What is “Wellbeing” – and how do we go about achieving it? Loganholme psychology professional, Dr Amanda White, explains.
Mental health is considered a continuum that naturally shifts over time.
A person is expected to transition between adaptive, constructive psychological states of being, and maladaptive states that undermine their ability to function, over the course of their lifetime. In fact, between the ages of 16 to 85 it is estimated that half of the Australian population have already experienced a mental disorder at some period during their life. That equates to over ten million people! These are our family, our friends, our neighbours, and even ourselves.
Given the frequency at which mental health concerns arise, it is reasonable to wonder what we can reasonably do to maintain and even improve our psychological wellbeing.
What is Wellbeing?
On a fundamental level, wellbeing describes how we each evaluate our lives. It includes our internal representation of self, social views, psychological factors, as well as health-related behaviours.
Promoting wellbeing is at the core of therapeutic work, and as such psychologists have been keen to better understand the mechanisms underlying it.
Research suggests key factors that promote wellbeing are:
- Ongoing personal growth and development;
- Perceived autonomy in our thoughts and behaviours;
- Environmental mastery: capacity to function in complex environments adapting the environment to our needs and values, and vice versa;
- Having a life purpose paired with the pursuit of meaningful goals;
- Positive relations with others.
Promoting Psychological Wellbeing
Diener and colleagues suggest that we each have a moment-to-moment internal measure of wellbeing that is tied to our thoughts (cognitions) and feelings (affect).
The cognitive element is considered a conscious, information-based appraisal of one’s life and the degree of satisfaction experienced with this evaluative judgement. The affective element is guided by the frequency of pleasant or unpleasant emotion. Together, these elements allow an evaluation of our life as good or bad, and provide reasons to justify why we believe this to be true, based on what is real for us at that moment.
It is useful to remember thoughts and feelings interact with each other, biasing our judgements with optimistic or pessimistic overtones. Being observant of our moment to moment awareness allows us to observe and challenge bias. We can architect improved wellbeing through the choices we make. The choices we make now are the consequences we choose to live with.
There are many ways to assist yourself, as well as encourage others, to develop a strong sense of wellbeing. Below are some ideas to build and maintain this foundation of psychological health:
- Build confidence: Identify what areas in your life need development and then action a plan. Confidence is about skill development, optimism and learning in the face of failure, and living your authentic life.
- Mood regulation: Every emotion is healthy, but every emotion needs a channel to be expressed constructively and appropriately.
- Stress management: Two factors can make a huge difference – relaxation and problem solving. Move away from self-medicating (drugs, alcohol, food, etc) or procrastination strategies.
- Financial management: A common source of distress is balancing the budget and debt management. If this is an area of struggle, consider talking to a professional free of charge at Financial Counselling Australia.
- Meaningful communication: Reach for depth of understanding inside your relationships. Build strong bonds and follow through with consistent behaviours.
- Mutual support: Welcome opportunities to support others and foster opportunities where others can help you. Opportunities may be sitting down to talk or listen, working as a team, or a heartfelt and simple gesture of support, like a smile. Isolated people may benefit from joining a community group or volunteering.
- Crowd source: If you cannot problem solve alone, discuss your concerns with other people. Everyone has a unique point of view, but particularly those who have dealt with similar issues can assist with both understanding and resolving a problem. Sharing can also reduce our sense of isolation and anxiety.
- Focus on physical health: A balanced diet and exercise enhance psychological health. Consider setting small fitness targets that can be met and built on quickly to motivate you. Consider going to the doctor or the dentist for a checkup.
- Self-acceptance: Cultivate a sense of peace with who you are. Learn about what you can and cannot change within yourself. Make time to re-connect or engage with what brings you joy.
Fostering psychological wellbeing has many benefits both for us and our loved ones, colleagues, and the community. It is genuinely worthwhile.
Considering change management can be daunting. This may especially be the case if you are feeling low or anxious. Remember, mental health is a continuum that shifts over time. If you want to purposefully shift your mental health in a positive direction, start with small consistent steps in just one area. You can choose to change.
There are well established, proven psychological strategies that cultivate wellbeing, no matter your state of mental health. If you or someone you know would benefit from finding out more on developing psychological wellbeing, then M1 Psychology has experienced and qualified clinicians who can help – call (07) 3067 9129 to find out more.
Author: Dr Amanda White, B Beh Sci, B Psych (Hons), PhD, MAPS.
Amanda is not currently taking bookings, however, we have a number of clinicians available for bookings.
To make an appointment please visit our webpage here to learn about our highly qualified clinicians, or call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129.
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