Are you living life at its best?
A look at the concept of subjective wellbeing
By Angela Civitella
Previously published on October 3, 2018
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and hell of heaven.
John Milton, English poet
We all want to be happy in our lives, and we all want to experience “well-being”.
However, people often disagree about what wellbeing involves. Some say that you need to live an honest, positive life. Others believe that you achieve it by doing rewarding, challenging, or enjoyable work. Still others equate it with living according to your core values, while also focusing on your spiritual and emotional development.
The point is that wellbeing is subjective – we all have different ideas about what it means to live a fulfilling life. There is no one “correct” path to achieving a state of wellbeing. (Although there may be many incorrect paths!)
In this article, we’ll examine the concept of “subjective well-being”. We’ll discuss what it means, why it’s important, and how you can use the ideas behind it to experience wellbeing in your own life.
About subjective wellbeing
Subjective wellbeing describes how you, as an individual, think about your own state of happiness, fulfilment, and satisfaction.
This state of wellbeing goes far deeper than merely being happy – it encompasses your health, career, emotional and spiritual development, family life, relationships with friends, income, and more.
‘Subjective wellbeing describes how you, as an individual, think about your own state of happiness, fulfilment, and satisfaction.’
Noted researcher, Dr. Ed Diener, says that there are three major things that contribute to subjective wellbeing. These are:
- Lacking negative emotions and moods
- Having pleasant emotions and moods
- Experiencing satisfaction – this can be from things such as your car or home, through to your relationships, or even to your life as a whole. (Diener calls these “satisfaction judgments”.)
Diener says that other factors, such as optimism and feelings of fulfilment, can also affect how you feel about your life.
He says that the importance you place on all of these elements is likely to change over the course of your life. For instance, younger people often say that family, income, and employment are important components in their wellbeing, while older people are more likely to rate health, freedom, and leisure as things that are most important to them.
There’s no single key for achieving high subjective wellbeing because it’s… subjective. Rather, you should view it as a something that involves many different ingredients, which change as you go through life.
How to have high subjective wellbeing
You can increase your likelihood of having high subjective wellbeing by doing the following things:
Define your core values
When you live in accordance with your personal ideals, you feel good about yourself. You can rest easy at the end of each day, because you know you didn’t compromise on the things that you know are right.
‘Diener says that other factors, such as optimism and feelings of fulfilment, can also affect how you feel about your life.’
So, take time to discover your values then make an effort to live each day according to these values.
Create job satisfaction
All of us have a different idea of what it takes to make us happy. One person might define happiness as having a secure job earning a lot of money. Others might be more satisfied in a role that allows them to telecommute and work flexible hours, even if they earn less.
Because you spend so much time at work, it’s important to have job satisfaction however you define it. Do you want work that’s challenging? Do you want more variety?
Take time to identify what gives you the most pleasure in your work, and think about what you could do to bring more enjoyment to what you do. You can then use job-crafting techniques (a means of describing the ways in which employees utilize opportunities to customize their jobs by actively changing their tasks and interactions with others at work) to bring these things to your job.
Work with purpose
Similarly, many people think that it’s important that their work helps other people.
It’s obvious how some jobs make a positive difference to other people. Where this is less obvious, however, you can find meaning by helping someone else, in some way, every day.
This doesn’t have to be a big thing: you could lend a listening ear to a co-worker who’s having a bad time, or help a colleague who’s behind on work. These may be small acts, but they can make a big difference to someone else’s life. They will also have a powerful effect on your own sense of wellbeing.
Live a healthy life
Your health is another important contributor to subjective wellbeing. People who are physically healthy have more energy during the day; they’re also happier, and better able to deal with stress and other challenges.
‘Having close, trusting relationships is a factor in high subjective wellbeing that transcends age, gender, and culture.’
Find ways to fit exercise into your schedule. Get plenty of sleep, and stay hydrated during the day by drinking plenty of water. Also, do whatever you can to lower your stress levels.
Build positive relationships
Having close, trusting relationships is a factor in high subjective wellbeing that transcends age, gender, and culture.
Make sure that you’re spending enough time developing good relationships. This might include leaving work at a set time one evening a week to spend time with your family, or resolving to keep in touch with old friends.
It also needs to include building good work relationships. You can do this by showing your appreciation for others, by working on your emotional intelligence and by spending quality time with colleagues and clients.
Your attitude plays a major role in how you feel about your life. For instance, one person might routinely engage in self-sabotage. To her, nothing is ever good enough, and she always starts a task believing that she’s going to fail.
Another person might be the exact opposite. She believes in the work she does, and she’s always striving to do better. She takes action on her dreams, and she’s not afraid of challenges, because she sees them as opportunities to grow and learn.
‘Our thoughts have a major impact on our life: they influence the choices we make and the actions we take (or don’t take).’
Which of these two people do you think is more satisfied with her life?
Our thoughts have a major impact on our life: they influence the choices we make and the actions we take (or don’t take). This is why it’s so important to develop the habit of positive thinking.
Remember, everyone defines happiness and wellbeing differently. It’s important to use your own judgment and pursue the areas that are most meaningful for you.
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Angela Civitella, a certified business management coach with over 20 years of experience as a negotiator, strategist and problem solver, creates effective and sustainable synergies to enhance leadership and team-building skills, as seen on ABC, CBS, FOX and other media. You can reach Angela at 514 254-2400 • linkedin.com/in/angelacivitella/ • intinde.com • @intinde