The Science of Well-being and Ways to Enhance it

Well-being is a concept that relates to a state of mind which includes, how we are feeling and our ability to cope with daily stressors. It is an evaluation of the ‘self,’ otherwise referred to as ‘Subjective well-being.’ This is also the reason why it is difficult to define it in concrete terms. 

Well-being is a positive state of life with deep-rooted joy, contentment, peace of mind, and satisfying relationships. It also acknowledges the absence of negative emotions and the presence of positive emotions. It is popularly believed that well-being translates into better satisfaction, a purpose for life as well as the ability to handle stress, and have a sound Mental Health.

The Factors that Determine Well-being

Well-being is influenced by some factors that dictate its level and intensity. 

  • Genetic factors: The expression of positive emotions to some extent is heritable. 
  • Personality traits: Optimism, extraversion and self-esteem are some of the personality traits that interact with each other and influence well-being. 
  • Age and gender: Men and women tend to have similar levels of well-being but that changes with age. Young and older adults are seen to have greater degrees of well-being as compared to middle aged adults. 
  • Income: The correlation between income and well-being, though moderate, has an impact where unemployment leads to lower well-being. 
  • Relationships: the  quality of relationships also affects the well-being of the individual. 

We’ve all been through stressful times when we felt upset and found it difficult to function effectively. Our well-being could be affected by loneliness, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, feelings of loss or bereavement, difficulties at work, or financial instability. Other factors that compromise one’s well-being are events that happened in the past. It not only comprises of childhood abuse or trauma, social disadvantage or discrimination but also long-term physiological illness, poverty, debt or unemployment, and caring for an ailing family member or friend. 

Well-being and Mental Health 

Experiencing a lesser degree of mental well-being for prolonged periods can lead to a mental health issue. On the other hand, a person may have negative well-being when they are predisposed to mental health problems. This does not mean that there won’t be periods of positive   mental well-being. During those times, it is necessary to know what affects one person may not essentially affect another person in the same way. 

It is crucial to understand that well-being is a multidimensional concept that is more than a mere presence of positive emotions. It therefore incorporates human development and psychological functioning. Thus, this paradigm can be viewed through psychological, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. Let’s understand these in detail below. 

Psychological Well-being 

Coined by Carol Ryff, Psychological well-being is one of the first systematically reviewed models of Psychological well-being that stood the test of time. Ryff formulated six  categories of Psychological well-being – self -acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, and autonomy. These areas are observed in a continuum from high to low. Psychological well-being can be enhanced by 

  • indulging in positive thinking which reminds us that life is worth living, 
  • practising mindfulness which allows us to be grounded, 
  • identifying our strengths which boosts our confidence and self-esteem. 

Physical Well-being 

Physical well-being translates  into leading a healthy lifestyle where necessary actions are taken to maintain it. All together, it is the ability to undertake physical activities, perform different roles and responsibilities without physical limitations hindering the performance. With this in mind,  it is not merely the absence of physical disease that constitutes well-being but the maintenance of a healthy and balanced body, mind and spirit

Physical well-being can be enhanced by regulating our sleep patterns, consuming a healthy and balanced diet, indulging in physical activities of any sort, maintaining a hygienic lifestyle, and practicing relaxation techniques.  

Emotional Well-being

Emotional well-being is the ability to maintain a positive frame of mind and body, better coping mechanisms for stress, speedy recovery from adversities and handling emotions. This well-being allows us to interact with others efficiently and pursue our goals effectively which translates into  higher levels of contentment and happiness. Emotional well-being also helps us to realize our fullest potential, thereby allowing us to function effectively. 

This can be enhanced by communicating effectively, expressing gratitude, emotional regulation and connecting with people. 

Social Well-being

Social well-being is highest with the easy access and delivery of basic human needs such as food, water, shelter, and health services. The others being – availability of education both primary and secondary and social harmony in terms of peaceful coexistence among people.  Effective interaction among fellow society mates allows us to build our social skills like kindness, gratitude and communication, which helps us feel more connected. It also helps us hold meaningful relationships with people, thereby making us feel less lonely and angry. 

Social well-being can be enhanced by providing help and support to other people, nurturing brotherhood and sisterhood, and contributing positively to the community.  

Spiritual Well-being 

This well-being is the search for the meaning and purpose of our lives. It includes the ability to accept and forgive ourselves, while we receive and provide love, joy and peace to others. Not only does it encompass the development of our values and beliefs, but also the need for questioning everything. Well-being is achieved when adversities are dealt in such a way that there is least impairment to the health of the individual. 

Spiritual well-being can be enhanced by engaging in activities that nourishes our soul like yoga, meditation and practicing self-compassion. 

True well-being is achieved with balance, consistent growth and acceptance. It is a process that identifies the different levels of well-being and helps to enhance it. In this context, self-awareness is integral in finding the purpose of our existence and experiencing positive emotions. The factors discussed above positively influence the quality of life and promote satisfaction. Therefore, identifying your current level of well-being and improving these areas helps us achieve better well-being and leads to a content and happy life.