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What is Well-Being?

by Beth on May 20th, 2013

Yoga @ MasonIn my role as Senior Scholar at the Center for Consciousness and Transformation at George Mason University, I’m participating in a Well-Being University Learning Community. Our purpose is to “create a blueprint for what well-being looks like in different areas of the university”. I must say, this is an exciting, but difficult task!

While everyone participating in our project has a special interest in well-being, we also have different opinions as to how to define it. Well-being is a subjective evaluation of how satisfied we are with our lives. What I consider to be vital for my well-being may be different from what someone else believes contributes to his or her well-being.

Yet we believe it’s important for our group to have an agreed upon definition that we can use to explain to others what we mean by a well-being university and to evaluate the success of our initiatives. So to start with we are each contributing working definitions that we will then shape into a shared definition of well-being at Mason.

Here is my first stab at it: “In a well-being university students, faculty, and staff learn how to make choices that lead to optimal functioning of mind, body and spirit in order to thrive together.” I think our well-being is the result of small choices we make throughout the day regarding what to eat, whether or not to exercise, what goals to pursue, where to focus our attention, how to respond to others, etc. And since universities are learning institutions, I believe a well-being university should teach people to make choices that will maximize their potential to thrive throughout their lives.

Although what determines well-being is different for each of us, I do believe there are specific things that contribute to everyone’s well-being. Some of these include:

  • Love and connectedness
  • Engagement and mastery
  • Meaning and purpose
  • Mindfulness and self/other awareness
  • Hope and resilience
  • Physical health and safety

What about you? What do you think is important for your well-being? I’d love to know your thoughts!

From → Well-being

2 Comments
  1. Linda M Williams permalink

    Great to know that you are settling in, Beth! I never had a chance to tell you that George Mason is literally about a mile from where we lived in Annandale before moving to Arizona. In fact, all three of my teenage children learned to drive in the George Mason parking lot on weekends!

    I also wnted you to know that I think you have created an excellent concise list of factors of well being. I attempted to list some factors important to me to determine if they fell into these categories…and you have pretty much covered the waterfront for me. Of course, from an ethics perspective and achieving the feeling that I am doing “what is right,” I would say that the broader category of “meaning and purpose” pretty much encapsulates that for me. However, I guess someone could stretch that category to say that we could develop meaning and purpose from achieving nefarious goals, if we are so inclined. Would that be their sense of well being and satisfaction with their lives? Interesting task you have! Hope you are enjoying Northern VA. We will actually be visiting DC in mid-August (and KNOW from experience that is not the ideal time!).

  2. Beth permalink

    Hey Linda, I had no idea you had lived in Annandale! Small world! I’m glad you like my list of factors of well-being. The “meaning and purpose” category is about aligning your actions with your values, so I agree that ethical behavior would fit here. And you are right that, while research shows that most people have prosocial values and purpose, a small portion do have morally objectionable values. The well-being of these people would likely be enhanced if they are shown that less selfish values tend to increase life satisfaction.
    Mid-August is definitely not the best time to be in DC, but it isn’t so nice in AZ then either! Hope you have a great trip!
    Best, Beth

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