“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James

What factors do you think contribute to your overall well-being? Perhaps the concept of well-being conjures images of health, happiness, and vitality. Consider how well your current lifestyle choices are improving or thwarting your optimal state of well-being. This type of self-assessment involves examining what behaviors lead to positive and negative states of being. For instance, if you notice that your physical and emotional well-being improve as a direct result of engaging in your favorite form of exercise, then this may be an important healthy lifestyle behavior for you to maintain. On the flip side, if you find yourself performing self-sabotaging behaviors, try asking yourself what need is being met by those behaviors… and how to meet that need in a healthier way.

“Quality of Life” Checkup: 6 Domains of Well-Being

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures well-being along six domains. As you read through the various aspects of life that these domains assess, notice personal areas of strength and areas where there is room for improvement. Remember to be honest with yourself about where you currently stand in these different areas of your life. Once you obtain an accurate snapshot of your overall well-being, you can begin to make meaningful changes in your life.

(1) Life Evaluation

This domain involves a self-evaluation of the degree to which you believe yourself to be (1) thriving, (2) struggling, or (3) suffering. People who rate themselves within the “thriving” range tend to have higher levels of education, social support, income, and good health. Those who rate themselves within the “struggling” range tend to worry about making day-to-day ends meet. Finally, people who fall within the “suffering” range tend to have lower levels of income, education, and access to basic needs (e.g., shelter, food, healthcare).

(2) Emotional Health

The emotional health domain measures ten daily experiences: (1) worry, (2) sadness, (3) anger, (4) smiling/laughter, (5) stress, (6) enjoyment, (7) happiness, (8) learning/doing something interesting, (9) depression, and (10) being treated with respect. How often are these ten experiences a part of your daily life? Consider how intense and often these experiences feel to you during an average day. If you notice that unpleasant emotional states are impacting your well-being, try looking for patterns that can help break an unhealthy cycle. Examine what’s different about days with more pleasant experiences and how you can begin to increase the likelihood of having more uplifting experiences in your daily life.

(3) Physical Health

The physical health domain was developed using estimates of body mass index (BMI), physical pain, sick days, disease burden, and daily energy. The combination of daily health experiences and disease history resulted in nine items: (1) obesity, (2) feeling well rested, (3) sick days in the last month, (4) disease burden, (5) colds, (6), flu, (7) headaches, (8) energy, and (9) health-related problems that interfere with normal activities. How would you assess the frequency and intensity of these nine items related to physical health? Notice any subtle changes that you can make to your daily routine or healthy lifestyle behaviors to begin improving this important aspect of overall well-being.

(4) Healthy Behavior

This domain is based on research findings that have indicated relationships with particular lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes. The healthy behavior index includes four items: (1) eating healthy, (2) smoking, (3) weekly exercise frequency, and (4) weekly consumption of fruits and vegetables. How would you rate yourself on these four healthy behaviors? Consider how your nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices are affecting your overall well-being. Even if you cannot engage in strenuous or extended exercise, recent research suggests that everyday activities can be just as beneficial as going to the gym.

(5) Work Environment

The work environment domain assesses the way you perceive your work environment with the following four items: (1) job satisfaction, (2) supervisor’s treatment (more like a boss or partner), (3) ability to use one’s strengths at work, and (4) supervisor creates an open/trusting work atmosphere. Notice what thoughts and emotions come up for you as you think about your current job and work environment. Do you feel a sense of engagement and meaning with your work? Do you find yourself disengaged, burned out, or discouraged at work?

(6) Basic Access

Basic access measures the degree to which you have access to thirteen specific necessities deemed crucial to high levels of well-being: (1) clean water, (2) medicine, (3) safe place to exercise, (4) satisfaction with community, (5) affordable fruits and vegetables, (6) enough money for food, (7) enough money for healthcare, (8) enough money for shelter, (9) feeling safe walking alone at night, (10) recent visit to the dentist, (11) access to healthcare, (12) access to a doctor, and (13) feeling that the area is getting better as a place to live. How would you rate your current basic level of access? Notice if there are particular necessities that you have access to, but that you are not utilizing. For instance, perhaps you have a safe place to exercise in your community, but aren’t currently making use of this resource… or maybe you have a reminder on your desk to make a dentist appointment, but keep procrastinating.

How does your overall well-being measure up along these six domains? As with any self-assessment, honest self-reflection is key to obtaining accurate results. Notice aspects of your well-being that are particularly strong… practice gratitude for aspects of well-being that you may take for granted, such as food or shelter. Allow yourself to feel proud of behavioral choices you have made to strengthen your well-being, such as working hard for an education or sticking to a healthy new habit.

If there are domains of well-being in which you are currently struggling, try to direct your mindful awareness toward things that are within your control. As you direct your energy toward changing what’s within your control, gradually lessen your grip on that which is outside of your control through radical acceptance.

How important is it to you to improve your overall well-being? Today can be the first day toward making healthy lifestyle changes. Try using this quality of life checkup as a form of mindfulness practice. Through mindfulness we know that the present moment – now – is all that truly exists. Yesterday is a memory; tomorrow is a dream. You can apply the lessons of the past to your behaviors in the present to manifest the future you desire.

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The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics is sponsoring National Nutrition Month this March. Check out these free health and nutrition resources.

Gallup, Inc. (2009). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index: Methodology Report for Indexes. Retrieved from: http://www.well-beingindex.com/methodology.asp

Godman, H. (2013). Your well-being: More than just a state of mind. Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/your-well-being-more-than-just-a-state-of-mind-201303065957

Featured image: Smile at a stranger by Nina Matthews Photography / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.

1 Comment

  1. Mid-Week Balance: 13 March 2013 on March 13, 2013 at 7:03 am

    […] Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by the pressure we can put on ourselves (or experience from others) to be healthy.  This can be especially true when we are also coping with illness.  So, I really appreciate this post from Laura Schenck offering guidelines for a quick “quality of life” check-up. […]

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