Literally, ‘wellbeing’ is a composite of two important words: ‘well’, and ‘being’. ‘Well’ covers many things. In particular, it refers to wellness (as opposed to ill health), and also goodness (as opposed to badness). ‘Being’ also covers many things, but in particular refers to living (the organic system of an individual body and mind), and existence (our basic state while we are alive).
This means that ‘wellbeing’ covers two main areas. Firstly, on a medical level, we are concerned with maintaining the system of our body and mind as a healthy organic entity. And secondly, on a spiritual and philosophical level, we are concerned with finding a ‘good existence’, a way of being that works, and that we can assent to.
Sometimes these two aspects of wellbeing feel in conflict.
For example, you may find sometimes that, although you seem to be living a healthy individual life, there is something about it that doesn’t feel ‘good’ (i.e. that you cannot assent to). We can be as rich and well-kept as we like, but unless this basic idea of a good existence is fulfilled, we may experience a nagging feeling of discontent.
Conversely, you may find that, although you are trying to do what you believe is good, you are experiencing mental or physical ill health. This can happen when we are trying to fit in with a code of living that does not respect our own personal health needs. We try to do what we feel we believe in, but it seems to hurt us, and to make us unhealthy.
Whichever way round you are, the start of a new year is a good time to look at the balance of your life, and ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I doing which is, medically speaking, causing me mental or physical harm?
- What can I do differently next year to help myself, mentally and physically, to be more healthy?
- What am I doing which is, ethically speaking, causing me discomfort because I do not assent to it?
- What can I do differently next year to live a life which I can truly assent to?
Wellbeing may involve scientific research, and also philosophical research. We may need to find out more about the mechanisms by which our wonderful mind and body work. We come from a rich history of evolutionary development, and share many attributes with animals and wider nature. Getting in touch with the world around us can give us plenty of ideas for mental and physical health. We may also need to listen to, and evaluate, helpful ideas about wisdom and the good life. We are part of a rich philosophical and literary culture, and, by reading, talking and watching, we can enrich our perspective on the world, and better evaluate what a ‘good existence’ might be.
Whatever you choose to do next year, perhaps make it your business to improve your wellbeing, whatever you conceive it to be.
May you find better health of mind and body, and also find an enriched sense of what a good life, for you, looks like!