Personal Index of Wellbeing

Happy woman

Do you get too busy to really know how you feel? Do you give yourself a moment to check in and ask whether your busy-ness is helping you to be a happier, healthier person?

Several of my friends are so busy that they aren’t making space for that downtime check-in, and I worry about them. Then, I realize I do the same to myself. I’m looking forward to New Year because I know I will have some slow days when I can sit back and assess what I’ve been through in the past year and where I want to go in the year ahead.

Looking at the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW), I was surprised to see that the index isn’t just applicable on a national scale but on a community scale and even a personal scale. They give a few suggestions in the Other Ideas section of the CIW website.

Am I going to let someone else tell me what happiness is? Well, no. I have been talking with my children a lot about the balance each person, each family must find between order with firm, often external rules and chaos with a constant renegotiation of rules. All of us have to decide where on that continuum we find our greatest happiness.

The CIW has brought together experts from around the world to determine what quality of life means for all people. Granted, not everyone is going to meet happiness the same way, but perhaps they have determined some of the most likely commonalities for all of us. The list is general and easy to personalize.

To give yourself the gift of a personal index of wellbeing, ask how you can improve your life in each of the CIW domains of wellbeing.

Democratic Engagement for you might be voting, responding to elected officials about national issues, writing a letter to the editor about your opinion on a Canadian government stance on an international issue, or attending a town council meeting.

Community Vitality could mean for you volunteering at a local charity, attending a family reunion, walking alone after dark, or taking a meal to a sick neighbor.

Education on a national level mostly addresses basic literacy, but you could expand it in your life to learn a new skill or share a skill that you have spent some time developing.

Environment on a personal level isn’t always about individual choices. You could become involved in an environmental organization working to improve environmental policy or encourage stores you shop at to make an accounting of full costs of goods (including those social and environmental costs often externalized) as well as shopping at the farmers market and repairing old appliances or clothes.

Healthy Populations for you might be as simple as not smoking and losing weight or it might mean improving nutrition for your whole family to avoid diabetes or debilitating allergies. Health also includes mental health, so you might reassess your lifestyle to ask whether you are making space for your own basic happiness.

Leisure and Culture should start with whether you allow yourself time not dominated by necessary activity. Do you give yourself leisure time? If you do, are you spending it how you want to? You might plan a vacation to a national park, get a family pass to a museum, or just go to a game every once in a while.

Living Standards is probably a more difficult domain to address personally, but you might reassess your career choice in the context of your changing life circumstances, get more training or education to give yourself a better chance of promotion, or adjust your overall spending to bring it in line with your income.

Time Use differs between how you spend your time and how you experience your time. If you start with an objective log of what you do, that might help you evaluate whether you want to change how you spend time.

If you use the end of the year as a time to assess your own and your family’s wellbeing, perhaps setting New Year’s Goals, maybe the Canadian Index of Wellbeing domains could help give you some structure to start, so you don’t have to reinvent the grand measures of human happiness. If you are feeling really ambitious, set up your personal index of wellbeing and schedule regular times to check in with yourself.

The first step is becoming conscious of your own desire to assess and adjust your life to reach greater wellbeing. Best of luck and good fortune to you.

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