The 4 keys to wellbeing, and why it's on the UN agenda

Wellbeing is a word I find tricky. It seems to have a soft-and-fluffy image and hold perceptions that it's either something you're 'into' or you're not. Or that it's about being physically well....or not. I think there’s a lot more to it than that. As the world wakes up to its potential, wellbeing has been elevated out of magazine articles and health clubs to play a significant role in sustainable development at an individual, organisational, national, and global level.

Wellbeing is now perceived to be so important that it is high on the UN agenda for sustainable development. It ranks highly within the 17 actions identified over the next 15 years to address a variety of global issues. Richard Davidson PhD, a neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin brought together world leaders in science, business, healthcare, and spirituality for a NatGeo Live talk about ‘The World We Make’ in March this year. By luck, I found it on my Facebook feed 10 minutes before live streaming started, and I was so glad I tuned in.

Sitting alongside him was the Dalai Lama, who enthusiastically endorsed what was being said and is actively engaging with scientists to create a stronger force for good.

"The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds" Dalai Lama

Davidson outlined 4 keys to wellbeing which are based on extensive scientific research:

  1. Resilience – how rapidly we recover from adversity and navigate through challenges

  2. A sustained positive outlook – being able to see the positives in people and situations

  3. Attention – being fully present and connected with what’s going on. Research has found that adults’ minds are wandering around 47% of the time, so there is a long way to go with this one!

  4. Generosity – altruistic behaviour which has a more lasting positive impact than self-satisfying events like winning a game. Building compassion and empathy has shown a measurable increase in activity in the areas of the brain linked with wellbeing.

He explained that wellbeing is a skill which can be taught, with evidence that the human brain exhibits neuroplasticity as each component is developed. Humanity will benefit greatly if there is targeted education and support on a wider scale. I’m wholeheartedly behind this as I have experienced significant, lasting shifts in resilience and wellbeing with clients over the years.

Listening to this passionate and engaging presentation I became more and more excited about the parallels with my own work, particularly with the compelling evidence and backing from such credible experts, and this is only the beginning for me. I will continue to learn from research and from working with clients, and it gives me even more enthusiasm for the workshops and talks I already have under way. I have a real sense of purpose in my aim to leave the world a better place than I found it, and it’s great to know so many others are pushing in the same direction!

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