The Five Basics of Well-Being
We get tied up in the depths of psychology, lost in the fabulous, and forget the basics. We must routinely revisit the basics, perform a quick and honest check-up, and make necessary adjustments. The mind is complex. Trillions of connections firing in communication. Inputs competing with the tangled mess of learning. Pasts intruding on present and the present intruding on the future. All this aside, survival requires the basics—we eat, we mate, we protect.
First the body and the mind are biological products. They need material elements for nourishment. When seeking wellbeing, we routinely bypass physical nourishment and jump directly to states of mind—thoughts, behaviors, practices. Our diets are the beginning foundation to health, eating balanced, nutritional food, avoiding destructive toxins. The mind thrives on healthy living. The basics or eating are this:
Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and healthy carbohydrates. We should limit processed foods, sugars, and simple carbohydrates.
We avoid or strictly limit illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcoholic drinks.
Second, a healthy body and well-functioning mind needs exercise and sleep. We can live well without sophisticated and time demanding workouts. But physical movement is necessary for our health. Whether we practice yoga, crossfit, jog or walk, we are cultivating a better functioning system. Exercise promotes health. A high-performing body better processes emotions (such as anxiety), exposures and all the other toxins of living.
Third, successful living requires some self-discipline. Self-discipline is like a muscle and can be developed but ironically the work of strengthening any muscle requires some strength of will, doing what we rather not be doing in the moment. To eat right, exercise, and formulate plans of improvement demand focusing attention on new behaviors. This requires self-discipline.
Fourth, well-being needs restful security. We cannot function well if we are stuck in constant alert, ready for an attack. Often fear is unrealistically extracted from mundane events; working through the past is beyond basics and requires rebuilding security with the help of others—and implementing the other basics presented here. Our security can also be threatened by the demands of survival. Preparing for these demands is a necessity of health. We must develop and follow a workable plan to provide food, shelter, and some financial security. For most, this means full-time employment (with health benefits), money management, and employable skills. When our skills are lacking, we must rely heavily on others for survival. This can be a source of anxiety.
"We cannot function well if we are stuck in constant alert, ready for an attack. Often fear is unrealistically extracted from mundane events."
Last, the fifth brick in the foundation of health is relationships. We can’t do it alone. We grow in wisdom, compassion and stability with the strength of reliable friends, family and partners. Closeness requires commitment. Skillful actions form strong relationships. We neglect developing these skills, believing we naturally know how to connect. A strong network of friends and a supportive partner help diffuse the energy of the catastrophic blows of living. Maintained relationships provide shelter during times of loss and disappointment.
The quest for happiness is exciting. We find many intriguing and attractive methodologies along the way. Mindfulness, defense mechanisms, positive thinking all have a place; but possibly that place is just to help us better integrate the basics.