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 at 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 positive new solutions-focused narrative (world/reality) appears.

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

Furthermore, the scientific research shows that when our focus is to make decisions that increase our own health and well-being, and help others, a multidimensional and holistic wellness that optimises all areas of life can be achieved.

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 developing and piloting data capture tools linked to the outcomes identified … 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 mindfulness, meditation, yoga, sleep, stress-reduction and sexual health because tools such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (offered online free) have been scientifically shown to improve a wide variety of medical and psychological conditions, including depression, sleep disturbances, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and fibromyalgia.

The academic research into wellness, therefore, centres around identifying 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:

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, the science of wellness is not only about identifying scientifically proven tools, but also understanding how to maintain and optimise wellness in all areas of life.

The aforementioned 2013 global Gallup-Healthways survey found that those with high purpose well-being “are 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, thus creating a positive cycle of wellness that is holistically optimising both personal and global wellness at the same time.

Conclusion

Congratulations! You have now completed the online Personal & Global Wellness Training. So what have we learnt?

The first lesson showed that practising The Art of Critical Thinking is essential in order to be able to form objective opinions and make informed decisions not influenced by our preconceived ideas (our conditioning thus far).

The second lesson demonstrated how the mainstream narrative is our conditioning – a repeated story which educates us to view the world in a particular way; one which is scientifically proven to be incredibly detrimental.

The third lesson showed how evaluating controversial topics that put us face-to-face with our conditioning and cognitive dissonance raise consciousness and, when carried out with the actively pursued goal – or the purpose – to increase personal and global wellness, the positive solutions-focused narrative (world/reality) appears.

This lesson develops all this further by presenting in detail three final important scientific discoveries that enable us to delve into this new narrative of personal and global wellness ourselves:

First, consistent exploration of the solutions-focused narrative causes immense health and well-being, whilst the consistent purpose to increase wellness causes the solutions-focused narrative. Thus, the purpose to experience wellness is synonymous with the purpose to be solutions-focused – one directly influences the other.

Second, with a stable and generalised (do not overdo it and stop) actively pursued (take action and keep going) goal to achieve and maintain wellness, wellness gradually becomes optimised in all areas of life.

For when we consistently explore the opposite to the mainstream problem-causing narrative with objective and open-minded examination, have the purpose to achieve health and well-being for the benefit of ourselves and the world at large, and use the tools identified by reliable research to increase wellness, we can experience powerful, multidimensional and holistic wellness.

Third, the solutions-focused narrative causes us to experience powerful, multidimensional and holistic (optimised) wellness only when our stable and generalised actively pursued goal includes the intention to make a difference in the broader world beyond the self (to help others).

The scientific research is clear. Focusing on solutions enhances our mood, outlook, self-efficacy (belief in one’s own ability), and our curiosity and desire to explore, share and learn more about the solutions-focused narrative, which further increases our 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; thus taking us in one synergistic loop back to the benefits of focusing on solutions.

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 increasingly active in helping others, which elevates their mood and motivates them to be more solutions-focused; thus taking us in one synergistic loop back to the benefits of focusing on solutions, and the formation of multidimensional, holistic personal and global wellness.

In other words, with sustained purpose to increase health and well-being for ourselves and to help others, the solutions-focused narrative creates multidimensional and holistic (optimised) personal and global wellness.

This is neuroplasticity. Since the mainstream narrative educates us to think about the world through problems, conflict, consumerism, prejudicial categorisation of others and fear, exploring the solutions-focused narrative is re-educating us to view the world from the perspective of solutions, cooperation, fair share, acceptance of others and love – a different reality and new positive way of thinking about the world which anyone can choose to strengthen.

As presented 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 are only beginning to understand. The Wim Hof Method, for example, is one technique of repeated breathing, cold therapy and commitment that is scientifically proven to make us superhuman; yet is only beginning to enter the mainstream.

Now that the lessons are complete, Personal & Global Wellness Training becomes self-directed. The decision now is to commit to making the solutions-focused narrative and staying focused on solutions that increase personal and global wellness an actively pursued goal – your purpose.

This is the really exciting part, and WUWE is here to support you with the tools. Come back as often as you wish, choose your focus, and search by topic or resource type, and be sure to sign up to receive every new post right in your inbox.

Choose Cognitive Dissonance as your focus to explore controversial topics and practise The Art of Critical Thinking so that you can raise your awareness, form more objective opinions and make more informed decisions about your future.

Choose Wellness as your focus to explore the opposite of the mainstream narrative – the exciting solutions-focused world that increases personal and global wellness and is available to us all.

Just as personal and global wellness is multidimensional and holistic, the solutions too cross all disciplines.

Therefore, within the topics covered on this platform, you will find research covering many disciplines, including architecture, engineering, health, nutrition and medicine, politics, business, agriculture, biology, physics, psychology and mathematics – to name just a few.

The tools to solve all of our personal and global problems now exist, so follow your intuition and choose with purpose; if you do not know where to start, 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.

The solutions-focused narrative is the world that creates multidimensional and holistic personal and global wellness, and a reality that exists right now and awaits us all.


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