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Published on June 11, 2021

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

Well-being is a term often utilized in psychology literature to describe healthy individuals. It is often associated with contentment, happiness, or fulfillment. However, there is debate about what well-being really is and even how to spell it.[1] With so much confusion around the definition, individuals are often left to wonder what well-being is and how to achieve it.

This article will unlock the answers to three questions:

  • What is well-being?
  • How is it measured?
  • How is it improved?

What Is Well-Being?

Well-being includes a combination of feeling states and lifestyle factors. Feeling states associated with it may include happiness and contentment. Lifestyle factors may include feelings of fulfillment, achieving one’s potential, having some control in life, and engaging in meaningful relationships. Well-being is also associated with positive mental health.[2] In simpler terms, It is a construct used to describe many facets of life including psychological, physical, and social health. Synonyms for it include happiness, health, positive feelings, welfare, and wellness.[3]

It may also be defined as a state of balance or homeostasis. This balance is achieved by having enough resources to cope with life’s challenges.[4] Both challenges and resources may be prevalent in three areas: physical, psychological, and social.

When there is an abundance of challenges and inadequate resources, well-being is lost. However, humans are designed to work towards achieving a state of balance. Well-being is linked to interpersonal, professional, and personal success. It often results in greater productivity at work, increased learning and creativity, prosocial behavior, and fulfilling relationships.[5]

Why is well-being difficult to define? Likely because it encompasses a variety of life experiences and feeling states that may vary among individuals. To help individuals assess themselves, several measures have been created.

How Is Well-Being Measured?

Researchers need to agree on a standardized definition of well-being to accurately measure it. An adequate measure must therefore encompass every facet of well-being, including as a feeling state as well as a lifestyle. In other words, an effective measurement takes both life satisfaction and functioning into account.

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Well-being can be broken down further into two categories: objective and subjective.

Objective Well-Being

Objective well-being looks at standards of living. This is useful for research looking at cultures, countries, or groups of people. It includes measuring education, income, safety, and life expectancy.[6]

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United National Development Programme, and the Italian Statistics Bureau have identified six areas for study related to objective well-being:

  1. Health
  2. Job opportunities
  3. Socioeconomic development
  4. Politics
  5. Safety
  6. Environment

Subjective Well-Being

Subjective well-being includes an emotional and mental assessment of an individual’s life. Two prominent subjective measures are life satisfaction and happiness. Measuring subjective well-being is useful for predicting mental health patterns.[7] It is determined intrinsically by the individual. Regardless of how their life might be perceived by others on the outside, this measures how individuals feel on the inside.

Subjective well-being can be broken down further into two categories: hedonic and contentment. The hedonic component relates to feelings, emotions, and moods. The contentment component relates to thoughts and whether an individual feels their life has been fulfilling. Individuals often measure their thoughts and life fulfillment against social and cultural backgrounds.

In other words, it is important to consider the context in which an individual lives. Individuals may perceive their lives differently based on social and cultural expectations. Furthermore, individuals cannot be measured without taking their environment into consideration.

In 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development determined subjective well-being to be an important factor in assessing well-being. Because it is perceived by the individual, it is often assessed by self-report measures. In other words, individuals rate their own level of well-being through psychological tests.[8]

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There are five areas associated with subjective well-being:

  1. Genetic factors
  2. Basic and psychological needs
  3. Social environment
  4. Economics and income
  5. Political environment

How to Improve Well-Being

There are many ways that individuals can improve their sense of well-being. It is a complex construct with a variety of factors at play. Therefore, there is no one, perfect solution for it. Instead, the goal should be to engage in a holistic approach the incorporates a variety of factors.

The following methods are not comprehensive. What works well for one individual may not be the right approach for others. Instead, these approaches should be considered suggestions for improving well-being.

Individuals looking for a truly comprehensive assessment of well-being should consider scheduling an appointment with a psychologist, therapist, or medical doctor. These individuals may also provide resources, prescribe medication, or share tips for making lifestyle changes to assist in overall improvement.

1. Spend Time in Nature

There is evidence to support the claim that interactions with nature increase well-being. This includes an increase in positive emotions, happiness, and subjective well-being. Time spent in nature is also linked with an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as the ability to manage challenges in life.[9]

One study found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature each week was associated with greater health. In the study, it did not matter if that time was spent all at once or stretched out over the course of a week. Peak gains in well-being occurred between 200 and 300 minutes of nature time, weekly.[10]

2. Practice Gratitude

Individuals who experience gratitude as a trait experience increased well-being. Trait gratitude refers to the willingness to see the unearned value in one’s experience. State gratitude is a feeling that occurs after individuals experience an act of kindness and, therefore, feel motivated to reciprocate.

