What does well-being look like?

My colleague and friend Bill Craig in the Happiness Collaborative recently did a wonderful internet search of what it means to be a good person, team, community, region, company, country, and a good world. In exploring what it means to be a good person, he wandered into trying to understand what the “good life” was. As part of that investigation he explored the concept of happiness. One would think that happiness would be a big part of a good life. It didn’t take long before he discovered that happiness was not the most appropriate word. One can be happy doing things that are not necessarily good for oneself or others. A better concept was well-being – so the search for understanding of the concept well-being soon began. As part of any quest for understanding, the Internet became a key source of information (as well as some good books). This time he decided to take a slightly different course of action. He decided to try to understand what well-being meant by limiting his searching to stock photo services. What would the pictures from stock photo services illustrate as the meaning of well-being. It turns out well-being has nothing to do with what he thought! Here was the key findings (as he interpreted them from the images returned by the searches): Apparently well-being is only achievable by women!

The women are beautiful, shapely, fit, never wear a lot, are always exercising outdoors, do lots of yoga, running or ball exercises.

The women get lots of spa treatments, are by a pool, with extraordinary volume of oils and creams in glass jars. 

Woman are cooking together, walking on a beach in a tropical desert location, and for some reason doing cartwheels on the beach at sunset.

The key concepts seem to be health, balance, and meditation

There is always a scenic view nearby, an ocean, lots of sand dunes, rocky cliffs, and palm trees.

Yoga poses a plenty

Fresh fruit and vegetables, freshly rinsed with water are always nearby.
Flat rocks piled on top of each other (turns out these are balanced massage stones – who knew!) with blades of long thin green grasses or flowers floating in water in thin glass dishes. These all seems to be prerequisites to well-being.

Apparently women are in a state of well-being when the see nearly naked muscular men (the search results do not lie). Oddly enough, a lot of these men are wearing Santa hats – I’m not sure whats going on there.

Clean well dressed senior couples eating a healthy breakfast.

Multiple generations of family members.

My favorite – well-being is reflected by a picture of tooth paste and a tooth brush.

Men do reflect well-being by wearing a business suit floating in the air above a busy city skyline (?) or meditating on a grassy field.

Some of the more odd images of well-being included:

  • Beautiful woman flossing
  • Stethoscopes
  • Little girl with flu blowing nose in the rain  (Just don’t get this one)
  • Computer with an apple on it – representing a healthy workspace (or does well-being require a Mac!)

The one picture that got the most items in the picture was a picture of a girl exercising on the beach with a quiet flat ocean at sunset with palm trees blowing in a slight wind and in the distance to the left is the merging of sand dunes with a small rock face. If only the photgrapher had also captured a spa table nearby with a small table of fruit, creams/oils, massage stones piled high, flowers, pieces of bamboo and long blades of grass, candles and a muscular man with of course a Santa hat!

2 Responses to What does well-being look like?

  1. David Beach says:

    Dear Mark…..
    I read your ‘Economics of Happiness’ a few months ago. Had been suspicious of economics since reading a republication of Albert Einstein’s ‘Why Socialism?’ essay in Monthly Review in 2002. But, your book made sense to me. Since I loved Nepal when I was there 35 years ago, I put Bhutan in my ‘places to see when my responsibilities lessen’.
    Then, yesterday, something from ‘Daily Good’ arrived in my inbox. After reading it, I searched for your website, and found your piece on ‘well-being’. Hmm. I wondered if maybe there’s a problem with trying to get money to make sense. Anyway, the ‘Good’ was about Viktor Frankl and his findings laid out in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. The opening statement (and its diagram) suggested there was something meaningful to come….. “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.” Wish I could fwd it to you in this little box!
    Regards

    • Hi David, please forward me your thoughts or attachments to mark@anielski.com. With respect to the ‘the very pursuit of happiness thwarts happiness’ is fascinating for many reasons. First, the word happiness comes from the Greek eudaimonia which literally means ‘spiritual well-being’ or ‘good spirit.’ Spiritual well-being is not something one can pursue, directly. I have found that spiritual well-being comes from emptying oneself. Laotse was clear about this in his writings. Secondly, I recently learned that Thomas Jefferson who penned ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ in the US Declaration of Independence apparently took these words from a similar declaration for Virginia. However, in the Virginia declaration were the words ‘Life, liberty and property’ where ‘property’ was a code word for ‘slaves.’ Why Jefferson replaced property with happiness, we can only speculate. Notwithstanding, Jefferson also said ‘without virtue, happiness cannot be.’

      Kindest regards

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