We are eighteen months on since the world and the church was forced into lockdown with the disruption and devastation of COVID. So how are you doing and how is your well-being? Are you struggling? or flourishing and thriving despite the current circumstances we find ourselves in?
Well-being is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy?” But well-being is really about flourishing and thriving across many aspects of life. High well-being is widely acknowledged as good for individuals and society as a whole, with subjective well-being and life satisfaction ratings now recognised by governments and organisations as an indicator of progress. Low well-being is marked by struggling and is usually associated with common mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. In contrast, high well-being or flourishing and resilience involves not only feeling good but also functioning effectively in terms of a number of key areas in our lives: physical and mental health, what you see as meaningful in your life, your engagement, your accomplishments, satisfaction with your standard of living, safety and future security, your sense of belonging and feeling part of the community and your relationships – with God and with one another.
How can we flourish and thrive despite the challenges of COVID and sing (when we are finally allowed to sing together in Church) “It is well, it is well with my soul”? You see, these words were written as a hymn by Horatio Spafford in spite of a sequence of tragic circumstances in the 1870s beginning with the loss of a four your old son, then financial loss followed by the loss at sea of his four daughters when the ship they were on sank and his wife alone was saved. Yet Spafford praised God for his salvation and was able to find peace in the midst of heartache.
No matter where and how you rate yourself at the moment, as individuals, families and together as a faith community we can hold fast to our Lord and Saviour and we can improve our sense of well-being and learn to flourish. How? There are a number of things we can do daily that are often simple and easy but can have a major impact:
- Encouragement– all of us need to be encouraged and give encouragement to others – indeed we are instructed to encourage each other daily Heb 3:13, 1 Thess, 5:11. There are so many ways we can encourage one another whether it is our children, partner, friends, leaders and pastors, work colleagues…. – with our spoken words, a smile or nod, a listening ear, a text, a note in a lunchbox, a scripture, a letter expressing gratitude
- Purpose in life – God has made us with a desire for our lives to have meaning and purpose, to make a difference. True satisfaction flows from finding our unique purpose and doing things we believe are meaningful – so spend time doing something you consider is worthwhile.
- Connection – relationships: we are built for relationship which is why isolation is so destructive to our health and functioning. For those who can gather together – do so regularly and often, talk, laugh, share a meal, do something enjoyable together. For those who cannot yet gather together personally – keep in touch by whatever means you can – videocalls, phone calls, messages and emails letting each other know how precious and valued they are and looking forward to when you can get together and plan for that too.
- Physical activity – increases energy and vitality so keep physically active. Some love working out but walking is great especially in the early morning or late afternoon. Breathe in fresh air and breathe out the tension and stress.
- Engagement – It is great to be mentally and physically engaged in doing something – so try learning a new skill, or try something new you haven’t done before.
- Sense of accomplishment – We feel good and flourish when we accomplish something, be that small or large. What is something you do well that gives you a sense of satisfaction? Plan to build into your day or week doing something that you can accomplish and feel good about! And celebrate your success!
- Emotional stability – We all have a window of tolerance for our emotions within which we tend to fluctuate over time, experiencing a range of emotions from highs through to lows depending on changing circumstances. It is also important to learn how to calm our emotions so we can feel calm and peaceful. Slow down! Breathe slowly in and out or use relaxation breathing techniques Take time out to watch a sunset, or look closely at a flower or simply appreciate something simple. Practice biblical mediation. Pray for peace and calm. Do this regularly and often
- Find your strengths and use them. What are your gifts and strengths? wisdom, courage, humour encouragement, kindness ….. whatever your strengths are these are to be shared so use them wisely.
- Optimism – Encourage yourself and others in your world to Believe for the best! As pastor Brian often says “The best is yet to come!”
Dr Vivienne Riches
BA, Dip Ed, MA (Hons), PhD, MAPS, FASID