Lesson 4/4 ➯ Personal & Global Wellness

Abstract

This lesson presents the latest scientific research which shows that the opposite of the mainstream narrative has an incredibly beneficial effect on personal and global wellness. We define the exact meaning of wellness, look at the importance of purpose, and summarise how to delve into the narrative of personal and global wellness.

Introduction

The Oxford Dictionary defines wellness as: “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal“.

Now let us look as health. The definition of health by the World Health Organization (WHO) has not changed since 1948. Health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Health therefore includes well-being.

In 2012, WHO defined well-being as comprising “an individual’s experience of their life as well as a comparison of life circumstances with social norms and values”; a definition that the UK Department of Health reiterates.

As the Building Centre explains, well-being is “how satisfied we are with life and how comfortable we are in our present situation” or, in scientific studies, how satisfied we rate our life, and how comfortable we rate our present situation.

Health therefore encompasses feeling happy about who we are and the world around us (well-being) plus the state of our bodies being physically and mentally in good shape.

The term wellness is also not new. Peggy Swarbrick, Director of Practice Innovation & Wellness at Rutgers School of Health Professions at The State University of New Jersey explains in a 2010 article that Dr. Halbert Dunn first started lecturing and writing about “high level wellness” in 1961, which he stressed “is a direction in the progress toward an ever-higher potential of functioning” through the importance of the mind/body/spirit connection and the value of purpose.

“Until recently, purpose was understood, if at all, as a means of adapting to threatening conditions” according to a 2003 Stanford University review of the academic research on The Development of Purpose During Adolescence.

In fact, the review continues “Purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self”.

By definition, wellness requires an actively pursued goal, or the purpose to achieve “an ever-higher potential of functioning” for our own health and happiness (well-being), plus “a stable and generalized intention” to make a meaningful difference in the broader world “beyond the self”.

As was demonstrated in the previous lesson, when we practise The Art of Critical Thinking, work through the process of cognitive dissonance instead of reacting to “social norms and values” or “threatening conditions” (mentioned above), and have the purpose to focus on personal and global wellness, the solutions-focused narrative appears.

In other words, the solutions-focused narrative is personal and global wellness, and whether we refer to an “actively pursued goal”, a “stable and generalized intention”, or an “ever-higher potential of functioning”, this is the purpose that is required.

Furthermore, the scientific research shows that whether our purpose is to make decisions that increase our own health and well-being, or the health and well-being of the planet on a global scale, the multidimensional and holistic nature of wellness means that positively influencing one will always positively influence the other.

The National Wellness Institute agrees. It defines wellness as “a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential” that “is multidimensional and holistic” and encompasses “lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment”.

Purpose is what moves the study of personal and global wellness (Personal & Global Wellness Training) into experiencing personal and global wellness.

Research

In collaboration with Stanford University, Project Wayfinder presents research on some of the many benefits of having purpose in life.

These include higher levels of psychological well-being, hope, resilience, flourishing, and significantly lower incidences of heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.

The Fostering Purpose Project, developed by researchers at Claremont Graduate University, presents more of the many benefits of purpose in life, including academic success, self-esteem, self-efficacy, increased physical health, reduced pain, regression in some types of cancer, and positive emotions.

As Purpose Guide Brandon Peele explains, extensive studies show “six powerful outcomes correlated with purpose”: success and leadership, health and happiness, sex and love, a sharp mind, a more efficient, healthy and kind society, and a genuinely prosperous economy.

Gallup has conducted surveys in more than 160 countries to measure global perceptions of happiness, or well-being, using their Global Well-Being Index which includes five elements: physical, social, community, financial and purpose.

In their 2013 Gallup-Healthways report on the State of Global Well-Being, they found “Globally, only 17% of the population are thriving in three or more elements”, and “Survey respondents are least likely to be thriving in purpose well-being, at 18%”.

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing explains that “Wellbeing begins with the simple question – what can I do to feel content and balanced?”.

In 2008, the New Economics Foundation was commissioned by the UK Government to develop a set of evidence-based actions that improve personal well-being and created the “5 Ways to Wellbeing” which are: keep learning, be active, take notice, give and connect.

