10 Weeks to Wellbeing: Week 1 – Wheel of Life
[This article first appeared in my wellbeing column in the Irish edition of the Sunday Mirror, Sun 14th September 2014.]
Feeling low, stuck, stressed or burnt out? Over the coming weeks I’ll lead you through a program of reflection and change, sharing research from the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience to help you boost wellbeing in all areas of your life. We’ll use the Wheel of Life exercise as our starting point and our focus (see soulambition.com for an example).
Wheel of Life
Step 1 – Draw a circle and divide it into eight equal sections – or print out a PDF here.
Step 2 – Label each dividing line, or ‘spoke’, as follows:
- Hobbies & Learning
- Love Life
- Family & Social
Step 3 – Think about how satisfied you are with each area. Use a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is at the centre of the wheel and 10 is on the rim, and draw a dot along the spoke to represent your score. So, if for your financial wellbeing you’d score yourself as 5/10 satisfied, draw a dot half way up the spoke. If you’d score yourself as 1/10, it would be nearer the centre; 9/10 would be nearer the outer edge.
Step 4 – When you’ve completed this for all eight areas, join up the dots. Does the wheel of your life look balanced, or does it guarantee a bumpy ride? What areas are you already very happy with/grateful for? Which need your attention?
Step 5 – For each area of your life, list three things you are grateful for. Gratitude exercises have been successfully used in positive psychology programmes to improve participants’ mental health and wellbeing. For many people, this shift in perception can help them realise things aren’t as bad as they may think – and if you really can’t think of three things to be grateful for, then you’ve an ideal opportunity to improve matters!
Step 6 – For each area, think about what it is you want to achieve. What does ‘success’ in this area mean to you? If you find it easier to think about what you don’t want than what you do, it’s time to feed your imagination. Talk to people in your life who seem happy and energised – ask them about their work, their hobbies and their routines. Read biographies or watch documentaries about people who inspire you. Think back to the times in your life you were most happy and engaged – what were you doing? Who were you with? What was your environment like? Write down some key words or phrases or draw some doodles to represent what you’d like to bring about in each area.
Did you find this exercise energising or a little uncomfortable? Perhaps you’ve been hiding things from yourself, or avoiding looking at a particular area of your life too closely? Trust that with knowledge comes power; learning about yourself and moving out of your comfort zone is a surefire way to grow in confidence and security, however challenging the process. Letting go of old situations and habits makes room for healthier dynamics in your life. What are you going to throw on the bonfire and what are you going to keep?
Next week, we’ll start with the first topic: Self.
One significant practice we can all build into our daily lives to improve wellbeing is mindfulness meditation. I’ll explain it in more detail in Week 3 – for now, you might like to watch mindfulness master, Jon Kabat-Zinn, giving a masterclass on YouTube.