Well-being Comes From Inside
Well-being translates for me in to “being well.”
How do we “be well”?
I have been talking to people in therapy for many years about the difference of what it is like to be a human doing versus a human being. Our society has cultivated a false sense of worth based on our doings.
The following are examples of the false messages of well-being from our society:
- An A on a test = I am a person of value
- How much we have = Level of happiness in life
- Successful career = A feeling of sustained satisfaction
We learn early to compare and to believe that there is some level of excellence that we can achieve to finally make us be well. However, as psychology, religion, and philosophy have found over the centuries, ultimately a sense of well-being comes from inside ourselves.
A sense of well-being comes naturally to everyone when they are born. We exist as conscious awareness. A baby cries because it is hungry, needs love and attention, or needs to be changed.
But the infant never questions if it is being well. It is just a human being.
Unfortunately, we learn a different set of rules from our society, culture, and conditioning.
You have been conditioned to think you are not okay.
Ask yourself if this could really be true.
By whose standards are you not okay?
Certainly, if you seek to harm others or use violence or other inappropriate ways to get what you want, you may not be able to affirm that you are okay. But I am convinced that most of us are not out to harm others or to cause grief.
Comparison and competition have a place in life. But we have taken it too far. Unfortunately, we have become, worst of all, a harsh judge or critic of ourselves.
Abraham Lincoln (who struggled with depression) said, ”Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
I can tell you how to become depressed.
Just think terrible things about yourself, judge yourself harshly, and tell yourself that your are worthless. Horrific advice at best, but this is what people do to themselves every day for days on end. Then they expect themselves be happy.
Another path to depression is to blame everyone else for your situation, remind yourself that you should have had a break like others had, and see others as the problem instead of yourself. (See Happiness: “From Victim to Accountability”)
Both of these paths lead to the same place–a poor sense of self worth. In the first statement you identify yourself as a terrible, worthless person. In the second statement everyone else is the problem and you find yourself alone and isolated.
The Art of Well-Being
Well-being is the art of being connected to everyone as well as recognizing your own unique place in the universe.
There is no other person just like you. Your unique qualities are essential to the completion of creation just by the mere fact that you exist. If you look around in nature, you will see unique animals that exist in this world as marvels of creation.
You may comment on their beauty or unique qualities that have been adapted for survival, camouflage, or attraction of the opposite sex.
Aren’t you unique?
What are you really capable of being?
Have you explored all of your potential?
One of the first things you can do to start practicing the art of happiness and well being is to be thankful for being who you are. (See Happiness: “Gratitude”)
Gratitude is the first quality of genuinely recognizing your own value. If you can be thankful for just being on the planet, you have made a step in the direction of well being.
Gratitude frees us from the constant barrage of negative thinking. It moves us out of ambivalence which is a default choice we make not to choose.
Ambivalence = Is the glass half empty or half full? I don’t know I’m not thirsty.
When we see the world through the lens of gratitude, we are more likely going to see it as a place of majesty and beauty, a great gift that we are given to explore as conscious beings with infinite possibilities.
In working with people who have serious problems with self worth, I help them develop new coping strategies for the feelings that seem to overwhelm them.
Breathing, grounding to the present, and helping them recognize that they have a choice in actions and in thoughts.
A positive mental attitude is a process of recognizing the negative thinking patterns that continue to bring them down and keep them from honoring their own unique journey.
Developing a list of values and committing to honoring those values, including honoring your process of making mistakes and learning along the way, helps to alleviate the self-inflicted abuse of the critical mind.
Past & Future vs. The Present
We can also practice mental exercises that help bring us to the present. (see Healthy Living: “Living in the Present”)
Our ability to remember the past or plan for the future is a fabulous gift. However, when you recognize that there is only one real time and that is now, it helps to alleviate anxiety or sadness about the past or fear of the future. Both the past and the future are illusions that we can create through our thinking, but they are never reality.
Susan was a client that struggled to feel “good enough”. She beat herself up for the state of her family after a bitter divorce. She also had a very difficult childhood where she was not valued.
After working through trauma and developing skills to earn a living and take care of her family’s needs, she continued to beat herself up for how her kids were turning out as they struggled with the common trials of life.
She would then project out into the future the fears of how they would turn out, blaming herself for everything that might go wrong in her children’s life.
As she learned to develop a sense of well-being, she learned how to live in the now.
Over time she adopted the idea that she was ok and that whatever happened in the past was past.
She learned that she could not control the future, but that she could live now, in the present moment.
As she did this, Susan slowly became aware of a different kind of reality. “The only reality,” as she recently put it.
Now, there are moments when she slips into past regrets or worries about the future, but she has learned that these are trips into psychological time and that they only exist in her head. She took a trip home to her family of origin and realized how far she had come in her sense of wellbeing.
She had compassion for her other family members that were still trapped in comparison and the illusion of the past and the future.
Well-being is a journey, not an end. When we come to understand our inherent worth–our uniqueness in the universe–and develop strategies for living a happy life, we can understand ourselves and others with compassion, gratitude, and hope for a better world.