The Five Basics of Well-Being
BY: Troy Murphy | October 2017
There is a lot of hype on what we should and shouldn't do to be well. The mind and experience are complex. However, our lives improve immensely when we concentrate on a few of the basics.
We want to be healthy. We want more joy and less sorrow. In our efforts, we get tied up in the complexity, lost in the fabulous, and forget the basics of healthy living. Maybe we are tired of hearing about the basics, or have failed in these well-known essentials, hence we seek something novel and miraculous. If we want to thrive, we must routinely revisit the basics, perform a quick and honest check, and make necessary adjustments.
The mind is complex. Trillions of connections firing in communication. Countless inputs competing in the tangled mess for importance. Pasts intruding on present and the present intruding on the future. All this aside, survival requires the basics—we eat, we mate, we protect. Our well-being depends on a healthy body, a healthy mind, and healthy relationships. When we succeed in these three areas, we excel. When we fail in anyone of these areas, we struggle. Life feels wrong and we either drown in depression or continually are agitated with anxiety.
Let’s take a closer look at some basics to improving our lives:
The body and mind are biological products. They need material elements for nourishment. When seeking well-being, we routinely bypass essential physical nourishment and jump directly to states of mind—thoughts, behaviors, practices. Our diet is the most basic ingredient for health—both for the body and the mind. We must eat balanced, nutritional food, and avoid destructive toxins. The mind thrives on healthy intakes.
The basics of eating:
Exercise and Rest
A healthy body and well-functioning mind need exercise and rest. We don’t need a personal trainer or gym membership. We can live well without sophisticated and time demanding workouts; but physical movement is necessary. Whether we practice yoga, Crossfit, jog or walk, we are cultivating health, improving the functioning of the biological system. Studies confirm the mental health benefits of exercise. A high-performing body processes emotion better (such as anxiety). We constantly digest (mentally and physically) toxins and a healthy body more readily rids itself of the poisons. Felling down—exercise. Feeling anxious—exercise. Relationships struggling—exercise.
Of course, exercise isn’t a magic pill. We still need other skills and resources. However, exercise is as close to a magic pill as we can get. Exercise, also, improves on the other element of a healthy body—rest. Our bodies become exhausted from the daily grind. We must figure our healthy ways to get sleep and rest.
"However, exercise is as close to a magic pill as we can get."
No matter how perfect or rotten our environment, we must do things contrary to our initial impulses. We can’t be automatons, only reactionary to events without thought. We must push ourselves to act or restrain ourselves from reacting. Without this, we are doomed, predestined to become what environmental pressures dictate us to become. No matter how well-designed the plan, if we are addicted, at some point we must feel impelled to partake but resist.
We blindly follow “intuitions,” relying on an internal wisdom that has failed us. Well-being requires acting against some of these intuitions, giving wait to the future over present moment enjoyments. Self-discipline is like a muscle and must be developed by doing what we rather not be doing in the moment. To eat right, exercise, and formulate plans for improvement demand focusing attention on new behaviors. This requires self-discipline.
We cannot enjoy well-being if we are constantly threatened—real or imagined. We need restful security. Our bodies quickly exhaust when stuck in constant alert—ready for attack. Many fears are self-constructed. Pasts intrude on the present and frighten. The insecure extract warning signals from mundane events. If childhoods or trauma has damaged security, working through these demons requires more than simple basics. The basics still assist balance the body and gather additional resources, but often the rebuilding of a safety zone needs the help of others.
Our security is also threatened by the demands for survival. Future preparations ease our worries. We must develop a workable plan to provide food, shelter, and 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. Our destiny (and survival) is dependent on the good graces of others. We are vulnerable. This can be a great source of anxiety.
A basic of health is relationships. Studies continually show that mental well-being and secure relationships go together. 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 are tempted to neglect developing these skills, believing we naturally know how to connect. As an infant, we simply smiled, and parents and strangers fawned over us. Adulthood isn’t so easy. We must develop healthy skills of relating.
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. Relationships, however, are a doubled edged sword. Nothing disrupts well-being as much as a dysfunctional relationship. We must navigate the relationship waters with great care to derive the blessings and avoid the curses.
Putting Them All Together
The quest for well-being is exciting. We stumble on many intriguing and attractive methodologies during our search. Mindfulness, defense mechanisms, positive thinking all have a place; but possibly that place is just to help us better integrate the basics. Work on the basics. Revisit them often. You will find healthy living isn’t as complicated or difficult as many would have it seem.