What is wellbeing and why is it important?

A concept as old as time immemorial – and a $4.2 trillion global industry – what wellbeing is has long earned our attention and motivated our actions. But beyond current products and trends, what does this word really mean and why does it matter so much for meaningful living?

Why is the pursuit of wellness so important?

Though this modern-day buzzword is central to everything from government policies to the food choices we make, how wellbeing is defined, measured, and even spelled (i.e., well-being, well being, etc.) is still up for debate. One of the most succinct evidence-based definitions comes from a study published in the International Journal of Wellbeing:

“[Wellbeing is] the balance point between an individual’s resource pool and the challenges faced.” (p. 230)

Global health leader, the World Health Organisation (WHO), guides their work from this same principle:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely
the absence of disease and infirmity.”

In other words, being “well” or having high levels of wellness considers the multi-dimensional human experience. Wellness is reached when you have the physical, psychological, and social resources to navigate the ups and downs that you will inevitably face as a human being. A complex, dynamic, and comprehensive construct, wellbeing is influenced by every aspect of your life, externally and internally.

Understanding the difference between objective and subjective wellbeing

Defining wellbeing as objective and subjective are seen as a way to help us understand and measure our own wellbeing.

What is objective wellbeing?
Experts agree that a person’s capacity for optimum wellness is directly affected by larger social and economic circumstances. From this lens, objective wellbeing measures tangible and quantifiable social and economic factors, such as higher education, longer life expectancy, safe neighbourhoods, and economic sufficiency and stability. Individuals in societies with higher levels of these indicators are believed to experience higher wellness and happiness; and this dimension measures these indicators.

What is subjective wellbeing?
Subjective wellbeing considers how you as an individual view yourself, based on your felt emotional experiences and reflective reasoning. One aspect of this considers a person’s ratio of pleasant and unpleasant feelings (affective/hedonic), while the another asks people to evaluate and express their level of life satisfaction (cognitive). In short, your level of wellness can be equally influenced and measured by external influences and your individual thoughts, feelings, efforts, and experiences.  

The dimensions of wellbeing

As you’ve now gathered, modern definitions and descriptions are complex and under refinement. Yet even as the scientific construct of these concepts continue to take shape, you can still engage in maintaining and improving it anytime, any day. Here are four broad and interconnected dimensions of wellbeing that you can pursue on your own quest for meaningful, high quality living.    

Physical wellbeing
Physical wellbeing considers the optimum functioning of your body and ability to perform daily tasks of living, alongside the proactive efforts you can make to maintain and improve your physical wellbeing. You can elevate your physical wellbeing by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, going for routine health and dental checkups, managing stress, and abstaining from harmful habits, such as tobacco use and drug/alcohol misuse.

Psychological (Emotional and Mental) wellbeing
Psychological wellbeing is defined as a state in which you have the resources and skills to cope with life’s normal stresses, work productively, expand intellectually, contribute to your community, and realise your own potential and abilities.

Social wellbeing
Humans, as social beings, are directly influenced by our relationships and community. Social wellbeing is defined as developing and maintaining healthy relationships, contributing to your community, and being aware of your influence on your community, society, and the natural world.  You can enhance this by prioritising friends and family, improving your communication skills, and participating in community activities.  

Spiritual wellbeing
This dimension encompasses the innate human capacity for finding inspiration, purpose, value, and meaning in your life, in addition to identifying and living by your beliefs and values. You can develop this by seeking sources of inspiration, participating in activities that align with your values and beliefs, setting aside time for reflection, meditation, or prayer, and studying spirituality, science, or philosophy.  

As all these dimensions of wellbeing are interconnected, caring for one aspect can benefit you on multiple levels. For example, practicing relaxation in a group setting could be considered an activity that addresses several dimensions of wellbeing. In addition to creating space for quiet reflection (spiritual), relaxation practices can relieve anxiety (psychological), normalise cortisol levels and circulation (physical), and connects you with a community of like-minded individuals (social).   

How Chinese medicine can enhance your wellbeing

Through an emphasis on comprehensive health and equilibrium, classical Chinese medicine (not to be confused with traditional Chinese medicine) has been supporting wellness for thousands of years. Based on the principle that all things in the natural world are inextricably connected, Chinese medicine views your individual health (the microcosm) as inseparable from the forces of nature and society (the macrocosm). Put another way, Chinese medicine defines your overall wellness as equally dependent on the aforementioned objective and subjective aspects, internal and external influences, and physical, psychological, social, and spiritual factors.   

Qi (often translated as “life energy”) is at the core of Chinese medicine and its holistic movement practice, Medical Qigong. Qi is considered the force that animates all activities of nature – including the vital functions of the human body. Through the lens of Chinese medicine, Medical Qigong uses coordinated movements and relaxation techniques  to balance and enhance the flow of Qi, supporting all dimensions of one’s wellbeing: physical, psychological, spiritual, and even the social element when you are practicing with a group of people. With many documented well being benefits, Medical Qigong has been shown to enhance circulation and digestion, reduce fatigue and inflammation, elevate mood and cognition, promote deep relaxation and sleep, and improve sexual satisfaction and function. In short, Medical Qigong can empower any and all dimensions of your physical, psychological, social, and spiritual well being as you ebb and flow with life’s ever changing circumstances.

As Nic Mark of New Economics Foundation told BBCRadio 4: “Wellbeing is not a beach you go and lie on. It’s a sort of dynamic dance and there’s movement in that all the time and actually it’s the functionality of that movement which actually is true levels of wellbeing (Nic Marks, Radio 4, 7 January 2012).

Give yourself the tools you need to adapt to change, recalibrate balance, and create your unique expression of optimum wellness. Follow our blog for self-care tips or explore our library of online courses and e-books to start incorporating Qigong into your life and enhancing your well being today.    

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