Exploring the concept of well-being struck a chord for us. As two Santa Monica residents who are active in our community, we paid attention last year when our city received a $1 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge for devising a diagnostic tool to measure its residents’ cumulative well-being. The tool is called the Local Well-Being Index.
Before receiving this grant, we had never stopped to consider what “well-being” actually encompassed. It seemed such a nebulous word, like a lot of the psychological terms people regularly use. This experience led us to create our own personal definition of well-being. To us, well-being is holistic and multifaceted. Well-being is composed of five quadrants: the physical, the mental, the emotional, the financial, and the spiritual.
The physical component of well-being includes physical health, athleticism, and vigor. The mental includes being educated about a broad range of topics as well as a mastery in one specific discipline. Regular intellectual stimulation, discipline, and focus are also included. The emotional aspect involves being in control of one’s emotions, social connectedness (which includes friendships, family, and romantic/sexual relationships) and a healthy, positive outlook on life, unburdended by persistent anxiety, melancholy, or low self-confidence. The financial aspect includes the ability to support yourself financially, independent of others, and with enough cash flow to support yourself comfortably.
While all of the categories are important and interrelated, the last category means the most to us and is the one that, if not present, would render the others meaningless. The spiritual aspect of well-being is the belief in a higher power, something larger than ourselves. Whether we call it God, Universe, Source, the Love Divine, Karma, Spirit, it all means the same thing. It’s the understanding that we are, in the words of Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith of Agape fame, “spiritual beings having a human incarnation.” This spirituality brings a sense of inner peace and serenity.
We understand well-being to be a holistic concept, as all of these components are correlated. Through studying famed psychologist Abraham Maslow, we came to the belief that the universe is created for our self-actualization, which is the process in which an individual makes the most of their personal potential.
Previously, we were taught that well-being meant having no symptoms, but that concept of wellness has evolved over time. Rather, well-being is a continuum, where illness is on one side and health and wellness is on the other. Well-being is versatile, as each of the aforementioned concepts need to be in balance to achieve optimum well-being.
There are five quadrants that compose well-being, each as important as the next. Like we said, according to Dr. Maslow, a human’s highest need is self-actualization, which means living up to your full potential. So, in order to do so, the five components of well-being need to be in order.
So, how do you become well? When it comes down to it, to be happy you need to have as little anxiety in your life as possible. Anxiety is the antithesis to well-being. So, how do you reduce anxiety in your life? There are three different methods, all equally valid: detachment, having a plan, and getting outside of yourself.
Detachment is the Buddhist notion of observing but not attaching to events, possessions, or people. Planning serves to abate anxiety because when a plan of action is created to deal with anxiety producing situations, the anxious person automatically feels a sense of control. And, being in service to others reduces anxiety in that it takes the focus off of the anxiety and onto a larger cause where you can affect positive change.
Let’s try this little exercise. The next time an anxiety producing situation arises in your life, choose one of three options (or all of them, if you’re particularly ambitious): 1) Try to see the situation as a curious observer rather than someone stuck in the middle of it. 2) Come up with a plan: What will you do if the thing you’re worried about actually happens? How will you react? Come up with options, and write them down. 3) Do something kind for another person. It need not necessarily be volunteer work, but it can be something small. Call a friend you’ve been meaning to talk to, buy a gift for someone you care about, give your spouse a compliment. Getting outside of yourself allows you to focus on the more important things in life.
We hope you find these techniques helpful. And until next time, remember, all is well.
Simone is pursuing her master’s degree in clinical psychology and serves on the Commission for the Senior Community. She prides herself on having had more marriage proposals than shoes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In her inner circle, Limor, a screenwriter, is known as the “wing woman” and her cell number has become the hotline for dating advice. You can reach her at email@example.com.