Happiness & Wellness: The Correlation
Written by: Dr. Ben Boucher, BSc, MD
Very often we focus on feeling happy during the holiday season, after all, isn’t it supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Yet, as our last Relationships Matter seminar in Ottawa discussed, happiness is actually more of a by-product of well-being, we feel happy not in the pursuit of happiness, but in the pursuit of overall wellness.
So often in the holiday craze we can forget to pursue a holistic wellbeing, and get lost in the pursuit of one or two things that we think might make others, or ourselves, happy. We think, if I can just host the perfect party, or give the perfect gift, then I, and others, will be well.
But is that really what makes us happy? Research shows us that the short term pleasures of a good meal, for example, do not contribute to our happiness unless they fit into a larger picture. We need a more holistic vision that looks at all the aspects of being well.
So what is wellness? And how can we find it?
Wellness can be defined as an optimum state of health, and not just physically, but socially, emotionally, and mentally. It can be influenced not just by current factors, such as physical illness, but also by family and personal history.
Physically, wellness can be improved with Health Promotion activities such as good nutrition, active living, regular sleep, good hygiene, and knowing how to take care of minor illness and injury. Too often we ignore minor health challenges because they do not interfere significantly in our day-to-day life. Yet, then we find ourselves with a larger issue that could have been addressed with a lot less time and effort if we had attended to it right away. Other prevention activities include periodic health exams/screening as well as appropriate vaccinations. So for example, if you find yourself with a cold that seems to be lasting, take the day off of work if needed to get rested.
Socially, wellness can be improved by taking a look at the types of support networks you have in your life. Are you experiencing difficulties in your family or couple relationship? This can have a large impact on overall wellness, and there is no shame in taking care of our most significant relationships. In the same way that physically you attend regular overall checkups, your relationships should be the same. Perhaps there is significant stress in your workplace due to a lack of support. Often again, it can be beneficial to speak with a professional to examine how your workplace situation could be improved.
Lastly, on a personal level, emotional and mental wellbeing can be improved through pursuing, or developing, an overarching sense of meaning. This again, according to the research, is a large aspect of wellbeing. This holiday season might be a good time for you, or your family, to develop a sense of meaning. This might take the form of engaging your spirituality, or volunteering at a place that holds significance for you.
Or, perhaps you are beginning to recognize signs of mental illness in either you or one of your family members. Seeking professional help from the appropriate health care provider is important in regards to improving wellbeing, so that you can truly enjoy wonderful times throughout the year.
This holiday season, hang on to your wellbeing (and your sanity!) by emphasizing the holistic aspects of your life that contribute to wellbeing all year round, instead of what the shopping malls might emphasize.