Are you always looking for that silver bullet that will transform your life with little to no effort? For it not to involve any hardship, sacrifice or involve building new habits like meditation, cold showers or daily yoga? If that’s you, you’re gonna love this!
Wellbeing or well-being is defined in the dictionary as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy”. It’s not being or feeling well, that is an absence of illness. I think the original hyphenated spelling (well-being) makes the concept easier to understand. It’s being in a way that suits you well.
I’m not going to talk about things you can do to be physically well, that’s not what well-being is. Of course, feeling physically unwell makes it tricky to have wellbeing. I do believe that if you’re happy, that’s the greatest protection you have against illness (barring a few unfortunate exceptions of course). Loneliness, stress and depression are killers. Literally. And what are we all chasing, ultimately? Happiness.
What does wellbeing really mean?
So what’s the secret to wellbeing? I think it’s something we can all do without any effort. It’s about being human. That’s it! Just embrace what it is to be human and you will be happy. What do I mean by that?
The reason the worst prison punishment is to be in solitary confinement is because it goes against every grain of being human and is literally insufferable.
We’re intensely social beings. We’re herd animals and need to be with other humans to feel good. I’m no scientist or anthropologist but I know that mothers and babies get a rush of oxytocin (the love hormone) when they touch. And think of the electricity you feel when you brush the hand of someone you fancy. It’s electric! You can only get that by being physically close to another human. You ain't never gonna get that on Zoom baby.
The last two years have made this crystal clear for me. The reason the worst prison punishment is to be in solitary confinement is because it goes against every grain of being human and is literally insufferable.
I’ve been to two big events in the last week; the opera at Glyndebourne and the tennis at Eastbourne. I haven’t felt that happy and fulfilled in years. I had 100% wellbeing. I’ve been to things before and enjoyed them but it’s only through being deprived of them that I now appreciate their magic.
At the tennis I was crammed into a stadium with some relatively new friends I’ve met through playing tennis. We watched three different British players against higher ranked opponents and they were all the underdogs. But the whole crowd was behind them. Sending them strength and courage through the applause, cheering, whooping and collective nerves. We all felt love for those three players in that moment and it was a shared experience that filled all our hearts. All three won against the odds and the whole crowd was on an enormous high. Why? Because we felt the love and we felt human.
It’s hard to describe but it’s the difference between listening to a song or watching a concert on TV to being at a live concert, rammed in with thousands of hot sweaty humans jumping up and down. The intense feelings of joy and love we feel are not just the great music, I believe they’re mostly to do with sharing what it is to be human.
Time to get out and about
If you have social anxiety, or you’re still scared of Covid or whatever it is that’s stopping you from going out into large social gatherings, think of it as medicine or therapy. Your prescription is to go out and feel human. Interacting with machines (phones and computers), or watching other humans (Netflix) or living a virtual life (computer games or VR headsets) are not human. Ditch that stuff and get up close and personal with some real people and you’ll have wellbeing. Guaranteed. And if you can’t do that, just start seeing more of your friends and make being a social human your priority.