It is a challenge to understand what wellbeing is. This is why we have so many different definitions and explanations. This section pulls together some of the more prevalent ideas and presents a new way to think about and understand what wellbeing is.

The Reality of Wellbeing

The reality of wellbeing speaks to how safe and secure each of our lives is, how well we connect with ourselves and each other and how well we feel those needs are met. The primary drivers of life are made up of three parts.

  • Security relates to our physical and mental health and our physical safety.
  • Connectedness relates to the quality of relationships we have with ourselves and with those around us. It affects our sense of self-worth and is critical in how we feel about ourselves and how well supported we are by socity
  • Stimulation relates to how well-balanced we feel the excitement and stimulation are in our lives against the peace and calmness we also crave.

The Perception of Wellbeing

The conundrum for wellbeing is that it is both a reality and a perception.

Wellbeing is the reality of how safe, enjoyable and fulfilling is and our perception of how safe, enjoyable and fulfilling it feels.

Our perception arises from how well we judge our internal wellbeing generator is able to deliver what we seek in life from the opportunities and risks we face from society and from nature.

The Perception of Needs, Wants and Hopes

Our particular needs depend on our circumstances in life.

Young parents and young children, for example, have very different needs, with children learning how to provide for their most basic survival needs such as walking and eating, whilst parents are focused on providing a secure environment for themselves and their children. Young adults are focused on discovering themselves, their place in the world, and developing new relationships. People who are confident their basic needs are met can focus on more spiritual connections with themselves and with others.

The Wellbeing Cycle

The perception of wellbeing is a biological feature of evolution achieved through the Wellbeing Cycle.

Our bodies work with us to identify a need, perhaps through rational thought, perhaps through bodily impulses such as hunger pains. We decide on the way to satisfy the need and take action. If we succeed, we get a positive sense of pleasure which is fed back for future decisions. A pulse of wellbeing is added to our internal stock of general wellbeing. Whereas anxiety develops if we continually fail to satisfy what we judge we need.

If we somehow stimulate the pleasure feedback without satisfying a need, such as through drugs, we receive pleasure without an associated pulse of bodily wellbeing. It confuses the mind into misjudging how to address needs in the future. This is what we mean by the term “empty pleasure”.