The Science of Wellbeing
In 1948 the World Health Organization defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease.” At that time, we knew that people who have social support live longer, are less likely to suffer from cardiac disease and even cancer. We thought that these were the indirect effects of, for example, having a loved one support healthy habits. Nearly 70 years later, through advances in molecular biology, genomics and neuroscience we now know they are also direct effects: experiences are built into our bodies and brains, molecules and DNA, on a moment-by-moment basis. Social stress, through epigenetic mechanisms, can turn off genes that control our immune system and have a greater impact on health than smoking. Mindset and mental training, thanks to neural plasticity, can change the architecture of our brains and enhance our sense of ease, mental performance and physical health. Still, there is a disconnect between this understanding of wellbeing, and the way in which we live and work, think about and care for health.
The science is clear. If we want to live our best, healthiest and happiest lives, we need to embrace all the levers of wellbeing and, in addition to physical fitness, build social-emotional and mindset fitness. The business case is compelling. If we want to foster high cognitive performance and work satisfaction, we need to modify our daily routines to be more generative for bodies, hearts and minds. The possibilities are inspiring. What will our world look like as we start to leverage our innate human nature of connecting, reflecting, creating to our advantage and unleash a human-centered world?