Wellbeing… Well being… Being well…
What does it mean to have ‘wellbeing’?
As I sit with this question and ponder the term wellbeing … well being … being well …, I am aware of the fact that there is a huge industry devoted to ‘wellbeing’. I am also aware that I am part of that industry, offering services to support people with ‘better work and wellbeing’. I truly appreciate the need for my offerings and I like to think I may have a slightly different take on wellbeing than might be the common perception.
I wonder how many of us know what it means when we are looking for wellbeing. I think I know what most of us want it to mean, i.e. ‘to feel happy and healthy’, and that in itself makes sense. However, over the years my professional experience has shown me that the definition is often followed by an unspoken sentiment, i.e. we want to feel happy and healthy ‘all the time’.
And that is a lot of pressure! Pressure that is most likely going to stop us from actually experiencing wellbeing. And what do we mean by ‘happy’ and ‘healthy’?
This prompts my second question …
What is our measuring stick?
If we want to measure our health and happiness by how we feel, we may have a bit of a challenge on our hands. Our feelings are constantly shifting from joy to sadness, grief to anger or excitement to fear and many emotions in between.
If our feelings keep changing with the changing circumstances, which they do for many of us, then we are really just on a happy, sad, joyful, angry, excited, fearful, etc. merry-go-round. Sometimes fast moving and sometimes nearly stationary. A merry-go-round can be a lot of fun (or vomit inducing!) but it doesn’t actually go anywhere. What I am trying to say in a round-a-bout way (spot the unintentional pun) is, I am not sure if our in the moment feelings are always a helpful measurement.
This prompts my third question …
Can you have a sense of wellbeing without actually being well?
I believe so. Wellbeing doesn’t have to mean feeling well all the time. It is my experience that it is possible to suffer an illness or have a broken bone and still have a sense of wellbeing.
This leads to my final question …
What then helps us to have a sense of wellbeing?
I will share my personal reflections on the subject in case it may help you and I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences too (do share it in the comments section below after you have read mine).
Here are my thoughts. They are not conclusive but I believe they point to the essence of wellbeing. The foundation from which everything else flows.
What comes to me first of all is that it may help if we stop making wellbeing a feeling destination to get to. Why? Because we don’t have to go anywhere to have a sense of wellbeing. It is right there inside of us. First and foremost wellbeing is an inside job.
“… We don’t have to go anywhere to have a sense of wellbeing …”
Our feelings are not necessarily a measure of our wellness. They are, however, a barometer and a measure of how we are dealing with our perceived reality. I say ‘perceived’, because put 100 people in a room and you will have a 100 different perspectives about what is really going on in that moment, and to each person in that room their lived experience will feel very real.
You may argue, therefore, that what constitutes wellbeing for one person will be very different for another, and in many ways this is true, whilst at the same time there is something that we all have in common and I believe it is a key driver to our general sense of wellbeing:
Our need for connection.
We feel unwell when we feel disconnected.
The need for connection has been highlighted only too well during the pandemic. As humans we often don’t recognise what is important to us until it is taken away from us.
However, our connection with others is just an element of it. If we really want to understand wellbeing, I believe we need to create a better understanding about what connection truly means and how it relates to our sense of wellbeing.
Connection isn’t just about connecting to others, although I want to be clear that it can play a very important part (and I will come back to that later), but first and foremost it is about our connection to ourselves, because when we are disconnected from ourselves, we are disconnected from our wellbeing.
Again, wellbeing is an inside job.
As I look back over the past 12 months, I am noticing three core things that have helped me stay connected, even when things have been challenging. Although not conclusive, I believe these three things are universal to us all and I will share them with you here in case they may be of help to you too as they will form the foundation from which everything else flows:
“… First and foremost it is about connecting to ourselves …”
1. Connecting to our Breath
This is always a good place to start.
When we feel disconnected, we tend to feel contracted and tight in our body. This makes us feel uneasy in ourselves.
