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Does happiness lead to good wellbeing or the other way round?

Wellbeing is often cited as being the same as happiness.  I can see the reasons why……laughing and smiling people tend to be positive, content and feel good.  But is that the same as wellbeing?  I would argue not.  I absolutely agree that happiness is integral to wellbeing.  But this is a chicken or the egg situation. Does happiness lead to good wellbeing or the other way round?

I believe that good wellbeing will lead to happiness, but happiness does not mean good wellbeing.  Sound strange?  Well, it is possible for a person to feel happy with their wealth, status, occupation and interests.  But is that enough?  What about other positives parts of life such as caring for others, the environment, charity work and volunteering, good mental and physical health and positive relationships?  These contribute to wellbeing but do they make us happy?  When I donate £20 to charity am I happy?  Not really.  But it does contribute to my sense of wellbeing.  Does spending 30 minutes digging someone’s car out of the snow make me happy? No.  When I spend half an hour going for a run, am I happy? No.  But my wellbeing increases and little by little I build towards an improved state of mind.  And feeling good about myself and my place in the world DOES make me happy.

I often mention 10 Keys to Happier Living | Action for Happiness.  When you examine the list, some of them clearly are about being part of something, being with people, having goals, putting others first.  I think that this reflects one of the great mysteries if life - that by putting ourselves last, we actually help ourselves.  In an age of consumerism and the individual, it helps us to focus again on choices in our lives that are GOOD for us in the long term.

Spend time considering your wellbeing.  Try to eliminate factors that harm it.  Build and widen those things that improve it.  Happiness should not be the ultimate goal; but you will find your way there.  

At Pilgrims', we teach the children some basics of wellbeing.

  1. Exercise
  2. Diet
  3. Sleep
  4. Water
  5. Socialise
  6. Engage in activities you enjoy
  7. Balance in all things

This should be the framework in which we all should build our lives.  We can then add more layers and nuances.  They cover many bases, and look after our physical, mental and emotional health.  And, when we feel good, we feel happy.

Matthew Shroff
Director of Wellbeing
Head of PSHEe
GAP coordinator

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