We all know, use and have been asked then question; 'are you well?' Or it's more common; 'How are you?'
And we probably give the quick response; 'I'm fine, thanks', or possibly the grammatically incorrect 'I'm good, thanks'.
But what do we mean by that & are we, actually, being honest anyway? Are we well? Or has the question just become an unmeaning social construct, as simple as shaking hands? What would you do if you asked someone and they actually said that they weren't actually feeling so good … ?
And what does it mean to be 'well' anyway? Let's think about wellbeing in three different areas:
The most obvious one, the one definition of wellbeing that is, certainly, the oldest and most often discussed:
To be physically well is, I would think, a fairly obvious one. To not be ill. To not have a cold, or illness. We all know how we feel when we go down with something, be it a cold, flu, or something more serious. We know, at this level, when we are not physically well. And we have no problem seeking out help and support from professionals about this. And even to physical injury; it is clear and obvious when you have damaged something because you will probably be wearing some form of support, or showing a limp, etc.
The thing is, with physical wellbeing, on the surface, it is pretty clear whether you are well or not. And when you're not, you will most likely be quick to seek help and support.
Or is it? There is another level of physical wellbeing that is less obvious - the healthy lifestyle part of it. Are you well, in terms of eating healthy food, drinking enough water, not eating or drinking stuff you shouldn’t (like energy drinks), etc? Sandymoor is a Healthy School - we have a certificate & badge to show that we care about things like this. That is why we have banned pot noodles & similar foods in school; they are not healthy. They do not do you any good. And it's why we are continually going on about getting you to bring in bottles for water. Drinking water through the day is healthy. It contributes to you being well . . .
If all you eat is chocolate, sweets, crisps and junk like this, or have too much salt on your food, or drink energy drinks, then you are, in fact, simple, hard fact, damaging your inner body - causing damage to organs that are still growing and developing; organs that you need to be working well for the next 80+ years.
And healthy, active lifestyles are important too. All the research shows that we need to get our bodies active and working hard on a regular basis, to keep, in particular, our lungs and heart working well, It is important to get out of breath and sweaty on a regular basis, through exercise. Again, because if you don't, your heart & lungs are weakened & you need these to work well through your whole life. . .
But Physical wellbeing is only part of the story too. As a school, we have put the next category in as equally important:
This one doesn't appear in any lists on wellbeing you can find on the internet, but as a school, we do believe it is important that you are 'well' academically. Succeeding in school, achieving the subjects and the grades you want &/or need, tasking responsibility for your learning and pushing yourself now, is an important element of your wellbeing. Now and into the future.
There is a direct link between how you achieve in school and elements of your future life success; Being successful in school, getting good grades has clear links to better jobs and salaries in the future. And better jobs lead to better lifestyles, with more choice for you.
But beyond that, we are trying to give you the skills to be hungry to learn new things, to be able to seek out new information and do something with it. To, in effect, be able to survive the changing world we live in, where there will be, for example, jobs you will be able to apply for that no-one in the world has yet imagined.
Doing well at school is a very important part of being well overall. We want you to be, to aspire to become the very best you can, but that requires you to have a positive attitude to that as well - education, school, doesn't happen to you, you need to participate and seize the opportunities we provide. You need to be hungry to get from us the most you can, so you can be the best you can be.
You must want to become better. But that rests on the last, and quite possibly, most important, aspect of wellbeing:
Being emotionally 'well' is more complex than both the other categories put together and is much harder to define. It is also the newest of the wellbeing elements. There are still some people who deny emotional wellbeing is an issue anyhow - the old-school mentality of stiff upper lip, or just plough on and get on with things anyhow. The mental 'slap on the bottom'.
But study after study shows that mental wellbeing, emotional resilience, self-awareness and self-confidence are all keys to success and wellbeing overall. You can be a straight A student, in the peak of physical condition, but still not be well if you are not in control of your emotions or mental state.
And there is so much in this area that we do not have the time to go through. But . . .
Emotional wellbing is about being happy with yourself. Because of who you are, not because someone else wants you to be something. And that can be a friend (although I would not call someone who is only nice to you if you behave or look a certain way a friend anyhow…), or the pressures of media, from the celebrities and superstars through all the channels of social media.
Emotional wellbeing is about accepting who you are. You are good enough and you do deserve to be happy. You do not depend on others, or things, to be good enough. Accepting you for who you are, looking in the mirror and liking what you see.
Emotional wellbeing is about being in charge. Do not let anyone else control you, put you down or stop you doing what you believe in. They are not a friend and are not someone to listen to.
Emotional wellbeing is about being resilient. In a world with anytime, anywhere access, where we expect to get things now, rather than have to wait, it can be difficult to believe, but things worth having are worth waiting for. You cannot be everything you aspire to right here, right now. You need to work at it, persevere and keep trying. There's a great phrase that says if you have not failed, you've never tried to do something worthwhile, because things worthwhile are hard.
So, are you well? The good news is that you are in control. If you are well, in all areas, then go you! Hats off to you! You have achieved it all; Can you please tell me (& everyone else) how you did it? And write a book about it - there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, or books out there on how to be happy. . .
But if you're like the rest of us, struggling in one, or even all three, of these areas, then that is absolutely fine - you're human and alive. And in control. The trick is to sit down and work out what you are not happy about and then do something about it. And remember that you don't have to ever do it alone. It is not a failure to admit that you need help, in any of these areas. After all, as I said, we will all seek help in the first category - Physical Wellbeing. Why not in the other two?