This framework is preferred by many institutions in the UK, including The University of the Highlands and IslandsMind and the Wellbeing College.

That same year, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) also developed a framework called the “Wheel of Wellbeing“, or WoW, which consists of “six universal themes”: keep learning (mind), be active (body), take notice (place), give (spirit), connect (people) and care (planet).

In 2017, an evaluation of WoW was carried out by The McPin Foundation which concluded “The next stage will be … to test whether the activities delivered are leading to the outcomes anticipated”.

The Center for Wellness and Health Promotion at Harvard University offers workshops on such tools as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, sleep, stress-reduction and sexual health, while Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) developed in 1979 by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and offered online free has been scientifically shown to be effective in a wide variety of medical and psychological conditions, including depression, sleep disturbances, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Fibromyalgia.

The academic research on wellness therefore focuses on scientifically proven tools. Swarbrick originally proposed the 8 Wellness Dimensions model in her 2006 article A Wellness Approach, stating the physical, spiritual, emotional, social, occupational-leisure, intellectual, financial and environmental dimensions offer “a holistic framework in which to view the person as a whole being”.

The University of California, UC Davis, expand on this as follows:

Each dimension of wellness is interrelated with another. Each dimension is equally vital in the pursuit of optimal health. One can reach an optimal level of wellness by understanding how to maintain and optimize each of the dimensions of wellness.

Therefore, wellness can be seen as not only focusing on the tools, but also understanding how to maintain and optimise health and well-being in all areas of life.

The aforementioned 2013 global Gallup-Healthways survey found that those with high purpose well-being tend to be emotionally invested and focus on creating value through their efforts. Therefore, purpose is the how.

A 2018 study by Claremont Graduate University and the University of Ioannina found that by tuning out of negative news, youth with purpose “remained hopeful about the future”.

A 2005 study that analysed medical data over a 2-year period from 1041 patient records from a multi-specialty medical practice concluded that higher levels of hope and curiosity decreased likelihood of developing a disease, and a 2001 study also found positive emotion can increase longevity in later life.

A 2017 study compared responses of 242 participants, ranging from 19 to 63 years old, to a shock media news article and solutions-focused news article on sex trafficking. Results showed that solution-focused news stories leave readers feeling more positive.

In another 2017 study, college students read one of three versions of an article concerning on-campus graffiti or rising tuition costs. The study found students who read a story with an effective solution felt more positive and had more favorable attitudes towards the news article and solutions to the problem.

The Center for Media Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin published a 2014 study in which a sample of 755 US adults was presented with a news article reporting on traumatic experiences in American schools, homelessness or a lack of clothing among poor people. Results showed that as well as feeling more optimistic, participants who read a solutions-focused article felt more informed, had a greater desire to share what they had read, to read more about the issue, and to seek out more articles by news organizations covering stories in a solutions-focused manner.

In a 2016 study, a sample of 834 US adults saw one of two online news articles, both reporting on the struggles of the working poor. The experiment showed that adults who read the solutions-focused article spent more time reading the article, left the website more frequently to learn more, and also demonstrated greater optimism and self-efficacy (belief in one’s own ability).

Another 2016 study that surveyed 1318 newspaper journalists in the USA showed that younger journalists and female journalists are particularly interested in contextual reporting: constructive journalism, solutions journalism, and restorative narrative, or “stories that go beyond the immediacy of the news and contribute to societal well-being”.

Since 1997, The Good News Network has provided “an antidote to the barrage of negativity experienced in the mainstream media”, continuing “that good news itself is not in short supply; the broadcasting of it is”.

At the fore of the solutions-focused academic movement, the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at UC Berkley study “the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being to teach skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society”, and publish the Greater Good magazine which turns scientific research into “science-based insights for a meaningful life”.

Dr. Karen McIntyre, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University explains in a 2018 Journalism Practice article that constructive journalism (or solutions journalism) “involves applying positive psychology techniques to the news process in an effort to strengthen the field and facilitate productive news stories”.

