Well-being: DO Try This at Home!

Updated: Jun 20, 2021


Well-being is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Sounds simple, and yet with our highly developed frontal cortex, it is quite complex! It has been well-known prior to the pandemic that mental health and well-being has a significant impact on physical health. The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent changes has been associated with a negative impact on many people’s mental and physical health. While stress and worry are not new, the pandemic has been like a pressure cooker that has magnified and intensified the negative effects of stress, worry, depression, anxiety, isolation, and uncertainty on the health of so many. Four in ten of Americans have reported depression and anxiety symptoms, increased from one in ten. This has had specific negative effects on mental health and well-being, including food consumption, sleep, substance abuse, alcohol consumption, and worsening of chronic conditions. When there are circumstances that are outside of your control that are negatively affecting your mental and/or physical health, what can you do that will improve your outcome?


Health & Well-Being


Health is not just the absence of disease, it is an intangible resource that allows people to meet needs and live a long and rewarding life. Health promotion is the process of empowering people to increase autonomy and control over their health. Physical and mental health are inextricably intertwined.


Well-being is the presence of positive emotions, satisfaction, and positive functioning. It is judging life positively and feeling good. Physical well-being is feeling health and having energy and is viewed as critical to overall well-being. But, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Physical or mental well-being? Many studies have shown a bidirectional relationship, meaning that they each affect the other. Anecdotally, many people come to Rainier Medical endorsing that their mental well-being is not at its best, and they attribute at least part of it to not feeling physically at their best, either.


We have heard the analogy that while we are all in the same storm with the COVID-19 pandemic, we all are in different “boats.” This analogy, like most, has its limitations. And, the pandemic is not the only storm that people face. But, what can you do to improve your “boat” to get you through whatever storms it is that you face?


Best Possible Self


You may have heard of things like practicing gratitude, journaling, meditating, or other interventions for improving mental health. Some studies show, however, that the intervention with the most powerful positive effect on well being and positive affect is known as the “Best Possible Self” (BPS). The BPS intervention is an exercise in which you write about the best version of yourself in the future after everything has gone as well as possible.


In this meta analysis on the efficacy of the BPS, studies were included that had at least one intervention group and one control group. The control groups frequently wrote about non specific things, such as daily activities. The outcomes investigated included at least one measure of wellbeing, satisfaction with life, positive affect, happiness, optimism, or absence of depression before and after the intervention. The meta analysis showed the following:


  • The BPS intervention improved all measures of wellbeing, positive affect, and negative affect.

  • The largest improvement was in positive affect, but improved well-being also.

  • The BPS intervention was the most effective compared to the practice of gratitude for improving wellbeing.

  • The effect was larger on older people than younger people.

  • The positive effect was largest when the number of minutes was shorter, such as 25 minutes, rather than longer.


Try This At Home!


The best possible self exercise is a research-supported intervention for improving mood and increasing optimism, along with several other positive outcomes. To try the BPS intervention at home, imagine yourself in a future where everything has gone right. You’ve accomplished your goals, and as a result, you’ve become your best possible self. What would your life look like? How would you spend your time? Who would be by your side?


Use this Best Possible Self worksheet, to prompt you to imagine and write about your best possible self in three areas. Use these responses to guide daily visualization practice.


Use this tool you can use to practice the Best Possible Self intervention today!

best-possible-self
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Take Back Your WellBeing,


Valerie Hope-Slocum Sutherland, MD


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