The Three Cornerstones of Well-being
- Posted by wellness
The subject of mental health is omnipresent and for good reason. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every four adults in the world will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives*. This is a sobering figure in itself but the fact it dates back to 2001 means it is also likely to be an underrepresentation of today’s actual position.
It’s taken many years for the veil to be lifted on this fascinating and far-reaching subject matter. Globally, we’ve made considerable strides in the last ten years, recognising that health is not just the absence of illness but intrinsically linked to our whole sense of well-being.
Significant events like Covid-19 and growing global unrest have brought mental illness to the fore with record cases of depression, stress and anxiety becoming increasingly harder to ignore. The hospitality sector continues to be a hotbed for such afflictions and will undoubtedly worsen with the serial lockdowns, prolonged spells of furlough and worse still, redundancies and diminished job prospects.
The column inches grow in direct relation to the soaring suicide rates, the cost to the economy of mounting stress-related sick days and the alarming phenomenon of earlier onset of mental health.
WHO predicts that by 2030, mental illness will be the most significant contributor to all health problems. This stark statistic, coupled with the fact that depression is afflicting children as young as 7-9**, demonstrates the immense challenge we face.
Here at Wellness For Life, we’ve always championed a 360-degree approach to well-being and that philosophy has never rung more true than it does now. You might find it helpful to refer to the trusty Venn diagram of school days to further explore this discussion. Our emotional, social and financial health overlap to create the sweet spot in the middle. Here is the breeding ground for optimum wellness and well-being. By understanding the interconnectedness and relationship between these three facets of health, you can maximise your chances of achieving a balance in all three, securing a sense of wellness that will serve you well.
Separating mental health from emotional health is like parting a shadow from a body. There is a causal link well documented in cognitive behavioural therapy. Anxiety isn’t just something that happens in your mind. For example, you might find yourself in a situation that triggers a thought, memory or attitude, which in turn transmits an electrical current in your body. This current manifests in emotion or feeling. It might be a fearful scenario that precipitates the recall of an old memory when you were scared about something. This can lead to physical symptoms, a tightening of the throat, unease in your stomach or sweaty palms.
Poor emotional health is known to weaken your body’s immune system. There’s a reason why you get colds and other illnesses at emotionally difficult times. Is it really a coincidence that you get sick when you work flat out leading up to a vacation or break? Emotional health is not the same thing as mental health, but the two are linked. Similarly, strong emotional health does not mean you are in a permanent state of bliss. It merely means that you have equipped yourself to deal with the turbulence of daily life and are able to lessen the impact that change and uncertainty have on your physical and mental well-being.
It goes without saying that social health plays a fundamental role in our general well-being. The desire to belong, have friends and experience intimacy sits right in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This basic need to connect with others helps us to communicate and build tribes and support networks. Such social health is influenced right from the minute we are born and shaped by our relationships with our parents and peers. These early influences are instrumental in our own social development and just like emotional health, can, to some extent, define our ability to withstand rejection, adversity and adapt in social situations.
Right now, we are experiencing a global psychological pandemic instigated by Covid-19. Social distancing and isolation plus serial lockdowns are causing tens of millions of people to feel loneliness on a scale never seen before. And studies show that loneliness can increase the risk of debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s *** and can even kill. Social anxiety and isolation can lead to feelings of despair and even suicidal notions. In sharp contrast, when we feel connected to others, our brain releases the powerful chemical Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. This regulates emotional responses, promotes pro-social behaviours and induces anti-stress hormones like cortisol.
So, you begin to see how social health and mental health are intertwined.
Perhaps the least assuming of the three is matters relating to income and wealth. While not immediately obvious at first glance, it doesn’t take much probing to understand why deficiencies here can quickly lead to mental and physical health problems not to mention the pressure it can place on relationships and, consequently, social health.
There is a lot of pride at stake in money matters, so it’s an area people often find hard to confide in others about, even their closest loved ones. The concealment of financial strains can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and the fear of being ostracised by our peer groups can prove too much for some. Poor financial health often escalates to drinking, gambling and borrowing from unreputable sources, perpetuating the problem and creating a vicious circle.
Our financial health is intrinsically linked to survival, and once our existence is compromised or threatened, we can begin to experience unprecedented worry and stress. The inability to meet financial commitments or provide for our family may result in migraines and sleepless nights and in some cases, gastrointestinal disorders and heart disease.
So where does this leave us? Creating sustainable well-being in our lives means being aware of the interdependence of all components of our health. In the western world, we are often preoccupied with the outward signs of health, physicality, and our literal state of vigour. As we’ve seen above, it doesn’t take much to tip the scales in one area to see a direct impact in another. There’s a common thread running through all of the facets of health that we have looked at. Take care to observe, respect and nurture all three, and you’ll be well on your way to shoring up your well-being and improving your life satisfaction quotient.
Need some help to navigate the cornerstones of well-being? Reach out to Team WFL. We’ve walked the walk and are only too happy to share our wealth of experience and expertise.
*The World Health Report, 2001
**2007 – The American Journal of Psychiatry published a study showing that in 1967 the average age of onset of depression was 49-50, and by 2007 it was 13-15. Today figures suggest it is around 7-9 years old.
*** Radowitz JV. Loneliness can increase Alzheimer’s risk’ The Independent. 2012. Dec 11, [Last accessed on 2013, Feb 22]. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/loneliness-can-increase-alzheimers-risk-8405166 .