Have you ever said to yourself one of these statements?
- I haven’t seen a doctor in a year. I am well!
- It is too early to start focusing on wellbeing.
- I don’t have time/money to work on wellbeing practices.
If yes, then this article may offer you an alternative perspective by busting five common myths about wellbeing.
Myth 1: Wellbeing is seen as the absence of illness
Personal wellbeing is not just the absence of illbeing, but the presence of many positive states, such as:
- Healthy, trusting and safe relationships with family and peers
- A sense of security and satisfaction with our field of study and work
- High and positive energy levels to achieve all our goals
- Feelings like balance, confidence, optimism, happiness, love and joy
In essence, wellbeing practices help us make everyday choices such that we can live in harmony with ourselves, with others, with society, and with nature! (see resources below)
This understanding essentially moves our goal post. It changes our definition of what being well truly means. And this may shift our motivation to take consistent action.
Myth 2: Too young for wellbeing
I have heard people share that they will think about wellbeing later — when they are in their forties or have some health challenges.
Research shows we learn better when we are younger. As we grow older, the plasticity of our brain reduces and we see our cognitive ability decline. (see resources below)
Wellbeing practices can be learned, just like any other skill. The sooner you start, the better your ability to understand and cultivate them. More importantly, you reap the benefits of each practice for many more years of your life when you inculcate it early!
This understanding may shift our sense of urgency to work on our wellbeing.
Myth 3: Attaining wellbeing is expensive
We spend a lot of money on healthcare. The Global Wellness Industry is estimated at $4.2 Tn and the Global Healthcare Industry is estimated at $11.2 Tn. The growth in revenue over the past few decades has not led to an increase in wellbeing for the majority of the people.
While you can buy good healthcare, you cannot buy health and wellbeing. The sources of happiness and wellbeing are often in our own hands and rely on many simple, everyday practices that cost little or no money. However, awareness of these simple practices is often not prevalent and that is often the issue.
While I say this, I in no way deny the need for professional support that is necessary for acute or chronic conditions that cause mental or physical distress. It is crucial to acknowledge their role in recovery, but at the same time to not equate just recovery with being well.
This understanding may shift our lens from spending more money on wellbeing to altering our everyday practices towards wellbeing.
Myth 4: There are silver bullets
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for wellbeing. We cannot buy it over the counter. I have seen the lasting effects of any practice only if I stick to the practice for at least a few weeks to a few months. Some practices may make you feel instantaneously good, like doing yoga or practising gratitude, but even their long-term benefits are felt when followed with consistency.
You have to put in the effort and be patient to see the results. For example, if you are learning to cultivate your empathy, chances are you may not be zen with your loved ones initially, but maybe just less irritable. In most cases, we don’t observe these nuanced differences and assume nothing is changing. A reduction in the frequency or the intensity of unhelpful behaviours is also progress. Sadly, most people give up on the practice before they experience the real benefits, making perfection the enemy of progress.
This understanding helps you stick to your wellbeing practice long enough to see its effects.
Myth 5: A wellbeing-focus means compromising on productivity
People also see a conflict between productivity and wellbeing. Plenty of research demonstrates that a better state of wellbeing enables us to be more focused, purposeful, and energized (see resources below). Therefore, wellbeing practice is an essential input to our productivity, instead of conflicting with it. Gandhi once said:
Meditation is just a placeholder for any wellbeing practice. Notably, most wellbeing practices are built as a function of frequency, even if they begin with just 5 minutes a day. They don’t require as much time as they require consistency in action.
This understanding may help us acknowledge that there is no trade-off between productivity and wellbeing and thereby increase the effort we commit to it.
This clarity can be very foundational and essential to deepen our wellbeing practice. Remember, any skills you are good at did not come to you overnight. You learnt them and spent many years applying them until you could use them to the right and intended effect.
Wellbeing is no different from these skills but a bit harder because it requires us to work on our inner world than the outer world. You are often transforming your ways of being and seeing as you embrace it. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t let these myths become a distraction as you walk this uphill road.
You can read this article to understand the different aspects of wellbeing better and some practices to bring them alive.
You can read this article to understand the impact of age on learning.
You can read this article to learn about simple wellbeing practices you can implement in your life.