Wellbeing is, I think, more than just good health – though that is probably prerequisite. In storybooks the heroes were often promised health, wealth and happiness by the good fairy.
That seems more like it. But we are called (and called to be) human beings – not ‘human-doings’ or ‘human-knowings’ – so perhaps well-being means no more, and no less, than being fully human.
Where to start?
I like Socrates’s idea that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. Examine your life. Mine is all too often controlled and driven by the ‘three Hs’: herd, habit and ‘high’. We are pleasure-obsessed creatures of habit who follow the herd (well, I am!). Of course, you can have good habits, sometimes the crowd is a useful guide, and not all pleasure is harmful. That is why self-examination is the first step towards well-being.
I find it helpful to distinguish between pleasure and happiness. Suspect the former: pursue the latter. Typical pleasures (that second glass of wine, or piece of chocolate, for example) provide brief ‘highs’, but are often forgotten – or regretted – the next day. Happiness stays with us, and continues to give joy, sometimes for years.
So far, I have discovered seven sources of happiness in my life: family and friends (of course), freely chosen service of others (join Samaritans, foster a child, pick up litter), creativity (paint a picture, write a story, bake a cake), mastery (learn a new skill, or language, or chess), challenge (climb a mountain, run a marathon, write about well-being), performance (join a choir, learn to dance, give a speech of thanks) – and reflection (as Socrates advised). What else? (Answers on a postcard, please.)
One other thing: unlike pleasure, happiness requires commitment and hard work, but the rewards are great. It’s worth the effort. What about health, and wealth? I will write about them in my next piece – if the editor lets me...