Over the recent years, there has been an increased resurgence in the study of positive psychological research. This has led to broadened scientific research aimed at investigating varied such as personal satisfaction, mental health, happiness, and wellbeing among other topics. With the expansive range of goals, these topics are examined at the societal, subjective, and individual levels. My interests in this examination are the personal beliefs and approaches to wellbeing, including the examination of how such personal beliefs and approaches constitute ‘living the good life’. These factors have spurred many varied debates and interpretations over what constitutes individual wellbeing and the factors that promote individual wellbeing. I will investigate the personal beliefs and approaches that determine the state of wellbeing in this paper.
Perspectives and approaches to wellbeing
The issue of wellbeing and living the good life has been a subject of concern to human beings for hundreds of years. While it can be quite complex to arrive at an agreed definition of ‘wellbeing’, I can possibly identify a variety of meanings that individuals have tried to use in defining the concept of wellbeing. Historically, the definitions and understandings of wellbeing has undergone metamorphosis depending on the prevailing time factors. This can be attributed to the varying approaches and complexities surrounding the management of individual wellbeing (Wyn 2009). According to positive psychology, wellbeing entails a state of complete mental, physical, and social health (As cited in ISU11-SP04. Lecture 4). As is examine philosophical definitions dating back to the ancient Greek philosophers, I found out that philosophers had different definitions to the concept of wellbeing. Shobhna, Shilpa, and Madhu (2008, 345) argue that psychological wellbeing resides within individual experience. Therefore, I dwell on their definition that psychological wellbeing refers to that state of being happy and healthy, satisfied, relaxed, and being at peace of mind.
Democritus (460-370BC) tied wellbeing to pleasure (As cited in ISU11-SP04. Lecture 4). He believed that wellbeing is attained through pain minimization and maximization of pleasure. Aristotle believed that wellbeing is obtained from the community welfare and social relationships. Religious satisfaction formed the major determinant of wellbeing in medieval times, and just like Aristotle, the wellbeing of the community was more important than individual wellbeing (As cited in ISU11-SP04. Lecture 4). Traditional communities and indigenous tribes all over the world had detailed and varied interpretations of approaching wellbeing (Bindon, and Trevor, 1992; Garvey 2007). Based on these variations in definitions and understandings of wellbeing, I can deduce that individuals will continue to make adjustments to changes happening in their lives and implement strategies that will enable them to obtain gratification from life. In the contemporary society, many individuals value the factors that are likely to improve the state of their wellbeing and the community (The Australia Institute. n.d, 2010; Myers, & Diener 1995).
In modern societies, many individuals and communities use religious alignments to define the nature of their wellbeing. According to Shobhna, Shilpa, and Madhu (2008, 345), religion contributes in helping individuals to attain sound mental health and psychological wellbeing. According to an examination of epidemiological and clinical studies by Shobhna, Shilpa, and Madhu (2008), individuals with religious commitment showed less psychological distress as compared to uncommitted individuals. This relationship between religion and psychological wellbeing shows that individuals enhance their personal happiness and overall sense of wellbeing by paying allegiance to religious practices and beliefs (Diener, & Seligman, 2002). For instance, religiosity provides hope in despair, provides peace in the midst of mental distress, enhances higher self-esteem, and enhances marital happiness (Shobhna, Shilpa, and Madhu, 2008). Other religious practices that can be tied to the attainment of individual wellbeing are meditation, yoga, and prayer.
Individuals also approach subjective wellbeing from the hedonic perspective and eudemonic perspectives. The former is occupied with pleasure seeking obligations while the latter emphasizes on self-actualization (Vernon, 2008). Such subjective approaches are critical in helping individuals to identify their appropriate paths to wellbeing and decide on strategies to adopt to lead worthwhile and meaningful life. However, using these perspectives to achieve subjective wellbeing involves making critical decisions involving determination of meanings, satisfactions, fulfilment, and managing emotional reactions (Wallis, 2009).
I also believe that personal values, in terms of behavior and attitude towards certain life issues, determines their wellbeing. As defined by the social adaption theory, individuals are live a good life by adapting well to their immediate environment (Alicke, & Sedikides 2009). As such, their values play a critical role in determining how they react to particular situations. Many a times, these values guide their attitudes and behaviors concerning what is good and wrong. Individual responses at their respective places of work, school, or surroundings are determined through their values (Barron 2013). Examples of these personal values include integrity, assertiveness, honesty, and conformation to codes of conduct.
I cannot doubt the fact that notions of wellbeing and living the good life has been a human concern for many years. With the increased of varied interpretations concerning factors that constitute wellbeing, defining wellbeing still remains a complex issue. However, an examination of psychological literature reveals that factors that constitute psychological wellbeing has undergone transformation throughout the years. I found out that pleasure, state of mental wellbeing, communal property such as land, and religion constituted a major part in defining mental wellbeing during the traditional periods and historical eras. In modern societies, religious affiliation, personal values, and individuals approaches to personal wellbeing determine wellbeing and what constitutes the good life. Factors that can wellbeing to being that state of being happy and healthy, satisfied, relaxed, and being at peace of mind sums up the idea of individual wellbeing.
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