Vital Signs of Well-Being
Dec 31, 2014 03:21AM
● By Dina Markind
Well-being is a more comprehensive way of looking at the state of our lives than health alone is. Vital signs in health care – temperature (T), pulse (P), respiration (R) and blood pressure (B/P) – provide a quick assessment of essential aspects of a person’s health from a medical perspective. Vital signs of well-being provide an opportunity for you to examine key parts of your life for a snapshot of your overall well-being.
Vital signs of well-being reformulates T, P, R, B/P to mean Take In, Put Forth, Relate Positively and Be Present. Individually and collectively, these crucial facets of your life contribute to your vitality, flourishing and well-being. While physical is fundamental, well-being views your emotional, mental and spiritual welfare as being equally as important as your physical health.
The key to flourishing is to take in what is nourishing. Filling your life with beauty, gratitude and activities that are important to you is sustaining. Taking in means to absorb, understand and experience; small activities such as sitting and watching the clouds pass can nurture you and contribute to your well-being. Through appreciating beauty and savoring the joyful moments in your life, you increase your positivity. According to Barbara Fredrickson in Positivity, an increase in positivity broadens and builds your vision, creativity, and ability to connect with others.
Being in touch with your own sense of purpose is what nourishes your soul. You probably have times when you are so busy that you do what is expedient or seems urgent, rather than proceed in a thoughtful way. Perhaps Gregorian chants uplift you rather than the pop rock on the radio or being in nature may be what nourishes your soul. For a deeper connection to what matters to you, set aside a few moments daily to take in and experience what you appreciate about your life, what’s important to you, and your sense of purpose.
On a physical level, what you eat and drink and the air you breathe are also important factors. Eating a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, protein, complex carbohydrates and minimal fat is essential.
In addition to taking in for your bodies and souls, there is what you take in to your mind and through your senses. What information and ideas do you listen to? Notice what you see, hear, taste, touch/handle and smell. Look around your home and work place. Is there something you would like to see be different? Make a change. What is the background noise in your life – music, gossip, news, educational information? Do you enjoy the taste of what you eat? In the broader sense, what are you touching or handling?
“Put forth” refers to the energy each of us puts forth in the world and the impact we have upon it. Putting forth energy is a powerful way to renew well-being. Paradoxically, some ways of using energy also generate energy and build endurance. There are two main components to putting forth and they can overlap:
• Activities associated with daily activities like cooking, maintaining your home, work and physical movement.
• Activities that connect you with a purpose you believe in and are greater than yourself provide you with a sense of purpose.
It turns out that exercise is the “wonder drug” for health, physical, emotional and mental. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week improves cardiovascular fitness, decreases risks for osteoporosis and diabetes and improves lung capacity. It also improves self-confidence and mood, as well as memory and focus.
When it comes to daily activities, your focus can play a big role in how energized or drained you feel. For example, looking at shopping and cooking as an important way to support yourself and family and enhance your daily life can elevate these mundane tasks. With work, focusing on the interesting aspects of the job and the positive impact you have on others can lead to more vitality and a more positive attitude.
Putting forth energy into meaningful activities – those that connect you with your deepest values and purpose and challenge you – often simultaneously renew your energy and provide you with a sense of accomplishment. However, making a conscious effort to balance your care of another with adequate self-care is important.
To get more out of the energy you put forth, check in with yourself; what is one thing you do that engrosses you, demands your attention and takes you beyond yourself? Do more of this activity.
The quality of your relationships is the single biggest predictor of your well-being, and a strong predictor for health. Fulfilling relationships at work, in your community or in your family require good communication; not only expressing and listening to another person but also understanding the feelings, needs and dreams underlying their words.
• Cultivate relationships. Put forth thoughtful effort in how you interact with the other person and spending time together.
• Be authentic. Bravado puts people off; genuine interest in the other, as well as sharing of knowledge, stories, ideas and experiences, all contributes to building trust.
• Allow for conflict. Discuss ideas and behaviors objectively. Do not personalize or globalize and avoid words like always and never.
• Appreciate the positive. Articulate what you appreciate about the relationship and the other person. Letting co-workers as well as family members know you appreciate them strengthens your relationships.
Think of a time when you were with a friend, family member or co-worker when you felt an especially easy flow between the two of you. What were some of the things that you both were doing that made those moments special?
When you are in the present, judgment falls away; you can focus on what is and distinguish it from the stories you associate with your past or worries about your future. The past is gone and cannot be changed and the future is not yet here; only in the present do you actually have power.
Take three slow deep breaths and notice how you become present. These breaths stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system; the one associated with calm in body and mind. In order to influence a situation, you must first acknowledge the situation.
“Yesterday’s the past; tomorrow’s the future but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
~ Bill Keane
Being present provides you with an opportunity to be, rather than rush around and do. You have a chance to connect with yourself and, in doing so, you can connect to your sense of purpose and get back on track if you’ve strayed. Being present is a reminder that we are human beings, not human doings.
Now that you know where to look, take some time to embrace self-compassion and honestly observe what you Take In, what and how you Put Forth, your Relationships and when and how you are Being Present in your life.
If you are thinking about changes you might want to make, it is helpful to put them in the context of your purpose for the change. The more significant the purpose is to you, the stronger your commitment will be to maintain the change. Make small changes slowly, allowing time to develop a new habit over a period of days and weeks. Along your journey of change, keep checking in with these vital signs and see how the modifications impact your state of well-being.