originally written in 2019
From what I can deduce, wellbeing is not like a grounded structure that we work on until achieved and finished, but rather wellbeing is more like an act. In my mind I see it as a balancing act. It’s as if I have six plates a top of six sticks and I am having to constantly keep all these plates spinning on top of these sticks, preventing them from falling. Each plate represents a factor of what makes up human wellbeing. Not all the plates are as important as each other, but without one your hedonic point average cannot be as high as it could. The ultimate goal would be to have all plates in perfect equilibrium. However, I can only attend to a few at a time and so it is a constant balancing act. As I focus on spinning one plate, I neglect another. And at different times in my life, I must deal with some plates more so than others. Wellbeing is not sturdy, but tumultuous. Sometimes I’m on top of this act, other times I’ve let a few plates fall.
What are those plates?
They seem to be:
Pursuing something personally meaningful. Working on a mission. This doesn’t have to be objectively meaningful, you just have to be convinced that what you are doing matters. “He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche.
Connection. Feeling part of a community. Welcomed. Belonging. Having your social needs met. “We are tribal animals, but have for the first time in human history disbanded our tribes.” — Johann Hari
Value in the dominance hierarchy. Having higher status in your perceived surroundings. Feeling respected. That people take you seriously. That you won’t be pushed-over. (see article: ‘The Happiness Hierarchy’)
Physical needs. We have a need for intimacy. For human contact. It comes with feeling like someone wants you, that you matter in a way that gets validated outside of yourself.
Spiritual enlightenment. This is a source of wellbeing seemingly independent of circumstances; something many haven’t realised or even know exists. It is hard to put into words, but if I had to sum it up it is the mental training of reducing clinging to the sense impressions while developing an experiential connection to the Buddhist insight of emptiness. The further one goes in this journey the deeper the sense of inner peace and stability one acquires.
Health. Maybe all this could be framed in biological terms, making physical health the undercurrent here. When the body doesn’t function optimally we suffer and this affects our wellbeing. Health starts with sleep. It could be that getting your health in shape is the centre plate. Or that at different stages in life, different plates take the centre.