A path to Wellbeing

November 2nd 2011 was National Stress Awareness Day in the UK.  Wellbeing and Resilience at Work was the theme chosen by the organisers, the International Stress Management Association (ISMAUK), for this year’s event.  Wellbeing; now there’s an interesting word.  Do we need it? And if we do, how do we get it?

At its simplest, wellbeing is the state of being or doing well in life.   That makes wellbeing pretty challenging.  We live with constant change;  our thoughts, feelings and actions change hour by hour and this affects how we see ourselves; the events and experiences of our lives, past and present, influence our sense of wellbeing; and our genes and the personality we were born are also in the mix. 

So how do you need to look after yourself mentally, physically and emotionally, so that you can increase your sense of wellbeing?  Much of this is common knowledge but is less commonly practiced.  Exercise and good general fitness has a big bearing on our mental health.  There is wisdom in the old saying that links a healthy mind to a healthy body.  The human body evolved to be active.  Not alone does exercise help to burn off hormones related to feeling stressed, but it also releases feel-good body chemicals.  Eating healthily is an obvious way to improve our sense of wellbeing.  A varied diet of fresh, unprocessed food gives us the best chance of extracting the many vitamins and minerals that are essential to the body’s healthy functioning.  And don’t forget brain food, a good reason to take a fish oil supplement.  Weight matters as well; and so does our relationship with alcohol and coffee.  In all of this, some is good and more is not necessarily better.  Smoking and recreational drugs are not helpful.  In a time of recession, we never hear of the national sleep debt, but insufficient time sleeping makes its own contribution to lessening a feeling of well-being.  On the other hand, creating time for you is helpful in feeling good.  Use that time to appreciate yourself, to experience being alive now and become aware in this very second of what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch.  A colleague of mine calls it retiring to the monastery of your mind. 

In reality, it is only in this present moment that you and I can be fully alive and take pleasure in being alive.  Wellbeing happens now.  Our past cannot be retrieved and the future, even the immediate future is not ours yet.