A Guide to Holistic Well-being: Part 1

Posted October 22, 2017

Too often, our consumer-based society reduces the idea of wellbeing and happiness to nothing more than a set of numeric, economic-based indicators. When we hear about the fight against poverty both at home and abroad, we´re normally presented with a pie chart that discusses the daily or monthly income of people and their ability to put food on the table. While this is obviously an important part of living a fulfilling and gratifying life, our deepest level of happiness and fulfillment goes much beyond the ability to simply feed our families.

Recently, Gallup and Sharecare, an independent research firm, came up with a more comprehensive definition of wellbeing that seeks to take into account the variety of factors that make up a holistic sense of wellbeing and human contentment. Whereas prior definitions of wellbeing offered by everyone from national governments to non-profit organizations used to be based on economic indicators that were too often alienated from the actual lived reality of the communities and individuals being evaluated, this research found five essential elements that go into a more all-inclusive sense of well-being.

Dan Witters and Sangeeta Agrawal | Gallup

The five elements of holistic wellbeing are broadly outlined as purpose, social, financial, community, and physical concerns. Each of these five elements is interconnected and dependent on one another. The main objective of the research was to help businesses and companies understand the factors that go into the overall happiness of their employees beyond simple salary considerations.

Research has found that employees who consider themselves to be have a high level of holistic wellbeing are much more likely to stay engaged and dedicated to their job while also significantly improving workplace employment. This obviously helps employers retain quality personnel that make their company successful while also making increases in productivity and even profitability. More importantly, however, happy employees have deeper sense of purpose that carries over to other areas of their lives. Below, we will explore these five elements in more depth.

Sense of Purpose

The Jewish psychologist Victor Frankl once said that “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.” One of the most important and essential aspects of our deepest awareness of wellbeing is related to the sense of meaningful and profound purpose that we develop in our lives. Unfortunately, our modern-day society has reduced human identity to nothing more than that of mindless consumers who spend long hours at unenjoyable jobs simply to be able to purchase the latest gadgets and gizmos that fill the stores.

True purpose goes beyond simple economic considerations. The poet Wendell Berry encourages every human being to: “every day, do something that doesn’t compute,” meaning to engage in activities that bring purpose, meaning, and stem from the deepest passions and ideals that we heal. Often, finding a sense of purpose allows people to feel more connected to the work they do, whatever it may be.

Financial Considerations

While finding a sense of purpose to fill our lives with significance and our actions with consequence is certainly important, we also have to find a way to feed our families. Volunteer work might give a sense of contributing to a greater good, the bills piling up on our kitchen counter and the repeated calls from our mortgage lender certainly lead to a sense of anxiety, stress, and even dread.

Another important aspect of holistic wellbeing is maintaining a sense of financial stability. While this doesn’t mean dedicating all our waking hours to simply accumulating more and more wealth, it does imply that job security and proper money management are important parts of our overall happiness. For people who are suffering from financial stress at the moment, author Michelle Schroeder-Gardner reminds us that money and consumer items shouldn’t define us as human beings, and that a positive attitude and sense of dedication can help us to overcome the financial-related stress in our lives.

Continue reading in Part 2.

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