The Meaning of Wellbeing
Are you feeling unhappy, depressed, or dissatisfied with your life? Let Patients Medical help you begin your journey toward greater wellness and well-being.
Although the term well-being is often used synonymously with “good health,” it also has deeper definitions rooted in psychology, philosophy, and economics. In psychology, well-being often refers to the sense of satisfaction and happiness a person feels toward their life. Philosophically, the definition is much broader, however, to also include negative feelings. If things are going poorly for a person, for example, they may be said to have a negative sense of well-being. By this definition, well-being more reflects the balance of feelings that a person has toward their life. Economists measure well-being based on criteria that are believed to promote health and happiness among citizens of a community. In this regard, well-being is a more collective indicator of the welfare of a society.
On a fundamental level applicable to all these definitions, we can consider the degree of well-being felt as a balance of “needs” and “wants” that define quality of life. Naturally, some of these needs and wants are subjective. People have different goals based on their personal preferences, interests, and past experiences. Just because a person doesn’t need something doesn’t mean they don’t want it, and the reverse is true, as well. One thing that is clear, however, is that an imbalance in these factors can make people unhappy, depressed, and dissatisfied. Through development of a healthy perspective on life and a balance of our needs and wants, we can all achieve an exalted level of wellness of the mind, body, and spirit to ultimately find happiness.
Factors that Influence Your Personal Well-being
Nearly every element of your life can potentially affect your sense of well-being. Certainly physical wellness and good health are important for a positive sense of well-being, so a nutritious diet and regular exercise are an excellent foundation for a lifestyle that promotes happiness. Yearly medical examinations can be both reassuring and empowering, relieving the wondering about your current state of health. The constant bombardment with statistics on cancer, heart disease, and strokes can reduce well-being as they plant the seeds of worry, especially as we age. The more attuned you are to your physical health, the less energy you’ll expend on such anxieties.
Getting enough sleep can also go a long way toward keeping the body and mind well-rested and ready to face the challenges of each day. Despite your peaceful exterior during sleep, your body is busily repairing itself. The mind goes through a structured series of phases, as well, during which it stores memories and processes information. All these aspects of sleep are important for feeling refreshed upon waking, so disrupted sleep patterns or sleep disorders can be detrimental to well-being.
Having a job or career that one enjoys is crucial, as it provides one with challenges, goals, and a sense of purpose. Money certainly can’t buy you happiness, but it can offer a sense of stability (or, for some, luxury) that is important for well-being. One must not necessarily make a lot of money, but to have the sense that enough money is made is important. How much is “enough” is not absolute, for very often, success cultivates the desire for more success.
In considering personal success in work and other aspects of life, it is important to set achievable, realistic goals. Having grand goals can be inspiring, motivating, and make a person feel an even greater sense of purpose, but keeping perspective while working toward these goals is the key to enjoying the journey to success. Creating and achieving smaller goals toward the larger goal helps to maintain a sense of forward progress. Being flexible and adapting goals as your life changes can also help foster positive well-being.
Having hobbies that we enjoy, socially or alone, can also greatly enrich happiness. Though some may find the adrenaline associated with a heavy workload addictive, balancing work with play is vital for an overall sense of well-being. Again, staying open to many different experiences and kinds of success can help a keep a healthy perspective on life. Keeping a balance between different activities also ensures we have alternatives and don’t come to rely too much upon one particular source of satisfaction.
Social factors can also play important roles in our well-being. The feedback we get from all relationships, from intimate partnerships to interactions within social networks, can provide self confidence, a sense of belonging, and offer support in times of need. The connections we make with others, forming bonds, developing trust, and sharing personal interests, also help us understand ourselves better. Social factors, particularly during our formative years, often play a role in determining self-esteem.
In a larger sense, being part of a society that you believe in also contributes to well-being. For some, this includes how one’s social network and career path are perceived by others. For others, activities on a local community scale are very important. This may inspire activism, volunteer work, or participation in local government. On a larger scale, faith in one’s national government can also have an impact on well-being.
As we search for meaning in our lives and look for something greater than ourselves as individuals, spiritual and religious pursuits may factor into well-being. Our perceptions of life, death, and everything in between that defines our existence can influence our happiness as we note time passing. It is important to find comfort in our beliefs, whatever they may be.
All of these factors are interrelated, coming back to the notion that our well-being is based on nearly every facet of our lives. We are beings in search of happiness, stability, purpose, companionship, and meaning.
