard study, things like relationships and love make us happier and healthier, showing the importance of social interactions and community in your overall well-being. As a result, social well-being refers to the ability to connect with other human beings, to develop meaningful relationships, and to create a strong network allowing you to feel loved and supported.
As a result, building social skills such as conflict resolution, active listening, or gratitude is important to effectively communicate with others, bond, and feel part of a community.
Societal well-being focuses on the ability to actively engage and get involved in your community. It's supported by building strong societal skills such as caring for the environment, supporting minorities and caring for others to help the community thrive and contribute to developing and maintaining a culture based on compassion and kindness. Societal well-being makes us happier because we feel like we're part of something bigger and find purpose through active engagement.
Workplace well-being encompasses all the different aspects of the working life, from the safety of your working environment to how you feel about your work, colleagues, manager, or company. Workplace well-being is becoming an integral part of an organization's strategy as a happy and satisfied employee is a more productive and effective employee. Besides, we spend a third of our lives at work, and for many of us, work is a key component of our lives. Working on interesting projects or meaningful tasks that will help you accomplish your dreams professionally is critical to your overall well-being.
Note that building professional skills and following your values will help you develop and maintain your workplace well-being.
While we've divided well-being into different types to allow you to better understand the multidimensional aspect of the concept, well-being is, in fact, an integrated system where all the different kinds of well-being are intrinsically linked. Indeed, if you’re lacking in one area it will inevitably affect other areas. For instance, If you're not looking after your body, a poor body image can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and withdrawal from social activities affecting your emotional and social well-being.
However, it works both ways. Indeed, if you're depressed, struggle with anxiety, and are experiencing poor emotional wellbeing, exercising once or twice a week might make you feel better about yourself while allowing you to meet people at the gym or while jogging in a park. This can, in turn, help improve both your emotional and social well-being. In fact, research has shown that exercising can be an efficient way to reduce depression (the famous "exercise effect" or "runner's high").
As human beings, we can naturally tap into the strength of specific areas to buoy the other areas we might be lacking.
Factors Contributing to Well-being
According to the Office for National Statistics, there are ten different underlying factors contributing to our well-being. These factors include (in no particular order of importance):
As mentioned before, health and well-being are closely linked. Indeed, health can be defined as a state where an individual experiences complete mental, physical, and social well-being. Our mental health can, therefore, affect our physical or social well-being and vice versa.
For instance, being physically or mentally ill will negatively impact your well-being as you won't be satisfied with your health and won't be able to perform social activities. On the other hand, being physically and mentally healthy will allow you to enjoy other contributing factors such as spending quality time with your friends and family or caring for your community, thus enhancing your overall well-being.
Financial difficulty, lack of savings, or unmet salary expectations can all negatively impact our well-being. Indeed, struggling financially can create extreme stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and depression. Besides, financial hardship can limit opportunities and increase risks in important areas such as housing. As a result, having a solid personal financial plan, including savings and thriving to increase your wage, can enhance your well-being.
The state of the economy of the country you live in can impact your professional and personal life and therefore affect your well-being. Indeed, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), or the economic downturn linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, all impacted the well-being of millions, destroying jobs and creating uncertainty. Besides, when a country's economy is in an upturn, job prospects increase and can also lead to better salaries, better morale, better work-life balance, and improved well being.
What We Do
What we do influences our well-being because it defines whether or not we're fulfilling our dreams, following our values and beliefs, enjoying our life, and whether we are satisfied with the path we’ve chosen so far. Some of the key contributors to well-being include our job and whether we like it, work-life balance and whether we enjoy our free time, whether we participate in social activities or hobbies, and our spiritual life.
Where We Live
Your neighborhood and your home directly influence your well-being. The brightness of your apartment, its size and decor, whether or not you own your house, how comfortable you feel in your home are all important criteria impacting your well-being. The same way your home is important, the neighborhood it is located in is equally important. How safe it is, the levels of amenities it provides, cleanliness, the parking situation, the public transport options are all factors contributing to your well-being.
Education and Skills
Many studies have revealed that education and skills strongly contribute to well-being. Quality education enables individuals to acquire the skills required to pursue their interests and passions, reach their desired salary, and fulfill their personal and professional dreams.
Check out our article on how to study and get skills effectively.
Research has shown that quality governance leads to more satisfied individuals. Living in a democratic country, being provided with social benefits in case of an economic downturn, trusting public institutions or the government are all key criteria that define quality governance and contribute to overall well-being.
