Building sustainable wellbeing
Updated: Mar 7
So what do we mean by 'sustainable wellbeing?
As I sat down in Chapel Arts Cafe, Bath to eat a beautiful vegan meal I reflected on how more and more people seemed to be making changes right now to give up alcohol for a month or change their eating patterns for instance. This got me thinking about how although there is a drive at the start of any year, what keeps us going with wellbeing that is sustainable the year through? Having given talks and coaching in this area I thought this blog might be of interest.
There is evidence to show that the likelihood of being able to sustain performance and happiness is increased if certain conditions are met. The link between mental and physical wellbeing is becoming more and more recognised.
There are many different psychological definitions.
It can be defined as 'happiness' in terms of obtaining pleasure and avoiding pain.
It can be defined as the extent to which an individual is fully functioning.
You will have your own definitions of 'sustainable wellbeing' and what it means to you and how it guides your living - I would be really interested to hear what they are so drop me a email and I will reply!
One of my favourite definitions is from O’Brien (2008) in looking at sustainable wellbeing she describes it as ‘the pursuit of happiness that does not exploit other people the environment or future generations’.
That is pretty cool huh?! We are looking at how personal wellbeing is about having a balance of responsibility we have ourselves to live well, the positive impact we have on those around us and how it is also dependant on a healthy natural environment.
Ryff & Keyes (1995) devised the ‘Scales of psychological wellbeing’ which have 6 dimensions: self acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life and personal growth. I find these areas really helpful to use as guide. Have a look at the summarised areas below to help you reflect on your own wellbeing.
Self acceptance means that you have a positive attitude towards yourself, a healthy identity.
Positive relationships is concerned with having closeness with others, relationships that are warm, trusting and satisfying.
Autonomy is the area in which you feel that you can self determine what happens, you have independence, you can have a sense of control over your own behaviour and standards by which you can evaluate yourself.
Environmental mastery means that you have a sense that you can manage your environment, you can make things work for your personal needs. When I coach in the area of resilience, then I use a term 'bricolage' which means being able to make the best of what is around you.
Purpose in life - this is about having a sense of knowing where you are going, having meaning to your life, an objective to living and beliefs that you feel really give your life purpose.
Finally we come to personal growth, one of my favourite areas which incorporates the feeling of being open to new experiences, that you are continually developing.
So if we have these dimensions in our lives we are moving in the right direction to ensuring wellbeing that is sustainable over the longer term. In thinking about these 6 areas where do you feel you are?
Wellbeing is enhanced when you have the ability to develop to your potential, do productive work and build strong relationships. It is enhanced when you are able to fulfill personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose and for many this also includes being able to contribute to be part of the community. It is in place when you take responsibility for having a balance in your life (self, family, workplace) for sustainability over the longer term.
In coaching I also draw ideas from the 'Good lives model' by Tony ward et al who describe how having an ethical core of human rights is important to the enhancement of wellbeing by having fulfilling & socially integrated lifestyles. They propose 'classes' of 'primary goods' that once met enhance wellbeing. What I particularly like about their theory is that it places strong emphasis on human agency, formulating goals and plans which reflect your values and life priorities
Here are 4 tips that are helpful to develop your wellbeing to a more sustainable level:
1. Have a clear sense of your identity, values & beliefs & prioritise what is important in your life
2. Consider passions and interests & make time for the things that make you feel alive
3. Ensure that not just work but family life and interests are all part of your priorities and make decisions based on these. This will help you to decide, for example, if more important to go to the cinema with your kids or stay and finish that presentation/project!
4. On a deeper level, depending where you are right now it can be helpful to think about the bigger picture and your purpose in life for now and the future. This does not necessarily have to be a quest like in Lord of the Rings it could be about considering, for example, what you want for your children, living a life that considers the planet, having a fulfilling job, taking part in your local community.
Thank you for reading. If you are interested in working in this area I offer coaching and talks on sustainable wellbeing at your place of work with discussion and fun exercises.
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