Explore Wellbeing

Being well looks different for each of us. How does it take place in your life and community?

What Does Wellbeing Mean to You?

On this page, you can listen to a few perspectives on what constitutes wellbeing. We may look at wellbeing as affected by the wellness of people in our lives and our communities as a whole, which includes access to various resources, rights and freedoms, and our collective ability to fulfill basic needs. Wellbeing can also be explored on an embodied level, which involves thinking about how emotions are held in the body, and how physical activity is essential in both physical and mental health. Indigenous perspectives on wellbeing take our spiritual elements into account as well, seeing our spirits, minds, bodies, and emotions as interconnected. In this view, wellbeing is about finding balance among all four aspects of being. Considering all of these interpretations, we might begin to critique a medicalized model that pathologizes individuals. In the last two videos, Efrat introduces biases of a psychiatric model and the consequences of its implementation. 

For Your Reflection

Before reading the following, bring yourself back to your body. Notice how it is feeling in different places. Pay attention to your aches and pains. Give yourself some time for movement. 

After you’ve attended to your body, think about the week ahead. Make a schedule of activities you would like to do to prioritize your wellbeing and/or the wellbeing of your community on each day. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself; one simple wellness practice per day is a good place to start. 

To help craft your weekly schedule, you can think about the questions below:

What are some small ways in which you can reclaim power in your everyday life?

How can you better engage with the full extent of your freedom day-to-day?

What does an ideal state of wellbeing look like to you? What does this picture reveal about your values and beliefs?

What can we learn from the medicine wheel? How might we use it as a tool in our everyday lives?

How can we engage our imaginations to help realign mind and body? Qigong is one example of this. What might be another?

How might you promote inclusion in your community and social circles?

What is your own view on the psychiatric model for wellbeing?

How can you begin to move beyond awareness of systemic causes of suffering and utilize this knowledge to make your life and the lives of others less stressful? What import does this knowledge have in our everyday lives?

What is Wellbeing?

Dr. Janelle Joseph speaks about wellbeing in terms of freedom, inviting the listener to consider different, opposite ways of being, moving and gesturing in spaces that have been constructed with a colonial mindset, such as making sound in places where you are supposed to be quiet or walking in the grass instead of the path. She encourages students to trust themselves, to listen to what the body is telling them, and seek out the resources that they need for their success.

The Power of Self-determination in Health Care

Dr. Mulligan explains the overlooked role of social factors when it comes to our health. ‘Social prescribing’ is about getting people involved in social groups to help reconnect them with activities they love and reduce isolation. A key part of this is ‘self-determination’ – listening to the individual to hear what matters most to them, and then helping them meet those goals. When we meet our goals, we feel more competent and more capable of giving back to others, which fosters interrelated wellbeing. 

Wellness through the Medicine Wheel

Iehnhotonkwas explains that an Indigenous perspective on wellness includes more than just taking care of the mind, but also the body and spirit. The Anishinaabe medicine wheel visually portrays the balanced aspects of self with four quadrants: emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. When there is a blockage in one area, it affects all the others. As university students, we tend to focus on the mental, but it is important to understand our whole experience as affected by mental problems. Iehnhotonkwas says that the spiritual is found whenever we are able to ‘connect’ – with nature, with others, and so on. This connection is lost when we are mentally overburdened. 

How Physical Activity Promotes Wellbeing

Dr. Sabiston discusses the physiological reasons behind the benefits of physical activity. Movement affects our brains and create more positive emotions, and also realigns the human body with the activities it was meant for. Dr. Sabiston also mentions the benefits of pairing mindfulness and physical activity, which helps to maximize the benefits of each practice. 

Energy and Imagery in Qigong

Jacqueline explains the concept of qi (life force energy) and its important role in healing. It can be helpful to engage our imaginations to bring in the qi of the universe and allow it to flow through us. Imagery engages our minds while also sending relaxation signals to our bodies. Experiencing the qi within us fosters a sense of interconnectedness with all life. 

Intersections between Race, Space, and Movement

Dr. Joseph invites the listener to consider how “every space that we are occupying has been constructed be someone.” She speaks about the politics of space, pointing to the ways that gyms, parks and other outdoor spaces for leisure and wellness continue to be funded and created by and for white people, to the exclusion of Black, Indigenous and other marginalized communities. She also speaks about the importance of creating inclusive spaces that allow for other forms of expression, noting that feeling safe and included in a space allows for freedom of movement and self-expression. Dr. Joseph describes her research with student athletes, coaches and sports administrators about experiences of racism and anti-racist resistance.  

How Psychiatry Became Science

Efrat explains the history of how social problems were medicalized under eugenics and how the concept of ‘mental hygiene’ transitioned into ‘mental health.’ Through this transition, psychiatry ended up being legitimized as a science while retaining the legacy of eugenics. 

Eugenics and the Origins of “Mental Illness”

Efrat begins by pointing out that eugenics is not an inherently evil idea; its goal is simply to alleviate suffering and improve the lives of human beings. The problem is that this goal is interpreted by whoever has the most power and privilege. In this way, social structures end up dictating who is mentally ill (or abnormal) and who isn’t. Nowadays, psychiatry is the field that makes these decisions. Efrat then goes on to explain the ways in which social contexts impact mental health, which are not usually considered in psychiatric diagnoses. 

A Message for Students

Dr. Richardson recognizes the pressure that young people face when it comes to building their lives. She wants students to understand that it is okay to take your time. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers yet.