Well-being and Wanting
What ties many of these factors to the emotional sense of well-being is the wanting. We want a good job, a girlfriend or boyfriend, and lots of money. These are things that most people want, so we have also placed value on them for ourselves. Even having some of these things, however, there may not be satisfaction. We then want a job we love, someone to live happily ever after with, and even more money. Psychologists that study happiness suggest that it is a natural human response to want more. Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert says, of the elusiveness of happiness:
“Well, of course we don’t get as much of it as we want. But we’re not supposed to be happy all the time. We want that, but nature designed us to have emotions for a reason. Emotions are a primitive signaling system. They’re how your brain tells you if you’re doing things that enhance—or diminish—your survival chances. What good is a compass if it’s always stuck on north? It must be able to fluctuate. You’re supposed to be moving through these emotional states. If someone offers you a pill that makes you happy 100 percent of the time, you should run fast in the other direction. It’s not good to feel happy in a dark alley at night. Happiness is a noun, so we think it’s something we can own. But happiness is a place to visit, not a place to live. It’s like the child’s idea that if you drive far and fast enough you can get to the horizon—no, the horizon’s not a place you get to.”
Wanting too much, however, can be a detriment to well-being. A person that thinks only of money, for example, may spend all of their time in pursuit of it, sacrificing relationships with friends and family. They may set aside other activities that they like, their tunnel vision blinding them and causing them to forget to keep their lives balanced. In the end, they may make more money, but where does it stop? Continuing upon that focused path may exhaust their bodies and minds, while the rest of life passes them by.
A lack of wanting can also indicate problems. Certainly there is nothing wrong with being content with one’s life, but in the absence of contentment, a lack of desire for things can indicate poor mental or physical health. Those suffering from depression and anxiety, for example, often have great difficulties setting goals and moving forward in life, even when encouraged by friends and loved ones.
Economists measure well-being based on criteria that would contribute to quality of life in complex societies, such as employment rates, population density, literacy levels, and divorce rates. Because all of these factors have numerical measurements, they are fairly easy to assess. The conclusions of the studies are based on assumptions about what is good or bad about society, but most are things that people can agree are needed for happy society (money, schools, stable families, etc). These studies can influence decisions that governments make regarding health, environmental, and educational policies to improve the welfare of their citizens.
Measuring an individual’s personal well-being can be much more difficult, especially once the survey moves beyond elements of “need.” In dealing with emotions, how a survey poses a question can also sway the subject’s answers. Criteria for positive well-being may also change as people have new experiences that evolve their perspectives on life. Sudden changes, whether personal, environmental, or health-related, can have immediate influence, as well.
Achieving well-being is a complicated personal journey that may be difficult to initiate alone. Our integrative physicians at Patients Medical are prepared to help you begin this journey, rebalancing your body, mind, and spirit through our personalized therapy programs. We combine state of the art medical technologies with elements of traditional medicine to provide you with the very best care available.
The strength of all our treatment programs is that we always take into consideration both your wellness and well-being. We recognize the complexity of the body and mind and respect the interconnectedness between the two. By always taking an integrative approach, looking beyond the immediate symptoms, we can set you on a path toward a healthier life beyond resolution of your current ailments. We also endeavor to empower our patients through education, keeping them an active part of designing their treatment programs so that they can reach their personal goals.
Even in the absence of overt physical or mental symptoms, we welcome new patients aspiring to improve their health and well-being. In these cases, you may be unsure where to start. Our physicians can offer their counsel, proposing medical tests or treatments as appropriate. We also offer a variety of classes and seminars that may potentially enrich your life, by offering you new perspectives on your health. Stress therapies, dietary modification plans, and detoxification programs can also be tailored to your case.
As you fully regain your inner strength, you will begin to find it easier to connect with others. Perhaps you’ll finally join those local organizations and clubs that you’ve been thinking about. In feeling better, you’ll have more energy to maintain relationships with your family and friends and meet new people. We will also work with you to devise realistic, achievable goals for every aspect of your life where you would like to improve yourself. As you sense the progress in yourself and find this new sense of well-being, you will develop an optimism and outward feeling of happiness that can carry you through every day.
Begin Your Journey to Wellness with Patients Medical
Our job at Patients Medical is to listen, to connect the dots between a patient's
medical history, symptoms, and their underlying causes. Patients Medical is a superb
place for women and men to secure integrative and holistic health care from providers
who give personalized care, partner with the patient to focus on the root cause
of their illness, support their recovery, and help them maintain good health.
For those that can make the journey, we are happy to welcome new patients to our
medical center in New York City. Call us at
. We are here to listen and to help.
We are located at: Patients Medical PC, 800 Second Avenue, Suite 900 (Between 42nd
& 43rd Street) Manhattan, New York, NY 10017
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