Wellbeing is a stable condition that involves coherence of personality, leading to a range of positive emotions. It is a state in which individuals realize their potential, are productive and creative, develop strong and positive relationships, and make contributions to the community.

A state of wellbeing does not mean that a person will never feel unhappy or will not face any difficulties in life. It is more about understanding that sadness or unhappiness is an aspect of life, and needs to be taken in one’s stride. It also means that the individual has the capacities to deal effectively with many of the uncertainties and challenges that he or she may face in life. Additionally, not just dealing effectively with the challenges, but it is also about coming out as a stronger person, with enhanced skills and abilities.

Experiencing wellbeing, therefore, is highly significant for an individual to lead a satisfying and fulfilling life. Further, understanding some of the factors that may help in developing a state of wellbeing becomes very important.   

One factor that is very useful in developing wellbeing is self-awareness. Self-awareness is focusing attention on internal self-aspects such as thoughts, feelings, emotion, changes in mood, and external self-aspects like appearance. It helps in understanding one’s internal states and how they relate to the surroundings. Self-awareness is thus a deep understanding of oneself, which has been found to be helpful in many ways.

In this regard, self-awareness gives a realization of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Realization of strengths and weaknesses gives an understanding of the true potential, which gives proper direction in life. It gives a good understanding of where one stands with respect to the surroundings. This, in turn, prepares the individual to deal with the uncertainties and unpredictabilities of life, and helps them to cope effectively with the stress related to that. The positive psychologist Martin Seligman suggests that knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses leads to psychological wellbeing. A realization of one’s strengths enables to play along with those strengths, which according to Seligman leads to a meaningful and highly satisfying life.

Self-awareness also helps in understanding how unique a person is as compared to others. This goes along the idea of the psychoanalyst and individual psychologist, Alfred Adler, who suggested that every individual is unique, and that the uniqueness of individuals should be emphasized.

It is the understanding of this uniqueness that helps individuals to deal with emotional problems that he or she may face. The idea of being unique enables individuals not to fall trap in making meaningless social comparisons. It gives an understanding that everyone has their own abilities and that they do not have to be good in everything.

The social psychologist, Leon Festinger suggests that individuals have a tendency of social comparison - individuals evaluate themselves by comparing them to others. Social comparison is an incorrect and inadequate way of evaluating oneself. When individuals compare themselves to others, then it can give them a negative picture about themselves. This may create some kind of confusion among them and lead them to evaluate themselves as someone who is unworthy. This tendency has the potential to accentuate their mental health issues.

Indulging in social comparisons, often makes them view themselves as inferior to others. Not having the latest mobile phone, not having those branded clothes, or not being that confident, for instance, are things that individuals may feel after social comparisons, giving rise to feelings of inferiority and emotional instability. Therefore, the idea of uniqueness by Adler enables individuals not to indulge in social comparisons, and rather believe in themselves, which further helps in developing better mental health.  

Extending the idea of uniqueness, Adler proposes the concept of compensation. According to Adler, if an individual feels inferior in one aspect of life, he or she could compensate that by strengthening themselves in other aspects of life. This further asserts the notion that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Everyone does not necessarily have to be good in everything and that people cannot be compared on the same parameters. Compensation, therefore, helps individuals to cope well with their feelings of inferiority, which makes them deal with all kinds of insecurities and emotional instability.

Another important factor associated with wellbeing is self-esteem. Self-esteem is said to be the worth that an individual assigns to himself or herself. It is about how positively or negatively a person may feel about themselves. It is a self-evaluation that an individual makes based on his or her perception, personal experiences, as well as others opinion.

Self-esteem is said to be one of the most significant attitudes that one may have. It plays an important role in well adjustment and experiencing happiness. Depending on whether self-esteem is high or low, it may have varying consequences on the individual.

High self-esteem has been found to be associated with better happiness, fewer interpersonal problems, the ability to sustain positive relationships, being less susceptible to social pressure, and being more consistent in achievement. On the other hand, low self-esteem has been found to be associated with being more prone to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. They often face difficulties in interpersonal relationships, and are more reactive to the ups and downs of life. Therefore, high self-esteem enables individuals to handle stressful situations in an effective manner and cope well with psychological difficulties.

