EMPOWERMENT ALPHABET

BALANCE

Balance is an inner state that involves all the aspects of a human being. The concept of balance is deeply interconnected with that of well-being: if we are experiencing a state of inner and outer balance, we are likely to also feel and be well. However, the concept of well-being has changed and broadened greatly over the years. From the mere absence of diseases or pathologies, well-being is now conceived as an overall sense of physical, mental and psychological wellness.

Nonetheless, well-being is often equated to good health. Such an equivalence is rather inappropriate, even when the broadest possible meaning of health is considered. According to the WHO (1948) health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
While it is quite hard to think a state of complete and simultaneous mental, social, and physical well-being could exist, connecting well-being to health inevitably also means connecting ill-being to the lack of health; however, it is clear that this is quite inaccurate.

The WHO itself, in a different section of the same document, also defines health-well-being as “the perfect and continuous adaptation of an organism to its environment”. The part on adaptation is particularly important as it conveys the idea that well-being is not a “state” but rather a dynamic condition, based on the subject’s ability to positively interact with his/her environment (by trying to change it or coping with it), despite its constant changes.

It is within this last framework that we believe the self-empowerment approach can positively influence and foster people’s wellbeing. Each individual’s subjective perception greatly impacts on his/her well-being. Balance and well-being are also about self-perception. Some of the key attitudes promoted by the self-empowerment approach (e.g., locus of control, resources, hopefulness) along with the focus on being the protagonist of one’s own life, of the choices to be made and the challenges to be faced, can truly make the difference in terms of one’s subjective experience. Therefore, given the same context and conditions, the self empowerment approach can give people the edge and have positive effects on all the aspects (physical, mental, and social) involved in their perceived wellbeing.

However, it is very important not to mistake balance with being in a constant state of quiet. Adjusting to one’s environment may open up new frontiers of well-being but it might also be a straining and painful process: that towards self-empowerment is not an easy or linear path and, since it takes us out of our comfort zone, it might temporarily trigger “negative” emotions and feelings.
After all, speaking of adjustment someone said: “those who live a comfortable life in the present are likely to have taken uncomfortable decisions in the past, while those who have an uncomfortable life are likely to have made more comfortable choices in the past…”. So, enjoy your discomfort and enjoy your balance!

We would like to suggest a little exercise that might help you focus on your balance, conceived as a skill rather than a state. It is not about being able to control the storm, rather it is about learning to properly navigate your boat. Now think of a difficult situation, one that evokes painful emotions. This exercise asks you to get and maintain contact with those emotions by practicing abdominal breathing: take a deep breath and try to convey the air upwards, until it reaches your navel, try to completely expand your abdomen, now exhale by emptying your abdomen, as if you are trying to suck the air into your own body. While you are breathing out, stay in touch with your emotions and try to look at them with tenderness. Let them be, without fear or judgment. Just observe them while you keep on breathing. You will learn to embrace emotions and happenings with greater openness and to accept your feelings and, by doing that, you’ll discover new areas of well-being, irrespective of whether the waters you are sailing on are troubled or calm.

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