The concept of well-being has many facets, yet themes weave through all stages of development and point to critical aspects of how and with whom we spend time. Money can’t buy love, but up to a certain level it is crucial to well-being. Health and relationships matter, and pursuing goals deemed personally worthwhile also impact well-being. While there are no formulas there are fundamentals that, when understood and applied, can improve the quality of being and integrate the roles and activities to which we give precious time and attention.
Here are 5 ideas that can positively impact your sense of well-being:
We are wired as human beings for connection and belonging. An important aspect of this is proximity for most of communication and relating is nonverbal. “Being with” is a four-dimensional experience and, in part, technology has become an artificial “substitute” for this important element. Interestingly, in a webbed world, time on social media may not truly be “social” time.
While research and understanding of social media is still in its infancy, a recent study on Facebook users offers: “Our results showed that although real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being.” Technology is not evil. It is simply a neutral tool and the value we assign can enhance or detract from our overall sense of self.
Clearly, the value of real-world facetime is of a different quality and our connections must be nurtured and developed on a regular basis. The benefits of meaningful connections with those in our inner circle on an intentional and regular basis are profound and sustaining.
2. Helping Others
While many learn that “Self-actualization” sits atop the Hierarchy of Needs, the perspective of its author Abraham Maslow evolved later in his career to view self-transcendence as the ultimate motivation. In this view, finding a purpose, meaning, or cause greater than oneself represents peak experiences and the pinnacle of intrinsic drive. But even the day-to-day experiences of helping others at work has been shown to elevate meaning and well-being.
The theme here is helping, mentoring, volunteering, or influencing feeds the giver as much as those who receive. Even spending money on others has been found to have a greater influence on well-being than spending on oneself. Simple acts can take the focus off of ourselves and on to a wider community. Holding a door, saying “Please” and “Thank you, ”offering a smile, reaching out to someone in need are some of the many simple ways we can feed the souls of others and our self in daily life.
3. Other’s Influence
On every social level, positions of authority have influence. Children do much better in school when they sense their teachers care and provide a safe environment both physically and emotionally. Research by the Gallup organization found that the supervisor-supervisee relationship has similar outcomes.
Time studies reveal that many would rather engage in housecleaning than spend time with the boss. Further, Gallup found that when your boss ignores you, there is a 40% chance you will be disconnected or filled with discontent about your work. When you feel your boss cares and focuses mostly on your strengths, there is a 99% chance you will be actively engaged in your work.
The bottom line is clear whether we are employers, employees, teachers or students: the quality of relationships and attention matters to our overall well-being. To whatever extent you can, taking responsibility for this situation and its dynamic is critical to well-being for it is the space where many spend most of the day.
Positive Psychology has opened the window to the power of this attitude. Being grateful for who we are, what we have, and who we are with inspires a grounded perspective. Just as important, a thankful stance quiets the ego’s inherent sense of lack and want. It puts unhealthy competition and comparing aside in favor of a sense of abundance and respect. It’s a both/and stance rather than either/or and recognizes the gift of the present moment.
A true test of gratitude comes in the moments of challenges or the unexpected. Rather than waiting for the blessing of hindsight to see the benefit of adversity, we accept without resistance what is placed in our path, knowing that we can grow or become more resilient in some way. Simple acknowledgement of the blessings in our life and of the day has a profound influence on well-being and builds momentum over time.
5. Fill the Tank
The most basic currencies of well-being are trust and energy. Making and keeping promises to your self sets the tone for the trust you keep with others. Part of these simple promises are filling your tank in the ordinary ways of sleep, nutrition, movement, and connection.
Further, engaging in learning at any age has been shown to increase well-being and stave off the maladies of aging. Filling the tank is not a selfish act — it is a requirement for in each role we inhabit there is a current that requires us to be present and able.
Allan, B. A., Duffy, R. D., & Collisson, B. (2018). Helping others increases meaningful work: Evidence from three experiments. Journal of counseling psychology, 65(2), 155.
Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of general psychology, 10(4), 302.
Panepinto, J.C. (2017). The Arc of a Meaningful Life: Developing a Life of Purpose, Fulfillment, and Integrity. DX Sport and Life, Inc.
Shakya, H. B., & Christakis, N. A. (2017). Association of Facebook use with compromised well-being: a longitudinal study. American journal of epidemiology, 185(3), 203-211.
Rath, T., Harter, J. K., & Harter, J. (2010). Wellbeing: The five essential elements. Simon and Schuster.