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If 2020 left you feeling powerless, you are not alone. Nothing from health to finances seemed to be under your control. A question mark hung over your job and your ability to keep paying bills. Each day was marked by anxiety and the social isolation of lockdown. Studies including the UN Happiness Index and Gallup polls show Indians were not very happy even before Covid struck, but the pandemic has further driven down India’s well-being.
Routines are a balancing act at the best of times but in the year of Covid, all the balancing was done on a knife-edge. You were confined to home but the office encroached on your personal time. Exercise, relaxation and recreation were sacrificed. The 2020 India Wellness Index survey by ICICI Lombard, based on 3,866 respondents in 19 cities, shows despite adequate awareness, people were unable to do the things that make life meaningful.
But 2021 need not be the same. Here’s a 6-point action plan to help you find the balance you’ve missed these past 10 months.
The healthy-body-healthy-mind link is known since ancient times and Indians rightly recognise physical fitness as the bedrock of well-being. In the India Wellness Index survey, the vast majority of respondents expressed a wish to follow a fitness regimen.
However, not all actually acted upon it. Besides lack of motivation and facilities, lack of time and the burden of other responsibilities can be hurdles for a daily exercise routine. Stress also affects eating habits. Since diet and exercise are the pillars of physical fitness, working on these two will increase your well-being. Staying fit is all the more important now because lifestyle diseases like diabetes increasing the risk from Covid.
Despite a high awareness score on physical wellbeing; Indians score considerably lower on action fewer people exercise regularly despite knowing its benefits.
Mental health is the second important component of wellness, according to the survey participants. A happy state of mind is necessary to achieve your goals, whether they are related to eating right and exercising, or climbing the career ladder.
Marathons, for example, are as much a test of physical endurance as of mental toughness. While there is a high level of awareness about the ways to cope with stress, the lack of helplines and counsellors prevents people from getting timely psychological help. The internet can fill the gap with its trove of lectures on spirituality and psychology, and guided lessons on meditation and breathing techniques.
In India, family is still important for a sense of wellness and survey respondents rate it higher than money. The majority feel they are responsible for ensuring their family’s well-being but cannot find enough time for it. The difficulty has always been greater in the metros where the biggest part of the day is spent out of home working.
Covid has made matters worse by breaking down the boundaries of work and home. The outside world can now intrude at any time. It might seem hard, but the only way around this problem is to redraw the old lines to reserve together-time.
A significant portion of Indians are not aware of ways to find time to spend with family, despite feeling the responsibility to make time. India also has among the world’s largest shares of overworked workers — 13.6% reported working more than 60 hours a week
Money’s role in well-being goes down as you acquire more of it, but it remains essential to meet your immediate needs and for a sense of security. The survey found that most Indians not only don’t give much importance to financial well-being, they are also not prepared for financial crises. Many of the survey participants said they did not have insurance and had not made investments to secure their future. This is a recipe for stress and anxiety, as uncertainty about the future will not let you enjoy the present, eroding your physical, mental and family well-being. So, start by insuring yourself and your family against risks, and invest to make your money grow.
Overall, Indians perform poorly on financial wellness, with a large number unaware of how to prepare for unforeseen crises and how to manage their finances. A major driver is lack of access to reliable information An S&P survey found that only 24% of Indians are financially literate, the lowest among BRICS countries and lower than the global average of 33%. It’s not surprising, then, that India is the second most uninsured country after China
Even in a work-from-home setting, the workplace demands the biggest commitment of your time, yet workplace happiness figures second to-last in the list of people’s wellness factors. The survey says while a large number of the respondents is aware of ways to ensure work-life balance, not many actually achieve it. This is a worrying finding for both employers and employees as it affects productivity, innovation and, ultimately, the bottomline. Covid has made striking a work-life balance trickier because of remote working but improving communication with your team can help you engage more with your work.
Indians are struggling with workplace wellness — not enough people know how to strike a work-life balance and complain of a lack of support from their employers.
Residents of major metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai reported the worst workplace wellness scores, particularly those in the 18-24 age group. Studies have found that happiness in the workplace can boost productivity by 13% and innovation and creativity by 300%
Social life is now the least important determiner of well-being, but only because Covid has struck it off the menu. Nonetheless, people cannot thrive without social interaction, and complete isolation takes a toll on mental health, which in turn affects your physical health, work performance, finances, and family life.
Therefore, keeping in touch with friends and neighbours safely, through digital means and inperson, when possible, is important. None of these factors alone is enough for a sense of well-being, but life seems incomplete when even one of them is missing. To feel truly “wellthy”, therefore, you need to give each one its due.
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