Last week on social media HealthyU did a small campaign promoting wellbeing through one action item per day as outlined by the NEF (Aked, Marks, Cordon, Thompson, 2008). They defined wellbeing as “Feelings of happiness, contentment, enjoyment, curiosity, and engagement” and “Experiencing positive relationships, having some control over one’s life and having a sense of purpose,” and then provided 5 actions that build toward wellbeing. They are:
2. Keep active
3. Take notice
4. Keep learning
Did you get a chance to include one or more of these actions in your days last week? In principle, they’re not hard. Reaching out to an old friend, doing light exercises, being curious, exploring a new hobby, or thanking someone aren’t difficult things. If you’re like me, however, then you found it difficult nevertheless because of a proverbial UofT problem: a lack of time. At the very least, the perception of lack of time. I’m not nearly as far along with my academics as I want to be, and it feels like I shouldn’t be doing other things before I’m caught up.
I managed to push through this mental barrier and set aside time last week to pursue one of my hobbies as part of the “Keep learning” action. It was just one evening of the week, but I really enjoyed myself during that evening, and can even feel a sense of pride when I think back on it. I wasn’t sure why I felt pride at first. If anything, shouldn’t it be something like guilt for leaving my academic and work responsibilities on the wayside?
I had learned something about myself then. I realized that I’m beginning to place more value on my wellbeing, and doing things to maintain and improve it gave me a sense of achievement in the same way that writing a good paper or advancing my career did. I wasn’t pursuing my hobby to procrastinate from studying—which is what usually lead to feelings of guilt. I was pursuing them with a direct intent to improve my wellbeing, and that made all the difference.
We UofT students spend a lot of time on studying and advancing our career. In part, it’s fantastic, because it generally contributes to feelings of engagement and a sense of purpose. If you’re lucky, you might even feel enjoyment and curiosity from your studies. But when it’s 10pm and I’m still on campus working, I now start to ask,
“Am I keeping well? Do I feel happy and content? And do I have sources of happiness and contentment that are within my control?”
Almost every time, asking this helps me let go. I put aside this false sense of urgency with my work and walk home with some nice music. This rest of the night is now all about doing things that make me happy.
Aked, J., Marks, N., Cordon, C., Thompson, S. (2008, October 22). Five Ways to Wellbeing. The New Economics Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2017, from http://neweconomics.org/2008/10/five-ways-to-wellbeing-the-evidence/