What is being ‘well’?

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

Every year, in June you hear about Global Wellness Day and World Being Week. And these days, you often hear the phrase well-being, but what actually is it? How do you know when you are ‘being well’ enough? How can you measure it? And does it much matter anyway - because we’re all busy these days right?

It seems that the true definition, while a little vague, is not simply “not having a diagnosed disease”. According to the Collins Dictionary, your well-being is your “health and happiness”, and the Macmillan Dictionary goes one further with the suggestion that it is the “satisfactory state that someone or something should be in, that involves such things as being happy, healthy, and safe, and having enough money.”

The business of well-being is multifactorial. It is not just what you eat or how you move that has you be well. It is a more complicated picture of also having good mental health, a high level of satisfaction with your life, a sense of meaning or purpose (in Japanese they call it the Ikigai - what gets you up every morning and keeps you going), and the ability to manage your stress levels.

For the alphas (the high achievers), I’m sorry to tell you that you cannot get this overall sense of wellness by acing a couple of these elements and hoping your achievements in one area can pick up the slack in other areas where you might be lacking. While it is not necessary to feel that every single one of the elements below is A-OK, you cannot enjoy an overall sense of wellness without having some kind of balance in these key elements:


this includes what you eat and how active you are. By active, we do not mean the gym only.


your ability to cope with everyday life as well as how you think and feel about yourself, particularly important in those current unprecedented times.


the extent to which you feel you belong and social inclusion. Rolled into this are your relationships with others, and your values, beliefs and traditions. This is particularly well explained by Dan Buettner founder of the Blue Zones:


This is the ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life. Achieved through being connected to our inner self, to nature or even a higher power. Again, another very important aspect explained very well by the Blue Zones.


It is important to gain and maintain intellectual wellness as it helps us to expand our knowledge and skills in order to live an enjoyable and successful life. According to the Wellness Evaluation of Lifestyle, or WEL, (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000), current behaviours will affect future health and well-being of an individual. Adults who are regularly challenged to use their creativity and problem solving skills as they engage in meaningful work and other activities may have the benefit of reducing the risk of cognitive decline as they age. As an individual engages in stimulating intellectual activities, he/she strengthens the neural network inside the brain. Strong neural networks are denser, and are more resistant to decline and amyloid plaques linked to dementia and Alzheimer's disease (Rodriguez, DiLego, & Texeira, 2015). Additionally, intellectual wellness may be improved by effective stress-management skills and emotional coping skills. Some examples might choose journaling, reading, making artwork, making crafts, playing puzzles & games, socialising, stimulating conversations with others, learning a new skill such as a language, etc.


your ability to meet your basic needs and feel a sense of security.

How can you measure how well you are doing?

The experience of ‘wellness’ is very subjective. It is not for others to tell you how well (or otherwise) you are doing at your own well-being. When I’m coaching with my clients on well-being, one of the tools I use most often is something called the Wheel of Life, which offers a 360-degree view of your current life situation.

Each segment in the wheel represents a different area of your life that is important for overall health and well-being. You would score yourself based on how you feel about different areas of your life: emotional health, life purpose, nutritional health, movement, environment, relationships, finances, lifestyle & pace. I use another wheel of life for nutrition-focused consultations.

How can the wheel of life help me?

The great thing about the Wheel of Life is that it allows you to take an honest look at what’s working in your life right now and where else you would like to see improvements, then find ways to link your health goals, so there is a positive impact in other ways too, helping to increase your motivation and commitment.

It’s completely normal for people to discover they are satisfied with some areas of their lives and very unsatisfied with others. Remember that this is really a helicopter view, allowing you the luxury of evaluating the whole of your life and not piecemeal.

It’s also common for some of my clients to get a bit upset if they see they score low in more areas than they’d like. If you try the Wheel of Life Exercise and don’t like what you see, don’t panic. The job within your programme (if you’re working alongside me on improving your health and nutrition) is to take actions consistent with improving specific areas of your life that you feel need a boost. It is often possible to link a couple of these wheel segments together. For example, if you would like to improve your social life (relationship) and your fitness level (movement), think about how you could link the two – perhaps joining a dance class or taking one of those courses that help you get back into a sport you used to love when you were younger. Team sports like hockey or netball are a perfect example and, if you fancy having a go just type ‘get back into hockey’ into your internet browser to discover local possibilities.

This is when well-being coaching can really help once we have established your scores and mid-term and long-term goals. Well-being Coaching, goes a step further. It is an innovative approach that ensures you can access your inner resources, take responsibility, and make those shifts proactively and willingly. It is meant to be non-judgmental, non-directive but fully encouraging & supportive. It bridges the gap between where you are in life and where you want to be. It helps recognise patterns, values, and limiting beliefs that may be impacting your daily life and perhaps holding you back. The job of a well-being coach is to empower their clients.

So, I invite you to think further about how you define your well-being and remember there is no universal version of it. It is all down to you as an individual, your core values and where you are right now in your life. Be kind to yourself.

Stay well, stay safe

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