Wellbeing – more than just health

Many years ago, I worked for a manager who was one of the most toxic people I have ever met.  He used to play mind games and played team members against each other.  He would talk vaguely in riddles which created so much uncertainty and distrust.  I was never quite sure where I stood at work, which started to erode my confidence.

The more my confidence diminished, the more I hated going to work.  I became mentally exhausted; I was less inclined to help others out; social events became harder.

I felt lousy about work and about myself.  I had less energy to go to the gym and I ate more unhealthy food.  I began to buy things that I didn’t really need to distract myself from my work situation.

Now, I’m not saying that my manager was the cause of all of this, nor am I suggesting that I had no control over how I allowed him to affect me, but I can certainly say that the situation at work created a ripple effect that negatively impacted on all other areas of my life and that my overall wellbeing decreased.

I am sure that I am not alone in noticing how when one part of your life is not going well, other areas of your life start to fall apart.  This is exactly what has been found in research, which has been summarised in the book, Wellbeing: the five essential elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter.

Based on studies of people from more than 150 countries, Rath and Harter write about the five elements of wellbeing, the essentials of each of these elements, and their interactions with each other.

I found their work to be really interesting, practical and useful and thought that I’d share a summary of their work with you.

The five essential elements of wellbeing

1.  Career wellbeing
Career wellbeing is not just about the work that you are paid for, but includes those things that occupy your time each day.  It encompasses your career (in the usual sense of the word) and also the work that you do that you are not paid for, whether it is staying home to care for children or older parents, volunteering or writing a blog.

To increase your career wellbeing do something each day that:
–  you like;
–  aligns with your interests and your strengths; and
–  gives you a sense of purpose.

2.  Social wellbeing
Our social wellbeing is dependent on the relationships that we have in our life and the interactions that we have with others each day.

Every hour of social time that we have each day decreases our chances of having a bad day.  In fact, most people need an average of six hours per day of social interaction (even introverts like me).  This sounds like a lot, but these social interactions include time at work, at home, emails, phone calls and other communication.

To increase your social wellbeing:
–  spend time each day with people who give you positive energy;
–  spend time with people who help you enjoy your life, be healthy and support your goals; and
–  make time to further strengthen these relationships.

3.  Financial wellbeing
Your financial wellbeing thrives when you effectively manage the financial side of your life.  It is about being financially secure so that you can generally meet your needs and are rarely stressed about paying your bills.

Interestingly, this doesn’t mean that the more money you have, the greater your financial wellbeing.  The research showed that there were many people who, despite having high incomes didn’t feel financially secure, and worried about money often.  There were also plenty of people on lower incomes who worried little about money because they felt that they had more than enough money to do what they wanted.

Spending money on others and buying experiences, rather than material possessions, has been shown to be important factors to increase financial wellbeing.

To improve your financial wellbeing:
–  establish automatic payments to lessen the daily worry about money;
–  buy experiences (for example, holidays, outings and meals) to share with friends and family; and
–  give to others.

4.  Physical wellbeing
When you have thriving physical wellbeing, your health is good and you have enough energy to get the things done that you need to each day.

The small things that we do each day are important to boosting our physical wellbeing as it’s these small decisions that we make each day that have a compounding impact our long-term health.

The best way to increase your physical wellbeing is to:
–  manage your health well;
–  exercise regularly (at least 20 minutes of physical activity each day);
–  get enough sleep (generally seven to eight hours each night); and
–  eat nutritious food to keep your energy up throughout the day.

5.  Community wellbeing
Community wellbeing can be the differentiator between a good life and a great one.  It begins with being secure in the area in which you live and once this need has been met, grows to include living in an area that is the right ‘fit’ for you and your family.

Your community wellbeing is also impacted by your engagement in your local community. Often people with high community wellbeing use their strengths and interests to give back to their local community.

The best way to increase your community wellbeing is to:
–  identify your strengths and passions and how they can benefit your community;
–  join local community groups or events; and
–  tell people what you are interested in so that you can start making connections.

Your wellbeing is impacted by the little (and not so little) things in your life.  It is not just about exercise and nutrition – although they are important contributors to feeling good.

The many elements of your wellbeing weave the web that supports you to live your life.  If one (or several) factors are weak, you will experience more stress and life will feel harder.  However, when you nurture all of the elements, you will feel energetic, strong and enthusiastic about your life.

Rath and Harter’s book, “Wellbeing: the five essential elements”, identifies several contributors to wellbeing – career, social, financial, physical and community.  Their book was easy to read and provided simple tips to positively impact a person’s life. I can highly recommend their book if this is an area of interest for you.

What do you believe impacts on your wellbeing?

Do you think that Rath and Harter have captured all of the elements of wellbeing?  Or are there are factors that influence your wellbeing?

I would love to hear your comments below.

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