Well being, by its very definition means this: to be comfortable, to be healthy, to be happy.
When I sat down to write this, I immediately thought of my own well-being, I like to call it my ‘well-being bubble.’ A place dedicated to me. A place where I can zoom in on self and really pinpoint exactly what makes me comfortable, what makes me healthy and what makes me happy.
While this takes practice and is no mean feat, writing about my own well-being was not offering the depth that a topic like this one deserves. So I did some digging, and what I found reshaped my image of well-being. I very quickly understood that well-being is no fad, it can’t be. Not if we want to continue living a life where we are all comfortable. But what is fundamental to this conversation is painting a bigger picture. A picture that extends outside of our well-being bubbles. One that includes community and nation, one that includes everybody.
When I look at this country of ours, if I stop and see it, really see it, I can see that the world outside of my well-being bubble is different. Everyday, our people are living in struggle. We have a poverty issue where children are going to school hungry, homelessness is on the rise, so too is suicide amongst our teenagers, the pay gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger, incarceration and reoffending rates are not getting any better. Seeing these struggles coloured my world differently. For some, focusing on self must be on top. While this must be on top, we also can’t unsee the suffering that plagues this country of ours.
Once upon a time it was enough to have good intentions, to be a good person and care about the people around them. But as I went down the rabbit hole of wellness, I noticed that experts started asking one question over and over and over again; Why do I get to be well when others don’t? How has well-being become a privilege, one that can only be afforded to people with access, time and money.
A culture of well-being that doesn't consider the welfare of all, is just contributing to an ever increasing divide in this country.
While one part of the country is making choices between organic food and fast food, the rest of the country is trying to figure out how to pay their bills and feed their families. The truth is, we are not well, not by a long shot, and wherever there is poverty, homelessness, suicide, and high incarceration rates, we need to reimagination our relationship with well-being. Wherever people are struggling to survive, much less be well, the experts call it the well-being gap. The unequal conditions that determine who gets to be well and who doesn't. A well-being gap that doesn't include everyone hurts everyone. It puts a strain on our economy, it causes stress which makes us sick, it holds our children back, and in the end it separates us from one another.
These are not someone else's problems, these are all of our problems and it's overwhelming. To really see the state of New Zealand’s well-being was not good for my well-being bubble. It's would have been very easy to feel powerless, especially when everyday we are told that we're not good enough. We are told; buy this and you will be happy, do this and you will feel beautiful, eat this and you will be healthy. We live in a system that is profiting from us not being well.
We are not separate from the suffering of our people, the same way that we are not separate from this planet of ours, and the truth that I stumbled upon is that no one can be truly well unless everyone is well. We are in this well-being journey together and while we may be part of the problem, that too must mean that we hold the solution.
Albert Einstein once said this:
There is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men - above all, for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.
This just might be one of Einstein's greatest discoveries. One that has been here since the dawn of time. What matters most is people. What makes life worth living is people. What makes us better is people.
With each day the future of our people is becoming more uncertain, and this is a hard truth to swallow. If we can reclaim our well-being collectively, and say that everyone deserves the conditions that enable them to be well, then no one will be left behind.
Right now there are groups in this country who are committed to national wellness. Groups who are trying to reach the struggling, groups who are doing their best to fill the well-being gap. Groups like this one. We are in a position to do something together. Something that matters. It may start with you claiming back your own well-being. It may start by showing up and being here tonight. Because being here is an act of unity. It is a statement; that we care about wellness. Because we have to.
We can't wait for other people to act. It's up to us. We are the first responders to this crisis. This might just be this generation's call to action.
Seed imagines a New Zealand where all people’s experience wellness. And I know, that we are not alone in this hope. We are in this wellness journey together. A journey in which which we can do our most courageous thinking together.
Kendyl is Seed Waikato's head of learning and development.