In the Pursuit of Personal Wellbeing & Improved Quality of LifeOct 04, 2021
If you could travel back in time to 100-years ago and ask some average blokes how often they assessed their health, happiness and sense of purpose, they would have told you to get off their property.
Work was designed to put food on the table, not for enjoyment. The tasks of daily living generally required enough caloric output that “getting in shape” was not a priority. And, the idea that a guy would put effort into communicating his emotions, or even recognizing that he had any, was just ridiculous.
Back then, men were raised to work hard, acquire status in their communities whenever possible and become the manliest-man they could - meaning tough and emotionally impenetrable.
Many men today have been raised, maybe not completely, but at least with strong hints of these outdated values and stereotypes from the past.
Though we’ve come a long way and the masculine identity has broadened, the challenge to be vulnerable and to focus as much on building a rich interior life as you do on exterior motivations is still a work in progress.
In my practice, I’ve never met a guy who wasn’t seeking ways to improve his overall sense of wellbeing and quality of life in some manner. But because men are new to a conversation that women have been having for eons, and because the definitions of wellbeing, mental health and quality of life (QOA) are still so ambiguous, such improvements can feel like a moving target or an unworthy investment of your time.
However, without some very intentional self-care, it’s common to experience poor physical health, social/relationship problems and mental health challenges. If you’re one of the many guys who continually experiences a sense of chaos in your life, disconnection from others, and feeling unfulfilled, it could be time to shift your focus inward and make some adjustments.
To start - let’s clarify what we even mean when we say wellbeing, mental health and quality of life.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health begins with your ability to handle stressful situations, interact in social settings, communicate effectively and make sound decisions in your life.
While the goal is to be able to enjoy life and feel confident, it’s less about being happy all the time and more about building the awareness and agency to adapt to the different types of experiences that arise.
When you are mentally healthy, you’re able to contribute to your community, set and achieve goals, communicate effectively and maintain intimate relationships. Mental health is the foundation of your emotional, psychological, social and even physical health.
Of course, there are all kinds of things that contribute to poor mental heath, such as traumatic events, the death of a loved one, a stressful work environment, loneliness, addiction and an unhealthy lifestyle.
There are several components to mental health, and although some sources depict these categories differently, I like to break it down into four main categories:
1 - Cognitive wellbeing is your ability to assess a situation appropriately and make sound decisions using critical thinking.
2 - Emotional health doesn’t mean you’re never sad, it simply means that your emotions are an appropriate response to what’s happening in your life.
3 - Behavioral wellbeing is displayed by the actions you take, whether or not you can form relationship, perform at work and establish healthy ways of dealing with stress and adversity.
4 - Physical wellbeing reflects how well you care for your body by committing to consistent exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.
Because life is happening all time, the state of your mental health is not fixed, but can ebb and flow during different phases of your life. The goal is not to achieve an idealized and permanent state of joy, but to be able to honestly assess the status of your mental health and get extra support when you need it.
What is Personal Wellbeing?
There may not be a consensus around the definition of wellbeing, but it’s typically refers to feeling good about yourself - mentally, physically and emotionally, and feeling positive about your life. Some say feeling confident or optimistic about your future are also components of wellbeing. This is, of course, subjective and might look very different from person to person.
If we really dig in, we learn wellbeing can be broken into two parts: hedonia and eudaimonia.
Hedonia (like the word ‘hedonism’) is the pursuit of pleasure. By choosing to do enjoyable activities, (again this will vary depending on what it is you like to do), you enhance your wellbeing. For one person this could be skydiving, while someone else would find enjoyment through gardening or playing chess.
Eudaimonia is the pursuit of deep purpose and fulfillment. Achievements at work, completing personal goals and contributing to society are important parts of mental wellbeing.
To illustrate this more specifically, Ryff (1989; 2013) argues that mental wellbeing comprises six subdomains:
- Believing that your life has meaning
- Continued self-development and growth
- Good-quality social connections
- Believing that you can overcome hurdles
- Having a positive self-concept
- Having a sense of purpose
It’s easy to see how the components of wellbeing are all interrelated. Perhaps you excel in one area, but make up for it in another area of your life. For example, you may be not physically fit, but you have a great marriage, good friendships and love your lucrative job. It’s not about being perfect in all areas all the time, however, tending to each area can greatly contribute to a positive outlook on life.
What is Quality of Life?
Once the basics in life are covered - like food, water and shelter - what makes a good life is extremely subjective and incorporates both mental health and personal wellbeing.
Quality of life (QOL) is like a rating system for your personal happiness and is based on the expectations you have for yourself. QOL is as much about how you perceive your position in life as it is about the specific elements that are actually present in your life.
If you are living a life of joy, connected relationships, rewarding work, purposeful contribution and good physical and mental health, the chances are high you have a good quality of life.
In part QOL leans on your ability to close the gap between the life you have and the life you want. And from another angle, the happier you are with the life you have in the moment, the better QOL you’ll have, regardless of outward appearances or status.
Who’s to tell you what makes you happy or fulfilled? Only you can know that!
Could your life use a tune-up?
If after reading this far, you realize there are some parts of your life that aren’t measuring up to your expectations, it’s probably time to pop the hood and see where things are out of alignment.
Answer these questions for yourself:
1 - Are you are able to communicate well at work and with loved ones?
2 - Are you challenged and fulfilled by the work you do? How are you contributing to others?
3 - Are you able to sustain intimate relationships?
4 - Do you take time to have fun?
5 - Is there something you have always wanted to do, but haven’t gotten around to it yet?
6 - Is there something holding you back physically, mentally or emotionally?
Identifying the part of your life that stands to be improved will also help you identify how to improve it. Maybe you’d prefer to keep the hood closed nice and tight, afraid of what you’ll find if you open it up and start poking around.
But the manliest-men I know are those who have the courage to identify where the life they have is incongruent with the life they want and then do something to change it.
Whether you seek professional therapy, group support, or go on a deep-dive mission to uproot your personal roadblocks, the reward for investing in your overall wellbeing is living the most epic life you can.
If you would like more information on how to improve your mental health, general wellbeing, and quality of life, contact me to schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation.
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