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The Five Essential Elements of Wellbeing: Revisiting Gallup Research Findings -Part 2

Posted by Joe Antle on August 15, 2020 3:00 PM EDT
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About a year ago, after reading again the excellent book written by authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter and published by Gallup Press in 2010 based on leading edge research by Gallup Inc., I am convinced....

....that while the authors don't spell out exactly the role of mental health and substance abuse abstinence as one of their five essentials to wellbeing, there are clear connections throughout the research and the book's five essentials.

By way of reminder, in my most recent blog posting of August 6th, I mentioned that I felt that it would be important to re-read the book to find out why mental health and substance use abstinence were not included in their research and not highlighted as one of the key essentials of wellbeing in the book, or in the research findings upon which the book was based.  After all, the disease conditions of mental health and substance use disorders of all sorts are heavily covered in the contemporary press and are the underpinnings of crisis-level issues that include stress, mass shootings, homelessness, family disruption, overdoses and more.

After a careful review of the book again, I can report that there is ample evidence of the impact of the noted five essentials that the Gallup research and the book identified as crucial to a life well-lived, or wellbeing.  Although the mental health and substance use disorder conditions and diseases are not identified as a "sixth" essential, the impact of the five essential elements in the book on mental health and the reduction in substance use disorder are undeniable and often mentioned in the details of the research findings in the five essential elements that are highlighted.  In fact, the authors note throughout the book that the overall good health and the integration of the five essentials as important contributors to lives that are "well-lived" make up for the clearly improved state of emotional wellbeing experienced by individuals who have higher than average scores in each of the five essential elements, which again are:  career wellbeing, social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing and community wellbeing.

So, if one were to recommend that if there were a single strategy to be developed and enacted to improve wellbeing en masse across populations and simultaneously improve emotional wellbeing and a reduction in substance use disorder incidents, then a focus on improving all aspects of the five essential elements of wellbeing would be that singular strategy.

In closing, I repeat below some summary information that was published in the book that provides the context for the book's findings and their application to improving population health at scale.  You'll see brief descriptions of each of the five essential elements of wellbeing and three tips for each one of them for improving that dimension of wellbeing.  These were all described in even more detail in the book:

Career Wellbeing

People with high Career Wellbeing wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day.  They also have the opportunity to do things that fit their strengths and interests.  They have a deep purpose in life and a plan to attain their goals.  In most cases, they have a leader who motivates them and makes them enthusiastic about the future and friends who share their passion.

Three Recommendations for Boosting Career Wellbeing:

1. Every day, use your strengths.

2. Identify someone with a shared mission who encourages your growth.  Spend more time with this person.

3. Opt into more social time with the people and teams you enjoy being around at work.

Social Wellbeing

People with high social wellbeing have several close relationships that help them achieve popularity, enjoy life and be healthy.  They are surrounded by people who encourage their development and growth, accept them for who they are and treat them with respect.  They deliberately spend time investing in the networks that surround them.

Three Recommendations for Boosting Social Wellbeing:

1. Spend six hours a day socializing with friends, family, and colleagues (this time includes work, home, phone, email and other communications.

2. Strengthen the mutual connections in your network.

3. Mix social time with physical activity.  For example, take a long walk with a friend so you can motivate each other to be healthy

Financial Wellbeing

People with high Financial Wellbeing manage their personal finances well and spend their money wisely.  They often buy experiences instead of simply buying personal possessions or material goods.  They give to others instead of always spending on themselves.  At a very basic level, they are satisfied with their overall standard of living.

Three Recommendations for Boosting Financial Wellbeing:

1. Buy "experiences"-such has memorable vacations and outings with friends, colleagues or loved ones.

2. Spend money on pr provide resources to others instead of solely on material possessions.

3. Establish default systems (automated payments and savings) that lessen daily worry about money.

Physical Wellbeing

People with high Physical Wellbeing manage their health well.  They live healthy lives and pursue active lifestyles and nutritious eating.  They exercise regularly, and as a result, they feel better physically, and mentally.  They make good dietary choices, which keeps their energy high throughout the day and sharpens their thinking  They get enough sleep to process what they have learned the day before and to get a good start on the next day.

Three Recommendations for Boosting Physical Wellbeing:

1. Get at least 20 minutes of physical activity each day-ideally in the morning to improve your mood throughout the day.

2. Sleep enough to feel well-rested (generally seven to eight hours per night) but not too long (more than nine hours).

3. Set positive defaults when you shop for groceries,  Load up on natural foods-vegetables and fruit-that are red, green and blue.

Community Wellbeing

People with high Community Wellbeing feel safe and secure where they live.  They take pride in their community and feel that it's headed in the right direction.  This often results in their wanting to give back and make a lasting contribution to society.  These people have identified the areas where they can contribute based on their own strengths and passions, and they tell others about these interests to connect with the right groups and causes.

Three Recommendations for Boosting Community Wellbeing:

1. Identify how you can contribute to your community based on your personal mission.

2. Tell people about your passions and interests so they can connect you with relevant groups and causes.

3. Opt in to a community group or event,  Even if you start small, start now and finish!  And keep going!

In summary, the premise is that to lead a life well-lived and to maximize your overall wellbeing, concentrating on doing well in the five essential elements of wellbeing will have great and lasting benefits.   This will directly provide a life well-lived by providing significant improvements in your mental health and will lead to efforts to improve recovery from adverse events in one's career, finances, social life, physical health and sense of belonging and giving back to an active and vibrant community.

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