February 6, 2024
Personal well-being on the decline: What you can do to buck the trend

Dr. Alan Watkins
5 minutes

Did you know that the UK government publishes a National Measure of Well-being Dashboard’? It’s a fascinating insight into how people are doing across 10 domains of well-being.

The data is gathered from lots of different sources – things like the Annual Population Survey and the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey – that means the data is updated on a different timeline, but every quarter there is something new to explore.

Personal well-being is one of the 10 domains looked at. According to the ONS, “it’s the most direct representation of how people are doing”. How people are doing is really all about how they feel about their lives. The domain looks at life satisfaction, whether we feel the things we do in life are worthwhile and how anxious and happy we feel.

Unfortunately, the recent data is not great. There has been no change in ratings in feeling worthwhile, happy and anxious in the last year. Nothing has improved there – although I suppose you could say that nothing has got significantly worse either. Small comfort, we would say.

Unfortunately, the measure for life satisfaction has declined. In the first quarter of 2023, 5.8% of UK adults rated their life satisfaction as low. Increasing from 4.8% in the first quarter of 2022 and 4.6% in the first quarter of 2018.

Think about people you know and people you work with. On average, according to this survey more than one in 20 of them could have low levels of life satisfaction.

So, what can be done to help more people feel more satisfied with their lives?

Let’s consider that through the prism of the I, WE and IT dimensions that I mentioned above. What we can do (the IT), comes last. First, it’s important to look at the I and how satisfied we are with ourselves and how we show up every day. If we’re not feeling happy in ourselves, there is very little we can do to improve our relationships and what we do.

We’ve talked about happiness before. So, I’m going to point you to two other blogs here for a little more reading and reflection.

First, take a look at Alan Littlefield’s blog on happiness. He explains how we can rehearse the emotional state of ‘happy’, so that we can recreate that feeling without needing to go anywhere or do anything.

Second, read Katie Ledger’s blog on breathing for emotional control. Breathing in the right way is fundamental to our emotional control. Breathing rhythmically and evenly, with our attention on our heart, enables us to bring coherence to our Heart Rate Variability (HRV) signal.

If you’re one of the one in 20 in the government survey who are not satisfied with your life, these two suggestions – creating the feelings you want to feel and using your breath to give you more emotional control – might just help you start to turn things round.

Maybe if we get enough people doing it, we could see a shift in the government’s National Measure of Well-being in the first quarter of 2024. Watch this space!

Author //

A physician and neuroscientist, Dr. Alan Watkins is recognised as an international expert on leadership and human performance.
Over the years he has coached thousands of individuals to greater levels of performance, transformed organisational cultures and helped leaders discover new ways to succeed. Alan has become a confidant to many of the world’s top leaders over the past 22 years.
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