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What Does Well-being Even Mean?

When you become a part of the community at Vibe Vault Fit, a community we like to refer to as the “Vibe Tribe” (The concept of “tribe” may have to be another blog), you will undoubtedly hear words and phrases like, Well-being, Fitness & Wellness, Unlock your body mind & soul or, our favorite, Live your best life being thrown around.


But what do they even mean?


So, this is the blog where we define the thing.










Usually when you have a blog focused on “What is X?”, you will be presented with the dictionary definition of X, followed by how leading researchers or thinkers in the field of X, conceptualize X. Don’t worry, we won’t disappoint; we will do a bit of both. However, the main focus of this blog will be about the concept of wellbeing as we relate to it at Vibe Vault Fit.

First, let’s start with a very important distinction:


WELL-BEING IS NOT HAPPINESS.


It INCLUDES happiness, but it is not simply about being happy, or being happy all the time.


Second, here is a task for you:


As you read through this blog, we want you to conjure up for yourself what well-being means to you. What are the first words that pop into your mind when you think about well-being? How would you describe what a sense of well-being is? How would it manifest in your life? How would it feel in your body?


Hold on to that, and let’s continue…


The Definition Thing:


Google says…


The Oxford English Dictionary defines well-being as, “the state of being comfortable, happy or healthy,” and the Merriam-Webster dictionary says it is, “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.”


So, it’s a state. Health and happiness are included in it somehow, as well as some sense of living contented or well. But does this measure up to the sense of well-being you conjured up for yourself?


Maybe? Partially? But no way near completely.


Here is the thing with definitions; they become the pointer to our destination, the arrow that tells us where to go. So, how we conceptualize a thing, a goal, determines where we end up.

“Knowing what you are after, is the first step to getting it. Knowing what is possible, is the first step to knowing what you want.”

The danger of limiting our ideas of well-being to happiness, health, prosperity, and comfort (depending on how we define each of those things of course) may mean we end up pursuing limited, ineffective, or perhaps even misguided goals, in our pursuit of the well-being we truly aspire toward.


Knowing what you are after, is the first step to getting it.


Knowing what is possible is the first step to knowing what you want.



The Broader View from Researchers and Thinkers:


Let’s move now to a sampling (because there are so many) of what researchers and thinkers in the field of well-being say, and since we are writing this blog, we are going to focus on our favorites!

Where You Least Expect it, Hellen Keller:


In the podcast Being Well with Dr. Rick Hanson (which we highly recommend), Dr. Hanson and his son interview Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar on Authentic Happiness (an episode we particularly recommend). In it, Dr. Ben-Shahar introduced a definition of happiness from Hellen Keller, which is simply “Wholeness”.


We Love that!


WHOLENESS.


If you listened to our podcast last week (if you did not, this is our plug to go listen) we discussed two kinds of happiness: 1) Hedonic, which is in line with common conceptions of happiness, is a state of positive emotion, and 2) Eudaemonic, which speaks more to happiness as a spiritual flourishing achieved through meaning and purpose, “and living as one was inherently intended to live” (Deci and Ryan, 2006).


WHOLENESS speaks more to the second kind of happiness; a fulfillment of meaning and purpose.


In addition, Dr. Ben-Shahar talked about wholeness as developing well-being in ALL aspects of our lives including intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational; The whole person, and the whole of our experience.

“It is living fully from a deep sense of worthiness, so we have the resilience to overcome the scary, vulnerable, sad, and crushing things we all inevitably experience in life.”

What Our Friend Brené Has to Say:


Brené Brown takes the idea of wholeness further and talks about:


WHOLEHEARTED LIVING.


She writes in her book "Daring Greatly":

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

Can you imagine that life?

One in which we let ourselves be seen? Deeply seen? Where we love and live with our whole hearts despite the risk of loss and pain? Where we believe in our worthiness despite our flaws? Know we deserve love and belonging despite our inadequacies? Where we work through our shame, confront our fears and embrace our vulnerability? Where we are able to feel joy and gratitude even while in a world filled with sadness, loss, and fear?

Now we are getting closer to what we, at Vibe Vault, mean by well-being.