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One study assessed state gratitude, during Covid-19 in China. Individuals were instructed to journal while practicing gratitude for 14-days, which included a one-month follow-up. The study found that gratitude practiced in a natural setting during times of increased stress and anxiety resulted in increased positive feelings and increased life satisfaction. However, increased life satisfaction was not sustained after one month.[11]

As a result of the aforementioned study, there is evidence to support a daily practice of journaling and gratitude for increased well-being. Individuals should practice both trait and state gratitude, whenever possible. Over time, these practices will become a habit and lead to lasting improvement.

3. Develop Increased Awareness

Increased awareness is associated with improvements in positive subjective experience, increased self-regulation and goal-directed behavior, and successful interactions with others.

Increased awareness can be attained through meta-awareness. Meta-awareness is the ability to consciously notice an emotion, thought, or sensory experience. It is a skill that can be taught. Mindfulness-based meditation and psychotherapy are two ways in which meta-awareness is learned. Kindness and compassion meditations are both linked with improved well-being. Both Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) may help increase awareness.[12]

4. Achieve Work-Life Balance

An individual’s workplace has the potential to either help or harm them. Workplace factors that negatively impact well-being include:

  • Work-related pressure or demands
  • Lack of autonomy or flexibility
  • Poor coworker and supervisor relationships
  • Shift work
  • Longer workday length

Employers can directly improve their workers’ well-being by providing paid leave, opportunities for salary growth, support for individuals with disabilities or those returning after injury, and access to health care. Improvements in the work environment and job structure may also be helpful.[13]

Worker well-being is beneficial both for workers and their employers. It is associated with improvements in:

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  • Performance at work
  • Coping with stress and self-regulation
  • Satisfying relationships, prosocial communication, and cooperation
  • Immune system functioning
  • And physical and psychological health

Workplace well-being is also associated with a decrease in burnout, stress, and sleep-related issues.[14]

5. Seek Out Positive Relationships

Individuals with caring and positive connections often rank higher in well-being. On the flip side, poor social relationships can be more damaging than excessive drinking and smoking. Positive social relationships also help to protect against mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Prosocial behaviors are important for forming social connections that lead to increased well-being. Appreciation and gratitude are both pro-social traits. For example, focusing on the positive qualities and actions of others. Empathy for others also contributes to higher levels of well-being. Lastly, generosity is also a strong predictor of life satisfaction.[15]

6. Stay Hopeful

Hope is a concept often related to spiritual and religious traditions. However, it entered the world of psychology around the 20th century. It is now an important construct in positive psychology. Hope can be defined broadly as the belief that things can get better, and that goals are achievable.

Hope is associated with an increase in:

  • Emotional adjustment
  • Positive feelings
  • Life satisfaction and quality of life
  • Social support
  • A sense of purpose

Takeaways

Well-being is a construct that is hard to define, yet widely cited in psychological literature. It is linked with feelings of happiness and contentment. It might also be described as a sense of purpose or satisfaction with life.

To accurately measure it, there needs to be an agreed-upon definition. In general, it has been separated into objective and subjective categories. Objective well-being considers social and cultural constructs. Subjective well-being refers to the individual’s felt sense and internal assessment of their own.

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There are several things that individuals can do to improve their well-being. However, no one thing will improve everything. Rather, this requires a holistic practice of mental and physical health. Nevertheless, individuals who spend time in nature, develop positive connections, practice gratitude, stay hopeful, and develop awareness have a greater chance of experiencing better well-being.

More Tips For Your Well-Being

Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Olivia Schnur

Olivia is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher. She writes about healing, health and happiness.

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

7 Daily Habits to Balance My Day (And My Life)

7 Daily Habits to Balance My Day (And My Life)

We live in a success-obsessed world. Many of us chase after success in our careers or business at the expense of family, relationships, health, and spirituality. We fail to understand that success cannot be compartmentalized. When one area of your life suffers, all the other areas will follow suit sooner or later. If you want to be successful in life, and not just in your career, you need to strive for balance.

The good news is that you can get closer to balance in your life with 7 very simple daily habits:

1. Start your day with prayer or meditation

Achieving balance in your life starts with your personal choice and decision to change the way you live your life. It requires your attitude and discipline to make it happen. That’s why achieving balance in your life requires that you have a very strong core. If you don’t like who you are, where you are, or what you do, chances are you won’t like the other areas of your life either.

Make it a habit to start your day by praying or meditating. Praying or meditating in the morning helps you feel that you are more than you think you are, that you can do more than you think you can, and that there is more to life than what you’re currently doing. Connect with yourself, know yourself, affirm yourself more, and understand that you are meant for greater things.

2. Be fully present when you’re with your family

Family life is the area most often associated with work-life balance. Having a great family life is like the pinnacle of achieving work-life balance. After all, it is your family who sticks with you through thick and thin. When all is said and done, some friendships fade, but your family will remain.