Some of the many other examples of constructive journalism include Positive News, yes! Magazine, Permaculture Magazine, Colibris Magazine, Ouishare Magazine, Transition Network, Pachamama Alliance, Low Impact, Drawdown, Solution Library, SolutionsU, Global Regeneration, de Correspondent, and the movement for positive news, supported by university academics and journalists, is spreading worldwide and influencing the mainstream.

Barbara Fredrickson, award-winning social psychologist and Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at The University of Carolina at Chapel Hill published an article in 2011 that posits that positive emotions may even “undo the aftereffects of negative emotions” as they seem to broaden an individual’s thought–action repertoire, which in turn has the effect of building that individual’s physical, intellectual and social resources, including broadening one’s scope of cognition, attention and action; thus increasing the ability to not only maintain purpose, but even optimise wellness in all areas of life.

Individuals who are thriving in purpose are at least 50% more likely to volunteer their time and help strangers, according to the 2013 Gallup-Healthways report, and a 2010 collaborative study by academics at the universities of Cambridge, Plymouth and California found that being in the presence of someone performing a good deed increases feelings of elevation, which in turn increases the motivation of the observer to volunteer and to help others. This creates a positive cycle of wellness, which holistically increases health and well-being on both a personal and global scale.

Conclusion

The first lesson demonstrates that practising The Art of Critical Thinking is essential in order to be able to form objective opinions and make informed decisions.

The second lesson demonstrates how the mainstream narrative is just a story; one which is scientifically proven to be incredibly detrimental. The third lesson demonstrates how evaluating controversial topics and facing cognitive dissonance raises consciousness and increases personal and global wellness when carried out with the actively pursued goal – or the purpose – to be solutions-focused.

This lesson shows that wellness requires this actively pursued goal to be solutions-focused because achieving and maintaining health and well-being requires, as Stanford university defines, “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self”.

The scientific research in this lesson shows that focusing on solutions enhances our mood, outlook, self-efficacy (belief in one’s own ability) and curiosity, which in turn increases positive emotions, which has been shown to broaden cognition, attention and action, as well as longevity in later life, which in turn increases the ability to not only maintain, but even optimise, the actively pursued goal – or the purpose – to stay solutions-focused.

Studies then show the innumerable benefits correlated with sustained purpose, including increased physical health and well-being (happiness), reduced pain, regression of disease, and a more efficient, healthy and kind society; for when we are thriving in purpose, the science shows we become more active in helping others, which elevates their mood and motivates them to be more solutions-focused, taking us in one synergistic loop to the benefits of focusing on solutions.

The solutions-focused narrative is personal and global wellness. The scientific research clearly shows that when we explore the opposite of the mainstream narrative with objective and open-minded examination, have the purpose to achieve and maintain health and well-being on a personal and global scale, and use the tools identified by reliable research to increase wellness, we can experience powerful, multidimensional and holistic personal and global wellness.

This is not surprising. As mentioned in the second lesson, research in neuroscience shows that repeated positive environmental and emotional stimulation changes the brain’s physiology and enhances cognitive function while “simultaneously enhancing vigorous longevity, health, happiness, and wellness” in ways we only begin to understand. The Wim Hof Method, for example, is a breathing, commitment and cold therapy scientifically proven to make us superhuman.

The decision now is to commit to making personal and global wellness an actively pursued goal – your purpose.

This is the exciting part. Come back as often as you wish, choose your focus, and search by topic or resource type; if you do not know what to choose, start with Cognitive Dissonance to explore fascinating controversial topics, practise The Art of Critical Thinking and raise consciousness, or Wellness to explore the incredible solutions-focused world available to us all, and sign up to receive every new post right in your inbox.

The tools to solve all of our personal and global problems now exist, so follow your intuition and choose with purpose; remember this WUWE motto:

choose anything, as long as it is not what you know you do not want [but always make sure your intention is constructive and solutions-focused]

Most importantly, get out of your comfort zone (cognitive dissonance), go out into the solutions-focused world, and participate in the academic, scientific and social/spiritual movement taking place worldwide right now.


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