Q is for Quality of Life
What does quality of life mean to you? For me it carries the notion of contentment and growth not just existing. At it’s best it is about flourishing
“We flourish when we cultivate our talents and strengths, develop deep and meaningful relationships, feel pleasure and enjoyment, and make a meaningful contribution to the world. We flourish when we find fulfilment in life along with achieving more traditional objectives related to success when we are truly living the “good life”.” Martin Seligman
The whole question about other people’s quality of life is often visibly applied to those for example at the end stage of life or following a sudden change of circumstance e.g. a serious accident. Discussions ensue re the quality of life a person will or won’t be able to experience but it makes me ask what values are behind the yardstick that determines these levels and who determines them because surely quality of life is subjective ?
“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and only see the wild flower in it.
People often think about their own quality of life in terms of a good quality of life in a future time period. They work hard in the present aiming to have a good quality of life in the future but unless there is balance this is often at the expense of good quality of life now. We have no guarantee of tomorrow so it is in our best interests to reflect on our core values and prioritise a good quality life experience now over and above any non-guaranteed higher quality of life in a non-certain future.
How many times have you become aware of people cut down in the prime of their life or whose plans have faded to nothing because of uncontrollable external circumstances ?
The recent pandemic has meant sudden changes to our lives and lifestyles and restrictions about what we can do or can’t do and how we are able to do things.
So how can we improve our quality of life now ?
Practise gratitude and focus on the positive
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
In positive psychology, gratitude is described as the way we acknowledge the good things in life. It is about directing your focus towards what you do have and can do rather than any perceived lack.
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” Proverb
Spend time in nature
“If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover....and that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.” David Strayer
We are spending an increasing amount of time indoors and online, but studies show that we need the complete opposite to help our brains and bodies to stay healthy.
Everything we see, hear, or experience at any moment changes our mood and the responses and functioning of our nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. As we spend more time interacting with media and technology and less time outside immersed in nature, it has ramifications for our physical and mental health and cognition.
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” John Muir
Focus on uplifting things
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”. Ralph Waldo Emerson
If something makes you feel uplifted, it makes you feel encouraged, energised, happy and inspired. It isn’t realistic to expect to feel happy every moment of every day but it is extremely important to find ways of supporting and uplifting ourselves. There are a myriad of simple every day things that we can incorporate into our lives to uplift ourselves and keep our momentum in a positive upward spiral. Why not read some suggestions in the post U is for Uplifting
Simplify our lives where possible
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” Confucius
Simplicity for me is the idea of paring away the non essential, the things that stop us focusing time and energy on reaching and enjoying that which is truly important and has true value. As with habits, it is not a case of simply removing things from our lives but of replacing them with something more positive and meaningful.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak” Hans Hofman
When we learn to simplify and declutter our lives it has the additional benefit of increasing our energy levels
Slow down and practise mindful living
“For fast-acting relief from stress, try slowing down” Lily Tomlin
The modern emphasis on speed affects our nutrition, health, sleep, work and relationships, we need to relearn how to relate to time so we don’t become its servant and watch our life disappears before our eyes. We need to resist the urge to hurry
“The way we spend our time defines who we are”. Jonathan Estrin
We often use the excuse "I didn't have time" (often linked with “I've been busy doing x,y and z”) when in fact what we are really saying is we have made a choice to prioritize one activity over another.
When we concentrate our focus on one thing at a time rather than dash through a lot of things we can actually increase our productivity.
Scientific evidence shows that meditation and mindfulness are effective in taking better care of the mind and have proven beneficial across many other aspects of life too.
Maintain healthy relationships
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
It is important to surround ourselves with friends who are positive and share similar core values, and with whom we can be our authentic self. When we foster healthy relationships with those who can make us laugh, help us to see different perspectives, who support and encourage us to develop and grow it becomes easier for us to maintain a growth mindset and increase our potential.
This week’s suggested talk by Robert Waldinger ‘What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life?’ underlines the importance of healthy, positive connections in order to keep us healthy and happy and living a fulfilling life
Create intentional habits to improve our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing
“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”
It is clear that neuroplasticity can be used to further our journey positively towards our optimal selves by making conscious choices, action and through practice because over time our brain can create new pathways. By being proactive, neural networks will grow new connections, strengthen existing ones and build insulated pathways that will speed transmission of impulses. i.e. we can increase our neural growth by the actions we take, the questions we ask, practice and the development of good habits.
When we intentionally create helpful habits, this in turn will have a net gain for our relationships and wider community
Maintain healthy sleep and eating/drinking patterns and get sufficient exercise
Sleep is an essential, integral part of a healthy lifestyle. The quality of your sleep directly affects many aspects of the quality of your life, including productivity, your emotional state, creativity, concentration ,weight etc
What you consume affects your health so make sure that your diet is varied and contributing to good health rather than damaging you
Physical movement is also important in creating an optimum quality of life and boosting our overall sense of physical and mental well being
Reflect on and measure your actions against your core values
Values make life worth living; they help us overcome challenges when life is difficult.
“When you go through life guided by your values, not only do you gain a sense of vitality and joyfulness, but you also experience that life can be rich, full, and meaningful, even when bad things happen”. Russ Harris
You may not always have a choice in your circumstances and environment but you do always have a choice in how you react to those things imposed upon you.
There is a close connection between one’s state of mind, courage and hope (or the lack of them) and the state of immunity of one’s body. When we lose hope and courage, it can have a serious effect on both our physical and our mental health; it is essential therefore that we guard hope and a belief in the future by reflecting on our values and making goals.
“We go through life following the same routine, day after day. But in order to create a rich, full, and meaningful life, we need to stop to reflect on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.” Russ Harris
The future is not something that arbitrarily happens to us, it is an ‘external expression of our internal reality’ (Matthew Kelly) Accepting that our character shapes our destiny, perhaps we should ask ourselves what our future looks like and whether we need to invest more in ourselves.
Investing in ourselves and things that build our character as a priority first and foremost is the best investment that we can make for ourselves and for other people.
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
How do financial status, IQ , EQ, disabilities, hardships, affect our ability to create a good quality of life for ourselves ?
If you want to reflect more on this subject, here are some links to get you started: