In 2017, one in five people will suffer from a mental disorder.
Which leads us to the question: Is well being on the decline?
But before we answer that question, let’s first define “well-being.”
The phrase “well being” gets bandied about a lot, and we take for granted that its meaning is clear. But what is it exactly? It’s not a lack of physical or mental disease. In fact, it’s not defined negatively as an absence so much as a presence.
People with a sense of well being possess certain positive characteristics:
True well being, according to a report by the British think tank, the New Economic Foundation, means “personal fulfillment,” feeling good about yourself and where you are in life, maintaining a healthy curiosity about the world, a sense of purpose, and strong social relationships. Those with high well being enjoy life more.
15 Traits of Well Being
Here are fifteen characteristics of people with high well being:
- Connected: They have strong relationships with people who are close and supportive. In fact, their life goals are tied to social relationships and positive connections with others. They’re not into making money for money’s sake. They’re attuned to themselves and others.
- Curious: People with high well being share an inquisitiveness about their world and surroundings and a mindfulness about their senses, thoughts, and behaviors.
- Giving: Being of service to others, like volunteering, enhances self worth and also reduces mortality in aging adults. Those who give their time and resources to others feel better about themselves.
- Active: Being active is good for physical, emotional, and mental health. Physical activity releases endorphins that lift your mood and energy level. Due to regular exercise, those with high well being have lower risk of chronic illnesses, memory loss, depression, and anxiety.
- Learners: Life-long learners, whether formal or informal education, maintain a sense of purpose and competency, thereby improving a positive self image. Education also provides social interaction opportunities.
- Balanced: They keep their stress levels in check through mental and physical activities that relax or remind them of pleasant sensations, like playing music, being out in nature, or working out. They also know how to relax, have down time, balancing out work. Finally, they know how to slow down and observe, meditate, and appreciate to understand and control their worlds.
- Healthy: Those with greater well being eat and sleep well. They avoid mood altering substances, like caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sugary snacks, refined carbs, and fried foods. And they eat more mood boosting foods, such as Omega-3 fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), nuts, avocados, beans, flaxseed, leafy greens, and fresh fruit. They sleep 7 to 9 hours a night
- Centered: They have purpose and set goals. People who find meaning in life have superior mental health and immune systems. Purpose and meaning may derive from work, paid or unpaid, that is creative, productive, and engaging, like gardening, writing, caring for a pet, or volunteering. Being a caregiver for an aging parent or sick child, likewise gives meaning and purpose to life. They’re people who spend quality time with family and friends.
- Kind: They treat others and themselves well through kind acts and self-care.
- Content: They like themselves. People with higher well being have positive perceptions of their bodies and physical appearance, regardless of societal expectations. They feel positive self-worth.
- Flexible: They’re not rigid in the face of the unexpected. They can adapt to disappointment or challenging situations with circumspection and adaptability.
- Aware: They’re in touch with their emotions and know themselves, their reactions, motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors.
- Grateful: They appreciate all they have.
- Groomed: They understand that caring for their appearance reflects positively on themselves and attracts others to them, boosting self-confidence and self-esteem. Looking their best impresses others and enhances opportunity, personality, and advantage. Caring for one’s outward appearance is an act of self-love.
- Resilient: They don’t let missteps and pitfalls lead to their downfall. Instead, they pick themselves up and start again.
Choose to Be Well
Well-being is a state of mind—and being—where characteristic traits pre-exist and grow from a sense of fullness about all life and its offerings. Clearly, healthy people are optimists, seeing the glass as half full.
Though some of these well being traits are inherited, most can be acquired or honed by intention, practice, and effort. For example, maintaining fitness and diet take willpower and consciousness. Stress reduction through yoga, meditation, problem solving, self-awareness, and education similarly require effort and devotion to daily practices.
Of course, there’s always help from counselors, fitness trainers, employers, family, friends, and authors of self-help books. But some exercises are simpler, like mindfulness, which is merely practiced attention to each of life’s moments as they unfold.
Achieving, maintaining, or maximizing well-being require a decision to be well and then a commitment to living a healthful, loving, productive, and meaningful life.