Science of Well-Being: Measurements and Techniques

Science of wellbeing is a systematic process which tries to understand how wellbeing works. The objective of science of wellbeing is to discover and encourage the factors that allow individuals and communities to prosper. Science of wellbeing includes physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing and social wellbeing. Traditionally, science of wellbeing has been considered as a branch of social science. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as medicine, neuroscience, neurobiology, physiology, chemistry, psychology, genetics, behavioral science, social science and economics. Science of wellbeing is defined, measured, and represented on the foundation of established scientific techniques. It is measured at the individual level as well as at the national level.

What is Wellbeing

Wellbeing is defined as the positive quality of life experience. Well-being is the state of being comfortable, healthy, and happy. It is experiencing the good feelings of life. There are two types of wellbeing; long-term wellbeing and short-term wellbeing. Again, wellbeing is classified into four groups: physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing and social wellbeing. These four types of wellbeing are not separate compartments. They are deeply interlinked.

Types of well being

Types of well being

Physical wellbeing:

Physical Wellbeing

Physical Wellbeing

Physical wellbeing is the measure of our health status. The body and the mind are inter-linked. When we improve our physical wellbeing, we will automatically experience greater mental and emotional stability. For example, dance, gardening, yoga not only strengthens our muscles, heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins and other powerful chemicals that energize our mind and give satisfaction. On the other hand, illness and chronic diseases reduce the sense of wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing:

Mental wellbeing describes our mental state – how we are feeling and how well we can cope with our day-to-day life. Feelings of satisfaction, contentment, confidence and engagement with the world are all part of mental wellbeing. Our mental wellbeing can change from time to time, day to day, month to month or year to year. Mental wellbeing helps us to cope with the normal stresses of life.

Spiritual wellbeing:

Spiritual wellbeing is about establishing harmony with our inner life and outer life. It is getting the inner peace. It is the feeling of belonging or connectedness with the world. It is also realizing a purpose and meaning in life. It gives us the power the feeling that we are larger than the issues, stresses, and challenges of life. Meditation, trust, forgiveness and let go, give the power to enhance spiritual wellbeing. Kindness, compassion and empathy has bigger role to increase spiritual wellbeing.

Spiritual wellbeing is not much associated with religious belief or religious faith, because sometimes organized religions can be experienced as harmful. Spiritual wellbeing is deeply associated with the spirit, freedom relationships and clarity of mind.

Social wellbeing:

Social wellbeing is the sense of getting satisfaction with other people and with other communities. It covers the basic needs – food, cloth, shelter, water, education and health services. Social wellbeing describes our social stability and social peace. Income equality, social capital, social trust, social connectedness and social networks are primary need for social wellbeing. Moral standard, child development, freedom, response to change are the important features of social wellbeing.

Economic position, and job satisfaction plays major role for social wellbeing. Research shows that, within societies, the wealthiest people are happier than the poorest, this supports the fundamental economic position that wealth is a self-evident good, increasing choice and permitting individuals to ‘maximize their utility’. However, there is also a solid body of evidence from economic research which shows that individual increases in income, once past a threshold at which basic needs are satisfied, produce diminishing returns in average levels of wellbeing.

During the course of life, we are exposed to an environment that abounds with a potent and dynamic milieu capable of triggering chemical changes in the brain and body that activate or silence the positive or negative feelings. Exposure to pharmaceutical and toxic chemicals, diet, stress, exercise, and other environmental factors are also capable of eliciting positive or negative feelings.

Wellbeing Factors

Wellbeing Factors

Science of Well-Being

Science of wellbeing is the systematic process by which we try to understand how the wellbeing works. The explanations are be based on careful observations and the testing of hypotheses. Until recently, the science of Well-Being was mostly avoided by the scientists for lack of good ways to measure it; however, in recent years, neuro-scientists have found ways to measure the levels of the neurotransmitters specially endorphinsglutamateserotonin and dopamine in the brain. They are used as the physiological indicator of short-term wellbeing.