A part of any individual’s life involves day to day interactions with a wide range of people. While interacting with all kinds of people, it is very much possible that certain disagreements may arise, giving rise to conflicts. Disagreements, in a way, are a good sign, as they are indicating diverse perspectives. However, if that leads to being stressed out, causing emotional problems, and even comes in the way of accomplishing the larger goals, then it needs to be taken care of. Thus, dealing with conflict or conflict management becomes important. Especially, in times of globalization and multiculturalism, the skill of conflict management becomes very useful.

When it comes to dealing with extremely difficult circumstances, often the person becomes mentally exhausted. Due to this, their psychological issues become prolonged, making it almost impossible to get back to normalcy. In such instances, having resilience becomes very effective.

Resilience refers to adapting effectively in stressful situations. It is about bouncing back from adversity and being flexible to the changing stressful demands. It involves developing capacities to cope with difficulties, empowering the individual, leading to personal growth.

Being resilient, therefore, helps in dealing with varying psychological issues, and prevents an individual to get into a phase from which recovery might get difficult. The person, in essence, develops enhanced skills and abilities and comes out of difficulties much stronger.   

Dealing with a wide range of issues and problems, right from a very young age, becomes very challenging. A good way to deal with these challenges is to have creativity. Creativity is the ability to produce something that is novel as well as useful and appropriate.

Creativity may not be necessarily confined to a particular task. Being creative can also be helpful in many other aspects of everyday life. An individual may like to do things in his or her own unique and creative style depending on his or her own comfort level and satisfaction. Rather than doing things or being forced to follow the old conventional style, a creative approach will not only be more satisfying, it will also enhance his or her abilities.

Creativity can also be helpful in using decision making and problem solving, regarding various aspects of life. Instead of making the same regular, stereotypical decisions, an individual may make creative decisions that suit him or her. In this way, the person can make important as well as appropriate decisions in life, leading to a better sense of wellbeing.

When it comes to problem solving, decision making, and making sense of the world around, the highly important skill of critical thinking comes into play. Critical thinking is the ability to not always believe in the given, in what is stereotypical, and what seems obvious. Critical thinking is about always doubting, questioning, and challenging one’s ideas and beliefs, even the deepest of beliefs. It involves not accepting any information as a given, even from the most trusted individuals or the highest of authorities, and looking at multiple facets of the same information, before coming to any kind of conclusion.

Critical thinking also involves the idea of not always being right and accepting that one can be wrong, and that there is nothing wrong in changing one’s perspective and beliefs according to more reliable and accurate information. This is what in fact makes a person grow. It is about not always being guided by emotions and rather taking more of a rationalistic and skeptic perspective when making judgments.

In today’s time, when all kinds of information are easily available, it often tends to give a misconstrued and distorted form of reality. This distortion of reality, tends to misguide people, gives the feeling of being out of sorts, and often delusional about the surroundings, making them have a wide range of existential issues.

Critical thinking, however, gives a very realistic perspective about life in general, which helps individuals to see through all the distortions, misperceptions, misinformation, so that they make proper judgments, enabling them to move in the right direction, and not feel out of place.

Therefore, factors such as self-awareness, the idea of uniqueness, self-esteem, conflict management, resilience, creativity, and critical thinking, play an important role in experiencing the state of wellbeing. Together, these factors help the individual to be well-integrated, function coherently, deal effectively with social and psychological issues, develop effective coping mechanisms, being effective in problem solving, judgment, and decision making, have satisfying and fulfilling interpersonal relationships, make significant contributions in the community and society, and living a meaningful life.

A version of this article has been recently published in the magazine The Progressive Teacher

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India

1 comment:

Smile said...

Very well written. Well being is in all forms, biological, social and psychological. It has talked about issues we encounter in daily life be that self esteem or interpersonal relationships or critical thinking.