For most of us, well-being is a goal we seek to attain. From attending religious activities to seek wellness here and thereafter, to meeting friends for a cup of coffee for relaxation. It includes listening to music to zone out, to finding distractions to alleviate emotional pain and even climbing the corporate ladder for a better life to feel satisfied. There are so many activities we do towards well-being without understanding what it is. What is well-being?
Happiness Comes and Goes
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word “well-being” is a state of being comfortable, healthy or happy. According to UK’s Mental Health Foundation, happiness is more than a moment-to-moment happiness. It includes how people feel they are functioning on a personal and a social level. But such definition is too subjective. Our sense of wellness or feeling good is not lasting and we crave more and more of it – a state which psychologists term the hedonic treadmill. Hedonic treadmill is a tendency of humans to return to a set level of happiness after experiencing a sense of high and low from events such as winning the lottery to amputating a leg. Our feeling of lack and discontentment through restlessness and boredom is a reflection of the hedonic treadmill.
Unattainable Wellness in the Future
Besides the momentary urge to seek wellness through the many activities we do from eating to drinking and partying, there is a future thought we all hold. The thought that if we were to accomplish that one thing in the near future, we would be happy. This could be getting a promotion, having a baby to saving a certain amount of money. The problem with this, dangling a future of happiness in our mind which does not yet exist, create more dissatisfaction and the inability to appreciate what we have in the present.
Unhappiness According to Jon Kabat-Zinn
The father of modern secular mindfulness Jon Kabat-Zinn, saw the importance of mind-body connection as essential to the individual and global health. That prompted him to combine the Buddhist teaching in mindfulness meditation with medicine to treat chronically ill patients.
Before developing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for chronically ill patients, Kabat-Zinn was looking for an antidote to the drivers of distractions – our hedonic treadmill tendencies to our fears and judgments. He felt that our way of living was wrongly focused on the external rather than the internal forces. He explained that we are imprisoned by what we are unconscious of. Not one moment floats by where we don’t like this or that, or want more of this or that. Or we are just sitting neutral waiting for the likes and dislikes to arise again.
Kabat-Zinn added that it is a radical act to sanity to drop our fixation with doing to a way of being. Especially in our slavery to technological apps and devices.
Mindfulness As a Tool to Well-being
Mindfulness is a way for us to be present and conscious instead of moving along mindlessly. Kabat-Zinn said that being in the present moment to moment carries us to better moments. We learn to see the narratives we carry in our head. We see the stories we create about ourselves, who we are and where we are going. He added that we focus on these thoughts that we end up believing them as assessments of our lives as truth rather than just repeated thoughts. He said this is where liberation lies, where we are freed from the oppression of unconscious thinking.