Our Well-Being

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“Life is an attempt to change a piece of a dream-world into reality.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

British Airways recently released data from two somewhat sad studies, which revealed two of the biggest regrets of 2,000 U.S. baby boomers – that they worked too much and didn’t travel enough. Not much new there!

Some of the study’s findings:

  • 17 percent of male respondents said that working too much was their biggest regret
  • 22 percent of women said not traveling enough was their biggest regret
  • 26 percent of respondents said losing contact with friends was their biggest regret

Regrets. Need they be? Are we able to make choices in the physical, social and emotional areas of our lives that can influence our well-being? Of course we can.

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In another survey of over 2 million Americans, Gallup-Healthways’ found that poor financial management can actually cause obesity (not just a correlation). Ed Diener, author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, says that the key to greater well-being is to have money but not to want it too much. Not surprisingly, there are strategies people of all ages can use to relieve financial stress and thereby lose weight and live longer. (See suggestion at post’s end).

One physical area of our lives that significantly affects our well-being is the workplace and what we do to earn a living. According to Claremont University psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it’s best to find a job that challenges us to an optimal level – one that’s neither so hard that we give up nor so easy that we get bored. Finding a job that engages your natural talents and gives you constant feedback is sure to contribute to your well-being. You know this, right?

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Two years ago I posted (here) about existing or thriving. I suspect you would agree that a thriving life is vital to our well-being.  If you are interested in optimizing (or perhaps, simply adding positively to) your life and thus your well-being, following are three considerations:

  1. Embrace a sense of safety. Research shows the biggest deterrent to physical activity for some people is perceived danger. You want the outside environment to draw you out, not nudge you in.
  2. Make it a lifelong and relentless habit to exercise serious caution when it comes to anyone who or anything that wants to touch your money or your welfare.
  3. Grow a garden. Several studies have shown that gardening lowers stress hormones. Hoeing, planting, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting all include regular, low-intensity, range-of-motion exercise.

And while you’re at it, create time to play. Get a passport or just reintroduce yourself to life’s simple pleasures.

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Wasting, Existing or Thriving

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Have you ever had this opening remark directed at you? It’s a stunning statement yet for some people, it may apply or have applied. It’s certainly not complimentary and it could be a life changer, if accurate and intended. But let’s shift from wasting time and life.

Enter existing. Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before. That’s okay, and comfortable for some (many?), until you’ve gone through another year without having done anything, without having really lived life. Existing can be synonymous with an endless status quo, idyllic, anchored, indifferent, stale, slogging away.

Simply existing is really kind of sad. Dodo kind of sad. While penguins and ostriches are flightless, penguins can swim and an ostrich can run fast. The dodo simply became extinct when a predator was introduced. While we cannot fly, most of us can do things that are exciting, invigorating, like swimming or running.

Have you watched your kids go off to college, only to realize you missed their childhoods? Time wasted? Sure we have jobs, chores and others things we don’t necessarily enjoy, but a large part of living is focusing on the enjoyable; actively engaging. It has been proven that if you focus on that which makes you miserable, you’re not going to live fully. And many will acknowledge that simply existing can be miserable. Still, if existing is to what you aspire, then who is anyone else to encourage you otherwise?

But if you want to truly live life, to thrive, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, then you need to find ways to break free from a mundane existence and embrace life. Truly living involves spending time doing things that inspire you. Even if you only sing briefly in the shower, if that’s what you truly love to do, enjoy yourself and live it. You don’t need a recording contract or groupies, simply enjoy the experience.

If you’d like a couple of reminders for how to thrive, here are four:

  1. Learn to be 100% responsible for your life. Admit/own your ‘mistakes’ (aka learning opportunities) and learn from them. Trust that something better will happen because of them and thus, allow you to live both more aware and at choice.
  2. Thriving is important because you are a person of great value. You are worthy of the best life has to offer.
  3. Take chances. We often live our lives too cautiously, concerned about what might go wrong. Be bold. Invite some risk. Quit your job and start your own business (plan it out first!). Ask out that person to whom you’ve been attracted to for some time. What have you got to lose?
  4. And this one might get me in trouble… Turn off the TV. How many hours do you waste (see, we’ve come full circle to waste) in front of that screen? Lessen your attraction (addiction?) to it and find other things to do, things that will stretch or challenge you. Consider actions that will nourish your thriving.