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Start making a difference in the world by first making a difference in your family. Spend more quality time with them. Eat breakfast with them. Be more physically and emotionally present in their lives. Do one thing with your family today in which you’re fully engaged. Yes, you can make a huge dent in other people’s lives, but start small by making a dent and being more involved in the lives of the people already around you.

3. Reach out to one person you already know

In business, having a strong network helps you spread the word about your company. It also helps you get more things done. In your personal life, a strong network helps you grow in the different areas of your life. Which is another way to help achieve balance. By expanding your network and building strong connections, you get to learn from other people, widen your perspective, and even stretch your vision for your life.

Everyday, contact at least one person you already know. It’s always easier to start expanding your network with someone you already know. Tell that person what you’re up to and ask if there’s anything you can help him or her with. Then, ask that person if he or she can help you with something, even something as simple as spreading the word about what you’re doing. People are willing to help more than you think. Asking for help also builds trust. To keep the ball rolling, don’t forget to ask if he or she can introduce you to someone who can help you as well.

4. Spend fifteen honing your expertise

For Bill Gates, it was computing. For Michael Jordan, it was basketball. For Albert Einstein, it was theoretical physics.What did these three successful gentlemen share? They knew what they were great at.

If you want to succeed in life, excelling at one thing is a must. It’s better to be great at one thing and suck at everything else than to be average at everything.

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Spend at least fifteen minutes each day improving what you’re already good at. If you’re into blogging, spend fifteen minutes reading articles on websites like Problogger. If you’re good at marketing, spend fifteen minutes studying the latest marketing tools and trends and visiting blogs like Seth Godin’s. If you’re great at sports, by all means, practice! Whatever you do, make sure you strive to become better each day.

5. Do something creative

Even though the left-brain, right-brain dominance theory has been debunked,[1] the world still enthrones activities attributed to the left-brain, such as logic and measurement,  while “right-brain” activities like creative pursuits get short-changed. Most jobs today require analytical thinking more than creative thinking. Many people also deem creative pursuits impractical and give up on them.

No matter what your job is, you should keep going after creative pursuits. If you’re employed or if you have a business, create a plan to get more customers, to get more things done, to introduce more products, and to grow the business. Notice how your blood will get pumping and your adrenaline rushing. Only “right-brain” activities or creative pursuits have that effect in our lives. More importantly, it is only through creative pursuits that you stretch your vision and redefine what’s possible for your business and for life.

If you’re more of an artist, engage in creative activities that excite you like drawing, painting, playing music, writing music, animating, writing a story, or even starting a blog! It helps achieve balance in and add color to your life after a long, monotonous, “left-brain” dominant day.

Don’t just control, using your analytical “left-brain.”Create using your “right-brain” as well.

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6. Take a 30-minute walk

The first five things you need to do each day focus on your emotional, relational, and personal success. But, in order to achieve and enjoy all those successes, you also need to succeed in the area of your physical health. You cannot enjoy all the success you’ve worked so hard for if you’re lying sick in bed.

Make it a habit to get yourself moving. Take a 30-minute walk,[2] go to the gym, take Zumba classes, or even stretch for ten minutes after every hour of sitting down. Just get yourself moving! There are so many different benefits from physical activities[3] and so many different ways to do it. Find what works for you and do it consistently. Small, consistent action beats one big effort followed by a big crash every time.

7. Do one thing to reach out, give back, or pay forward

We all know the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Whatever successes you are enjoying right now, you didn’t achieve them on your own. You were given unique opportunities by your parents, your family’s history and background, different circumstances, the people you met, and “angels” you’ve encountered along the way. Success is not only a personal achievement. Success is also being given many opportunities to succeed.

Unfortunately, not everyone was given the same opportunities you were given.

If you are reading this article, chances are you are living a more privileged life than many others out there who don’t even have internet access. Be that small flicker of hope to someone today. Be the “angel” who will give that person the same opportunity that you had. No matter how you help, whether in educational, business, or even financial support, keep in mind that what you’re giving someone is an opportunity to succeed.

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Helping someone also doesn’t have to be big right away. You can start small by simply reaching out and giving that person an opportunity to have an emotional support in you.

Finally, Malcolm Gladwell put it very nicely in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success:

“Because we so profoundly personalize success, we miss opportunities to lift others onto the top rung… We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail. And most of all, we become much too passive. We overlook just how large a role we all play—and by ‘we’ I mean society—in determining who makes it and who doesn’t.”

Put It on Paper and Take Action

Now that you’re finished reading, don’t let your own ideas of achieving balance in your life slip away. Write them down, make a clear, actionable plan, act on it, and live a remarkable and more balanced life.

Featured photo credit: Cristian Newman via unsplash.com

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Reference

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