Perhaps we are thinking about something that worries us – something that happened in the past or that may (or may not) happen in the future.
To reconnect to ourselves, we must therefore find a way to come back to ourselves through our physical body. The easiest way to do this is to connect to our breath and allow it to guide us back in. As we come back to our body, our breath helps to soothe our overactive nervous system and allows us to be present to what is going on for us in that moment. Breathing out releases the tension that we may have been holding onto.
Try it now. Breathe in and out gently and deeply. What do you notice?
Sometimes we notice the contraction and the resistance as we try to control the breath by forcing it in and out. We forget that our breath is our life force and the most natural thing to us. In fact, it was the first thing we did when we came into this world.
Connecting to our breath brings a sense of calm and allows us to be more grounded and present to the moment and as a result more aware of our needs. I would say that connecting to my breath is number one on my list when it comes to instant stress relief and key when it comes to our wellbeing.
2. Connecting to Love
When we feel disconnected, we also tend to feel lost and unloved. To help us come back home to ourselves, we must reconnect to love.
You can start small by allowing yourself to notice the little things. Ask yourself, What did I love today? What touched my heart? Was it the rainbow you saw? That chat with a neighbour? The cuddles with your dog?
These are moments when the love inside of you is reflected back at you. Try it and notice how your sense of wellbeing increases once you start focussing on love.
When that starts to become easier, you could choose to explore some other questions around the subject. What do I love? Where would I like to spend a little more time? What inspires me? What do I love to share and give? What would I love to receive Which of these questions are helpful? Would you prefer another question? Having the right questions is powerful catalyst for change.
And here I do need to mention the importance of our connection with others as we can’t always tap into the right questions or answers ourselves.
If you can’t find your way back to love on your own, it can help to have someone else – a coach, mentor, good friend or a loving community – to support you by reflecting love back to you. After all, our relationship with others is really an opportunity for us to connect with the different parts of ourselves. Choose your company wisely and you will have the best of you reflected back at you.
Reconnecting to love requires a commitment and a willingness to be openminded and curious and the courage to be vulnerable. It will be worth it, because connecting to love will give our life meaning and bring much needed compassion – a very important part of our wellbeing.
“…Our relationship with others is really an opportunity for us to connect with the different parts of ourselves …”
3. Connecting to Spirit
When we feel disconnected, we also tend to feel dispirited and uninspired. Things become harder and it may feel like we are pushing a big bolder up a hill or swimming through treacle. You know the sort of feeling.
It is a clear sign that we are disconnected from spirit.
We know when we are connected to spirit, because everything flows. There is no pushing or pulling, no need to control things, There is utter trust that all is well and that you are part of something greater than yourself.
The way we reconnect to spirit may be different for all of us but the way I see it is that it has everything to do with allowing creation to flow through us and allowing ourselves to express it in a myriad of ways. For some this may be through sport, adventure or business. For others it may be through dance or music or art. Or wherever spirit may take you.
Where does spirit take you?
Connecting to spirit helps us feel inspired to take positive action and gives us a sense of hope. Expressing ourselves through spirit gives us a huge sense of fulfilment.
If you have been following my work, you know that spirit takes me when I express myself through writing, singing and doodling. I feel it particularly strongly when I doodle because it is such an opportunity to get out of the way of myself and let spirit guide me. That is why doodling has become such a go to for me when it comes to wellbeing and I love to support others to tap into the magic of it too. Perhaps you may want to join me on one of my courses? Do check out my forthcoming events.
Create a Strong Foundation
You may be wondering why I haven’t spoken about the importance of having a healthy diet and how essential exercise is when it comes to wellbeing.
The reason is, if you tap into the above, you will create a foundation that will help you become more conscious about your life choices. Slowly a sense of wellbeing will seep into every area of your life and you know it will still be there inside of you, even when the going gets tough.
These were my personal and professional reflections and I would love to know yours. Let me know what helps you with your wellbeing by sharing your thoughts in the comments.
Ann The Heartworker