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I launched this blog in 1995. Since then, we have published 1603 articles. It's all free and means a lot of work in my spare time. I enjoy sharing knowledge and experiences with you.

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Quick, Accurate Way to Measure Your Mental Wellbeing

WHO’s 5-Step measure tells you what you need to know ⋯



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WHO’s 5-Step measure tells you what you need to know first. And the missing link.

How are you feeling?

It’s the archetypal psychology question. All therapists ask it, although we have many different ways of going about it.

Personally, I shy away from saying “tell me how you feel.” Maybe I’ve just seen too many movies where the therapist — always the cringey one with an earnest expression and bad clothes — asks about feelings.

But back to the story.

When I first meet my clients I get them to fill out a couple of questionnaires. One is a generic measure of wellbeing that I’ve put together based on my work with many kinds of people.

It’s not a diagnostic tool, but more a depression/anxiety/wellbeing mashup that provides surprisingly accurate measure of people’s general level of life satisfaction.

The results generally don’t surprise people. But it helps them to think clearly about themselves and the current state of their lives.

It also helps me immensely as it offers up a baseline for our work.

Martin Seligman

Well-being cannot exist just in your own head. Well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment.

How mentally well are you? 🔗

Many online tools are geared towards finding out if there’s something wrong with you. Am I depressed? Socially anxious? Struggling with ADHD or Post Traumatic Stress? A binge eater? And on it goes.

Such questionnaires can be a useful starting point for self-analysis but they have limitations. Because they lack context, they fail to consider who you are as an individual — including your history, your strengths, your operating style and your support network.

And, without a full picture, you can be led down a diagnostic rabbit hole which can, in turn, stir up a boatload of worry.

So before you dive into a list of possible symptoms — and some self-diagnosis — it’s helpful to look at your wellbeing overall.

5 Questions to Map Where You Are 🔗

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first wealth is health.

I’m a massive fan of keeping it simple — everything, including your mental health and wellbeing.

The World Health Organization’s Wellbeing Index (WHO-5) is arguably the simplest way to check in on yourself. Of course, like any of these measures, it relies fully on self-report — in other words, our ability to see/rate ourselves with clarity. Which is not always easy. And not always accurate!

The WHO-5 has been widely used to assess wellbeing in research and clinical settings, has high validity and has been used in studies all over the world.

Some studies have shown it to be a sensitive screening tool for depression.

It asks you to rate your feelings over the previous two weeks (All of the time, most of the time, more than half the time, less than half the time, some of the time, at no time).

The WHO-5 🔗

  1. I have felt cheerful and in good spirits.
  2. I have felt calm and relaxed.
  3. I have felt active and vigorous.
  4. I woke up feeling fresh and rested.
  5. My daily life has been filled with things that interest me.

Results 🔗

If you do the test, you can add up your results and come up with a total wellbeing score which, hopefully, is not too much of a surprise to you.

But, from my perspective, obtaining a literal score is less useful than picking up a general vibe on where you’re at.

Very few people will hit top marks in all categories consistently. And everyone has problems to navigate.

But to feel generally upbeat, energetic and engaged in what your life has to offer — at this time — means you’re in good shape.

As a psychologist, I look most closely at number five. If people have things in their lives that interest and invigorate them — that they look forward to getting to — their mental health will generally be better, regardless of mood or feelings.

Okay, this is bold.

But I have an idea for the WHO in their next iteration of their measure.

Because, after years working with people in therapy, I’ve come to realize our relationships — the richness and quality — are a central player in our life satisfaction. Maybe THE most important one, at least for most people.

I’m not talking about having a partner — or not. I’m talking about the way we interact with the people in our inner circle.

When we have good relationships, we tend to feel better, calmer, more content — and certainly less anxious. When we’re struggling in these relationships, it is the source of so much angst — worry, sadness, anger, conflict. And when we are feeling lonely or isolated, it takes a significant, and sometimes serious, toll on our wellbeing.

So. Here’s my addition to the WHO measure.

  1. I have warm, close relationships supporting me.

I guess the researchers at the WHO won’t read this. But they might.

Dare to dream.

Reference 🔗

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