It is living fully, from a deep sense of worthiness, which creates in us the resilience to overcome the scary, vulnerable, sad, and crushing things we all invariably experience in life. Resilience is the ability to sit in adversity, sit in discomfort, fear, and vulnerability. To bear it, and come through it. This is why wellbeing is not just happiness; the goal is not to be happy all the time because that impossible, and perhaps not even desirable. A fully lived, wholehearted life, means you experience all of it, fully.

From the father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman:


Here is another beautiful word for well-being:


FLOURISHING.


In summarizing Seligman’s work, Ackerman notes:

“We can understand flourishing as the state that we create when we tend to…increasing our positive emotions, engaging with the world and our work (or hobbies), develop deep and meaningful relationships, find meaning and purpose in our lives, and achieve our goals through cultivating and applying our strengths and talents. To flourish is to find fulfillment in our lives, accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks, and connecting with others at a deeper level—in essence, living the “good life”

Are we seeing a pattern here? The good life. A life of wholeness. A life of meaning, purpose, engagement, achievement, deep connection, positive emotions, and cultivation of our strengths.


Interestingly, these deeper ideas of well-being are not new. Well-being and what it entailed was a deep preoccupation of the ancient Greek philosophers; If only we had listened to them then.


Wisdom From The grandfather of Well-being, Plato:


In Plato’s Apology, Socrates defines his life’s mission as awakening the Athenians to the supreme importance of attending to their souls. His timeless plea that we connect to ourselves remains the only way for any of us to truly thrive.” Huffington (2016)

Here are two more gorgeous words:


THRIVE and SOUL.

Guess we were on to something with our tagline at Vibe Vault Fit, “Unlock your vibe: body, mind, and soul.”

Soul can refer to the essence of who we are at a more spiritual level (spirit, energy, etc), but for the purpose o this blog, let’s think about it in a more grounded, human sense; a deeper, more authentic part of the self. The “you” when no-one is watching, judging, or telling you who you should be. Your truth, your center, your deep sense of being in the world.

What Plato tells us is we need to connect to that, but more so, we need to attend to that soul in order to truly thrive.


We could not agree more.

Circles & Tying it All Together:

This is the part where we tell you what well-being means at Vibe Vault Fit. So, moving just a “bit” beyond the dictionary definition of well-being, this is what well-being conjures up for us:


Wholeness: Feeling whole, being whole, living whole.

(NOTE: how can we ignore the coincidence that the word "whole" often conjures a circle? Have you looked at our logo?)

Feeling Whole:

  • A sense of worthiness. Feeling worthy of love and belonging.

  • Feeling connected, seen, validated.

  • Having a healthy passion, drive, and vitality.

  • Being able to feel it all; Joy, love, sadness, pain, loss.

Being whole:

  • A stable sense of self. A deep-rooted sense of who you are, and being grounded in that when interacting with the world.

  • An ability to live authentically; sustained authentic self-expression through life, saying what you feel and feeling it as you say it.

  • Knowing what you want. Distinguishing your wants from your “shoulds”, and as part of that, being able to say “no” without which your “yes” cannot really be authentic.

Living whole:

  • Experiencing fully, being fully present in your life and in the now.

  • Resilience in dealing with adversity, and an ability to sit with discomfort.

  • Productivity, mastery, meaning, and purpose.

  • Deep and meaningful relationships.

  • A sense of fullness and bigness; living a fuller and bigger life. Feeling alive.

  • A deep sense of gratitude.

  • Being connected to something larger. Giving back. Being part of the universal whole.


That’s what we were imagining when we thought of well-being.


Ultimately, we each have our own idea of wellbeing. This blog describes some of the possibilities, the vastness as well as depth of what wellbeing can encompass, and the parts of our lives it can touch. Knowing what possible is the first step to attaining it.


Think back again to what wellbeing means to you. What it can look like in your life, how it can feel in your body and in your soul.


And then please attend to that.



We would truly enjoy hearing about your own conceptions of well-being, as well as any comments you may have on this blog. Wishing you deep well-being.

REFERENCES:

Ackerman, Coutney, E. (2020). Flourishing in Positive Psychology: Definition + 8 Practical Tips. (PositivePsychology.com)

Brown, Brené (2012) Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Love, Love, Parent, and Lead. (Gotham Books, NY)

Huffington, Arianna (2015) Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. (Harmony Books, NY)

Seligman, Martin (2011) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. (Free Press, NY)

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