Are you as healthy as you think you are?
Good health isn’t simply about being free from disease. It’s about your overall wellbeing.
But what exactly does wellbeing mean?
Wellbeing means different things to different people, and no formal definition exists. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wellbeing can be described as judging life positively and feeling good.
If you’ve never thought about your health in terms of general happiness, this exercise aims to help you do so.
And you’ll do it by exploring your wellbeing from the following angles:
How to improve your overall wellbeing
The first step in making any change is to understand where you are now, where you want to be and what you need to do to get there. This is an approach that’s commonly used in life coaching for personal development.
To help you understand where to start, use a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 equals not important at all, and 10 equals very important) to rate how important each of the following areas of life is to you:
- physical – being physically well (fit and active)
- mental/emotional – being mentally and emotionally well (happy and calm)
- social – being connected with those around you (family, friends and wider society)
- psychological/life satisfaction – having a sense of purpose and meaning
- intellectual – having a sense of growth and achievement
Taking stock of where you are right now
After rating the importance of the 5 areas, consider where you are right now in these 5 areas of your life. Rate how happy you currently are with each area on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 equals very unhappy and 10 equals very happy).
You should have 2 numbers for each area of your life. Subtract the score for where you are now from the score for how important that area is to you.
This will give you a figure that reflects how much attention you should give to each area of your life. The larger the figure, the more attention that area of your life may need.
How do you change?
The NHS promotes 5 evidence-based ways to wellbeing that loosely correlate with the 5 areas of life explored in this exercise. These 5 ways to wellbeing can form a useful guide for the changes you can make to improve your wellbeing.
Here are a few practical steps you can take today to make small but effective changes that can increase your wellbeing over time.
Set aside some time to speak with someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Ask someone how they are and really listen to what they say. Reach out and tell someone you’re thinking of them or send them a card.
You don’t have to go to the gym to stay active. There are many ways to build activity into your daily life, including:
- turning your daily activities into exercise. For example, take the stairs instead of the lift, or walk or cycle to work instead of driving
- giving yourself a daily activity goal. You could aim to take 10,000 steps, climb 6 flights of stairs or spend 5 minutes stretching
- choosing to do something active for your next social event instead of going out for a meal
You can increase feelings of positivity by being more aware of the present moment. This is known as mindfulness. You can be more mindful by:
- pausing to notice your thoughts and body sensations several times a day
- trying something new each day. Take a different route home or go somewhere new for lunch. Breaking your routine can help you notice the world in a new way
- increasing your awareness of your feelings by silently naming them when they arise. For example, if you feel nervous before an exam you may say, ‘this is anxiety’
Learning new skills can help you feel more confident. You can make learning a habit by:
- signing up for a course or class on something you enjoy
- teaching yourself a new skill, such as cooking a dish you’ve never cooked before or fixing something at home yourself
- volunteering to take on a new responsibility at work
Give to others
Acts of kindness – both small and large – can make a difference to the person you help. They can also give you a sense of purpose and make you feel more satisfied with life. Small ways you can give to others include:
- identifying someone in your life who's struggling and offering a helping hand
- saying thank you to someone who has done something for you
- offering to help a colleague with a work project
What are you going to do?
It’s time to take action. Why not choose a few of the ideas listed above and focus on doing them this week?
Write the actions you've chosen down in a journal, along with the number of times you want to do them and when you want to do them by.
Remember to go back and review your progress at the end of the week. Congratulate yourself if you manage to do them and consider making adjustments if you didn’t get round to doing them all.
Commit to setting yourself small goals like this each week and you may soon start to see the changes you’re making reflected in your overall happiness and wellbeing.