The negative emotions create resistances and generate toxic chemicals, which are transformed, over the time, to subtle blockages in the neuromuscular systems that manifests as various physical and neurological diseases. They also connect with hormones, immune cells and organs, contributing to disease and poor health. However, positive emotions and uplifting thoughts are able to create good health.

Science of wellbeing aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive. Current research on well-being has been viewed from two general perspectives: the hedonic approach, which focuses on happiness and defines well-being in terms of pleasure attainment and pain avoidance; and the eudaimonic approach, which focuses on meaningfulness in life. Hedonic is more about physical pleasure. Eudaimonic is a higher form of pleasure.  It is the ultimate fulfillment of a human existence.  Scientist observed that human brains use many of the same hedonic circuits from sensory pleasures to create the higher order pleasures.

Measures of Wellbeing:

Science of wellbeing includes the both subjective and objective measures. It includes the measures of negative emotions as well as measures of the positive emotions. Neuroscientist, psychologist and economist use different techniques to study the science of wellbeing. The measures of psychology, neuroscience and economy can be integrated to get a clear picture.

Wellbeing is measured by examining and analyzing both objective statistics as well as subjective information.   The measure subjective wellbeing is a multi-dimensional construct. Competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self esteem, and vitality are the ten important features of well-being. Well-being is measured by using the psychometric analysis of indicators of these ten features.

The social well-being indicator measures how we experience our connections with others and the strength of those relationships. It is comprised of two component indicators which measure supportive relationships and trust and belonging. Social wellbeing is measured by subjective surveys with objective data (on lifespan, income, and education) to yield data with consistent patterns, making a national happiness index.

There are many ways, you can measure the state of your wellbeing. You can use this interactive wellbeing self-assessment tool to measure your index of wellbeing.

Neuroscience based well-being measurement indicators

Methods of to Increase Wellbeing

Diet, good sleep, exercise, yoga, meditation, walking, gardening,  positive thinking and social interaction improves overall wellbeing. Recent research shows that compassion have  tremendous benefits for both physical and mental health and overall well-being. Scientists observed that the “pleasure centers” in the brain, i.e., the parts of the brain that are active when we experience pleasure are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves! Giving to others even increases well-being above and beyond what we experience when we spend money on ourselves[3].

The path to spiritual wellbeing involve meditation, prayer, affirmations, or specific spiritual practices that support connection to a higher power or belief system. Yoga and meditation develop spiritual wellness. Having compassion, the capacity for love and forgiveness, altruism, joy, and fulfillment help you enjoy your spiritual health. Your religious faith, values, beliefs, principles, and morals define your spirituality.

In cognitive therapy, the goal is to help people change negative styles of thinking to positive thinking. This approach has been very successful, and changing how we think about other people, our future, and ourselves is partially responsible for increasing wellbeing. The thinking processes that impact our emotional states vary considerably from person to person. An ability to pull attention away from the chronic inner chatter of our thoughts are advantageous to well-being. A change in our orientation to time can dramatically impact how we think about the nature of happiness. Other possible goals: families and schools that allow children to grow, workplaces that aim for satisfaction and high productivity, and teaching others about positive psychology.

Summary

Current research on neuroscience has brought about ground-breaking developments on several fronts of wellbeing.  The time is ripe to present the integrated view of the science of wellbeing. Wellbeing is measured at the individual level as well as at the national level both subjectively and objectively. The subjective and objective aspects of this holistic science of wellbeing should be compatible with one another, if this composite discipline were to fulfill its role in the society.

Reference:

1. Meditation: The Science of Health and Wellbeing by Banani Ray and Amit Ray

2. Huppert, F. A., Baylis, N., & Keverne, B. E. , The Science of Well-being. Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 5, 2006)

3. Kuh D, Cooper R, Hardy R, Richards m, Ben-Shlomo Y (Eds).  A life course approach to healthy ageing.  Oxford University Press, January 9th 2014.

4. The Compassionate Mind by Emma Seppala

5. Berridge KC, Kringelbach ML. Building a neuroscience of pleasure and well-being. Psychology of well-being 2011;1(1):1-3. doi:10.1186/2211-1522-1-3.

6. Neuroscience based well-being measurement indicators

This entry was posted in Articles, Brain Research, Well-Being and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.