It is hard to define wellbeing, but we all have our own understanding of what it is. For me, it’s how well we manage the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives and keep these four aspects in balance. The more balance we have in these four aspects of health, the better we cope with stress. Our wellbeing changes as aspects of our lives change and the stronger our sense of purpose is in life, the more balanced our wellbeing becomes.

One of the world’s leading experts on wellbeing neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Centre for Healthy Minds, says that the impact of contemplative practices, such as mindfulness and meditation have a positive effect on the brain.

He says that wellbeing is not a static ‘thing’–but a set of skills that we can practice and strengthen, just like learning to play a musical instrument or ride a bike.

Research reveals there are four areas of mental training that can significantly improve your wellbeing. They are resilience, outlook, awareness, and generosity. “Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity,” explains Davidson. “So, we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen.”

Practicing these four skills can provide the key to enduring change and increased wellbeing.

Building Resilience

Emotional resilience, or how quickly we bounce back and recover from adversity, influences the amount of negative emotion that we experience.

The more resilient we can train ourselves to be, the better our wellbeing.

One of the ways that Davidson has found to improve your resilience is by regular practice of mindfulness meditation. It takes time to alter these specific brain circuits and you need many hours of practice before you see real change. “It’s not something that is going to happen quickly,” he says. “But this insight can still motivate and inspire us to keep meditating.”

Looking at Our Outlook

Whether it’s savouring a favourite meal or enjoying a family holiday, a positive outlook on life increases our wellbeing. “I use outlook to refer to the ability to see the positive in others,” says Davidson. “The ability to savour positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness.”

A recent study by Healthy Minds found that compassion training for 30 minutes a day for two weeks resulted not only in changes in the brain but also made it more likely for people to be kind and help others.

Cultivating Awareness

Having a positive outlook helps wire our brains for greater wellbeing.

Researchers at Harvard conducted a study using an app, Track Your Happiness, that asked people three questions:

  • What are you doing right now?
  • Where is your mind right now? Is it focused on what you’re doing, or is it focused elsewhere?
  • How happy or unhappy are you right now?

And they found that 47% of the time people weren’t paying attention.

The Effects of Generosity

When we act generously volunteering our services or giving somebody a compliment, we become happier in ourselves. The ability to empathise, express gratitude and behave compassionately towards others are skills that can not only be learned, but also can make us feel happy.

Generosity towards others is a skill that can be strengthened and makes us feel happy.

The Christmas Holiday season is an ideal environment to introduce yourself into practising resilience, outlook, awareness, and generosity. Enjoy your enhanced wellbeing as a result of positives changes in YOU!

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