Person wellbeing is a broad concept encompassing a variety of different aspects of wellbeing: subjective, social, spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing. When researchers talk about personal wellbeing they’re looking at how satisfied we are with our lives, how resilient we are, how our self-esteem is, how our positive functioning is, and how our vitality is. In short, personal wellbeing has to do with our happiness.
Personal wellbeing considers our personal experience of life and, in a large sense, how satisfied and how happy we are with the quality of our lives. But personal wellbeing is vastly different depending on where we are in the world. This is because personal wellbeing is determined by many contributing factors: “age, gender, socioeconomic status, income, housing, partnership, family life, professional work, social relations, recreation, gross domestic product (GDP), and ethnic identity” according to research articles Unsurprisingly, a body of research suggests that people from higher-income countries report higher levels of satisfaction in comparison with lower-income and developing countries. What’s more, is that people who spend their lives living in corrupt countries report lower levels of life satisfaction than people living in less corrupted countries.
This is why wellbeing needs to be considered when creating policies. In fact, Bhutan, the UK, and China have already got the ball rolling by changing policies that take collective and individual wellbeing into account. One research article points out that our focus needs to shift from looking at GDP to wellbeing because evidence suggests that nations are prioritizing economic growth over wellbeing. The research is telling and eye-opening: “Hungary is richer per capita than Poland, and yet life satisfaction is 1.3 points lower on a 10 point scale, while Denmark, which often scores highest in Europe on wellbeing, has lower GDP than Ireland or the Netherlands”. The data provided reflects that high GDP doesn’t equate to life satisfaction. Simply put, economic growth rarely equals happiness. This shows how priorities need to shift away from a country’s GDP to personal wellbeing.
One way researchers discover a countries’ personal wellbeing is by measuring a population’s life satisfaction. In one study, researchers used a Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) to measure personal wellbeing across 7 disparate categories: standard of living, health, life achievements, relationships, safety, community connectedness, and future security. The sample of research participants was from Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. The results show Australia scored the highest in life satisfaction. All seven categories showed above contribute widely to life satisfaction, but how countries experience it, varies from location to location. So, how can we individually improve our personal wellbeing?
Let’s look at the Personal Wellbeing Index as a framework to explore how you can improve your life satisfaction:
Consider Improving Your Subjective Wellbeing
Personal wellbeing is considerably connected to subjective wellbeing. Professor Edward Diener, the pioneer of the Subjective Wellbeing (SBW) concept, describes SBW as “a person feeling and thinking his or her life is desirable regardless of how others see it.” Simply put, it’s how we evaluate our lives based on our personal life experiences. Scientists use the construct of subjective wellbeing to refer to overarching happiness. Diener outlines three types of subjective wellbeing: life satisfaction, positive feelings, and low negative feelings.
- Life satisfaction refers to how satisfied we are with our lives. This has a causal effect on job satisfaction, income, and self-esteem.
- Positive feelings refer to how much we enjoy our lives. This has a causal effect on our social network, friends, and even our personality.
- Low negative feelings refer to the frequency of our negative emotions. This has a causal effect on our outlook on life.
Diener describes the benefits of subjective wellbeing:
- Good physical health and longevity: Happier people are more likely to have healthier immunity and live longer
- Strong social relationships: Happier people tend to have a healthy social network and have reciprocal support from their social circles.
- High levels of productivity: Optimistic people are more satisfied, productive, and better able to achieve success in the workplace and other organizations.
- Altruism: Happier people are more likely to be good citizens who are able to generously give their energy and time to help others in need.
Diener’s SBW model and benefits correlate with Barbara Fredrickson’s positive cycle framework. Fredrickson is a psychologist and leading researcher on positive emotions. Her framework outlines how we can all benefit from personal wellbeing using a positive cycle: Positive emotions influence a stronger society and economy, which then influences better personal and material conditions with a society. This cycle repeats seamlessly, like a feedback loop. For example, positive emotions like joy and satisfaction may lead to a society that is more socially integrated, that takes care of each other, leading to better overall health within society. What this means is that when personal wellbeing is taken care of within a nation, it can positively ripple into every person’s life within a society so that every member within that society is taken care of.
The Benefits of Personal Wellbeing Within Society Include:
- Higher life expectancy and improved overall health
- Higher levels of employment and income
- Improved productivity and quality of work
- Better social behaviors and social cohesion
- More engagement in environmental health
What Can I Do to Enhance My Personal Wellbeing?
Enhance Your Social Connections
Having healthy, positive, and meaningful connections improve your overall wellbeing. It’s especially beneficial for improving our subjective wellbeing. Human beings are social by nature and need relationships to thrive in society. One research paper points out that “supportive social relationships has been related to higher self-esteem, successful coping, better physical health, and fewer psychological problems.” So it definitely won’t hurt to become more acquainted with your neighbors, making new friends, and spending quality time with your family and friends.
Doing acts for others taps into human beings’ altruistic nature. In short, humans feel happier giving to others. What’s more, is that “ altruism – doing things for others – has enhanced power to improve SWB” according to a research article. Doing a generous deed — volunteering, donating, and giving back to your community builds not only a healthier community but also a happier individual.
Build Trust With Others
When we have trust in each other, we feel more connected to others. One researcher says, “where there is a climate of trust, people are more willing to reach out and make connections with others.” This applies to our communities and workplace. Establishing trust with others enhances our life satisfaction.
Feeling like we belong to a group, organization, family, friendship group is fundamental to the human experience. One researcher writes: ”a good part of the strong life-satisfaction effect of trust in neighbours is mediated through a sense of belonging to the local community.” When we feel like we belong, whether that’s in our workplaces, our local community, or within our friendships, we strengthen our wellbeing. Simply put, we thrive when we feel we belong. Brene Brown succinctly says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.”
While it certainly rings true that better policies need to be put in place to improve personal wellbeing, we can begin engaging in these concepts, and brainstorm within our communities on how we can help improve the lives of others to work toward a society with stronger personal wellbeing.