The Natural Environment
According to many studies, spending time in nature and connecting with the environment is an excellent way to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. The reason behind these findings is that the quality of our environment directly affects our mood, and our nervous and immune systems. As a result, the quality of air and water, an easy access to green areas such as parks, the sound of birds, or the weather are all contributing factors to your well-being.
Having a strong social network and being able to create new contacts are both critical factors that contribute to the well-being of an individual. Being able to have fun with your friends, spend quality time with your family or meet new people who share the same interests can significantly enhance your social well-being, leading to improved emotional and physical well-being. How supported you feel, if you're in a happy relationship, if you have family and friends to rely on are all key factors that can influence your well-being one way or another.
Note that, while there can be some cons to their use, social platforms such as Facebook can be deemed as contributing to well-being as they make it easier than ever for people to maintain their social network or establish new connections. This has been particularly true during the various lockdowns we've all experienced this year, with many neighborhood Facebook groups popping up on the social media platforms.
Our personal well-being is an important dimension as it focuses on how happy and satisfied we are with our lives, whether we feel our life has a purpose, whether we feel happy and fulfilled or anxious and stressed and how we feel on a daily basis mentally and emotionally.
Tips To Improve Your Well-being
Research has shown that journaling can help reduce anxiety, manage stress or depression, and improve your emotional and mental well-being. Indeed, journaling is one of the most powerful ways to get clarity on your life as it allows you to express your feelings, organize your thoughts, work out a plan of action, or list your goals. It's also the best way to draft and implement a plan of action to achieve your dreams and goals, including setting up good habits.
Writing about certain feelings or experiences can help you process your emotions, overcome difficult situations which leads to enhanced emotional well-being. Besides, by helping you fulfill your dreams and achieve your dearest goals, journaling can significantly improve your overall well-being.
Mindfulness involves focusing your attention and energy on the present moment. Being mindful enables you to savor the simple pleasures in life and live in the moment. It helps you enjoy the little things in life, such as the time spent with your loved ones regardless of what's happening in your life or what you worry could occur in the future. It can also positively change your outlook on life and help you change your approach to difficult situations.
Many studies have linked mindfulness to increased resilience, reduced stress, anxiety, or enhanced self-esteem and therefore improved mental well-being. However, research has also shown that mindfulness could also positively impact your physical well-being, reducing the risk of heart disease, and improving cognitive memory. Here you'll find some mindfulness books to dive deeper into the topic.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years. And although once practiced to better understand the mystical and spiritual forces of life, it's now commonly used to help reduce anxiety and stress. Indeed, the same way practicing mindfulness can help improve your well-being, meditation has been proven to significantly reduce stress, depression, lower blood pressure, and boost your creativity. This, in turn, can improve your overall well-being. Some of the best meditation apps you can use include Headspace, Meditopia and Insight Timer.
Discovering or Rediscovering your Passions
Your passion could be a hobby or could be related to caring for the environment or your community. Doing something that you genuinely enjoy doing, whether it be arts, sports, or a community-related activity, can help you find a purpose in life, genuinely enjoy your free time, enhance your life satisfaction and make you happier. Besides, discovering something you're really good at can significantly boost your overall well-being.
Have you always loved drawing or painting? Why not join a painting club so that you can express yourself on paper, create amazing paintings or sketches, and connect with people who share your passion!
Or perhaps you care about the environment and would love to help save the planet? Why not spread awareness among your community, turn your house into an eco-friendly home or participate in environmental group actions!
If you're not sure what your passions are, no need to panic! An easy way to discover them is to ask yourself a few questions such as what makes you forget to eat, what can you talk about for hours, what did you love to do as a child, or if you were financially secure, what would you do with your free time? Doing a lot of research and experimenting with things will help you find your passions and create purpose.
Using Digital Wellbeing Apps
In a digital era, we get bombarded with information on a daily basis, and the amount of data we are exposed to can be overwhelming. From social media notifications to ads, emails, and text messages, your smartphone and laptop can become sources of anxiety or stress and impact your overall well-being.
As a result, Google has launched a series of digital well-being apps to help you track the amount of time you spend on your phone, or limit your notifications when you’re around other people. These different apps aim at optimizing your time online and achieving your personal digital well-being. You can read more about these apps here.
We hope this article provided you with some useful insights into what well-being is and what key factors contribute to your well-being. While we all have different views on what happiness, comfort and success look like, the most important contributing factors are the same for everyone with only their level of importance differing. Note that reaching wellbeing can require working on yourself consistently, but once you’ve mastered the recipe to your own well-being, you’ll be able to make the most of your life and genuinely enjoy the journey.