The over-arching theme of this semester seems to be that happiness stems from an interwoven connection between social, emotional, physical, and mental wellness. It was exemplified throughout the coursework that overall happiness is difficult to attain without finding some balance between these four factors in our lives. Physical health is probably the most obvious facet of happiness that people tend to be aware of. We know that exercise is a critical factor to our health. Exercise is great at alleviating stress and anxiety and has actually been shown to provide depression benefits in individuals (among numerous other physical health benefits as well). Erin Thornton spoke to us about the importance of a balanced diet and drew attention to the common phenomenon of mindless, distracted eating which can cause feelings of guilt and doesn’t provide a healthy way of coping. Trockel, Barnes, & Egget, 2000. shows research that, unsurprisingly, healthy sleep habits were correlated with higher GPAs. It’s clear that our activity levels, day-to-day diets, and sleeping patterns exhibit a direct influence on our physical wellness and, maybe more importantly, our happiness.
Interestingly, our emotional wellness can have a big impact on our physical wellness. Individuals with anxiety, depression, high levels of stress, or low levels of emotional resilience are less likely to engage in behaviors that support positive physical wellness. Demirci, et al., 2015. concluded that higher incidences of smart phone usage were correlated with depression and anxiety, as well as poor sleep habits. They also found that depression and anxiety were predictors of decreased sleep quality. Nina Schroder told us that more time spent on social media is likely to decrease self-esteem and because of the transtheoretical model, we know that competency is one of the three main underlying needs that must be fulfilled to experience life satisfaction. So, do you see all the connections here? We need physical and emotional wellness to be happy…poor emotional wellness (anxiety/depression/stress) can have negative effects on our physical wellness…high levels of smart phone usage can cause depression and anxiety…depression and anxiety can cause poor sleep habits…poor sleep habits are related to low GPAs…and social media use can decrease our self-esteem due to an increased need to impress others and be affirmed, resulting in decreased perceptions of competency! Isn’t it crazy how everything is connected?
Another underlying need of the transtheoretical model is relatedness, which implies the importance social wellness has on our overall happiness. Social wellness is multifaceted, including academic, career, and social well-being. Hayley Sims talked about the importance of “ikigai”, basically meaning that finding our purpose is crucial to our happiness and longevity. Our cultivated purpose should ideally translate into our academic careers, as well as the workplace, and be a positive influence on our social wellness. Social well-being is more complex. It includes social integration, acceptance, contribution, actualization, and coherence. Professor Walsh emphasized that the quality of our relationships has a strong influence on our mental health and can also be linked to physical health, as well as sickness and mortality. According to Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010., individuals with strong social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival, showing us that poor social relationships increase our risk for death. It’s amazing that the quality of our relationships not only effects our happiness, but even influences how long we will survive!
Finally, we must consider mental wellness’s influence on happiness. We learned in class that positive psychology interventions have huge impacts on well-being. Proyer, et al., 2015. showed us that focusing on our top five strengths found from the VIA Strengths Survey will exhibit happiness benefits for up to three months, as well as some depression benefits. Dr. Reina discussed awareness and attention (the components of mindfulness) and how important it is to perform these skills intentionally and without judgement. Allowing ourselves to experience our thoughts and not let them control us helps us to let go of things and improves our ability to focus. Other positive psychology interventions, like keeping a gratitude journal, practicing kindness, and meditating on optimism help increase our mindfulness and lead to greater life satisfaction, as well as depression benefits.
I think what I enjoyed learning about the most this semester was how greatly social relationships effect our well-being and the impact social media has on our happiness. Recently, I started noticing the negative impact social media was having on my own life. It wasn’t until this semester that I decided to actually start decreasing and limiting my time on it. Even though I still use it (sometimes more than I should), I definitely have noticed that the less I invest in my image online, the happier I am. Whenever I relapse and find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media for an hour I notice that I feel very out of touch with the real world. Learning all the disturbing effects social media use has on our mental health was even more motivation for me to cut back and I’ve noticed that I am more mindful now about when I use it and how much I’m using it. Learning about social well-being was interesting because I think our society has developed into this dog eat dog world where everyone is fending for themselves and climbing the ladder to success alone. I believe our hyper-competitive society has driven people far away from the community-oriented mindset and the negative effects of this are being shown in our mental health statistics. I’ve always been a community-oriented person, so I know all too well the struggle that comes with feeling like you have to do things alone (school, work, success, etc.). After joining a campus ministry and finding my community in the Kingdom of God, I feel such an overwhelming sense of peace and fullness that I never knew before. This personal experience of mine made the coursework on social well-being even more meaningful to me because I know how true the research is.
The joy that I’ve gotten from finally finding my community inspires me to work to help others find their communites as well. I aspire to foster an environment at my home, at my workplace, with my friends, and at my church where people feel like they belong there. I want to love people in such a way that when they walk into my house, my office, or my church they know they have a home there. I think all the material we’ve learned this semester about the many aspects of wellness will greatly strengthen my ability to understand, empathize, support, encourage, and provide for others in the ways that they need to flourish. As a future athletic trainer, I will have many opportunities to help others develop and improve their physical wellness. As a human being, my encounters and relationships with others provide a space for me to utilize the information I’ve learned, observe where they may be struggling, and give useful, research-based advice and support. Personally, I would like to get better about being more intentional with the people in my life. As a college student, it can be difficult to invest in many relationships while trying to keep your own life together. Since I’m graduating I think I’ll have a greater opportunity to really invest in the people around me more and try to be a bigger help in their lives. I also want to continue to work on my social media use and maybe even get to a point where I feel completely comfortable with deleting most of my social media platforms. Since I’m trying to use social media less, I will focus more on sharing the information I’ve learned in class through personal conversation with friends, family, and whoever else may need or want to talk about it.
I chose this picture because I think every time we love someone we plant seeds in their hearts that make it grow. There’s a never-ending question people ask about what the meaning of life is. I believe we are here to build each other up in love.