April 13, 2023

Challenges to Well-Being in 2023

We asked 8 Well-Being Experts to reflect on what they feel is the single biggest challenge to our well-being in 2023.

Christina Mengert
Pushing boulder up a hill

What do you think is the single biggest challenge to well-being in 2023?

C. Robert Cloninger, MD,PhD

Challenges to well-being come from within us and from outside of us. Those from within us arise from our suffering from the illusion that we are separate objects that are disconnected from other people, from nature, and from the source of all things. That feeling of separation is provoked by people being objectified in social media and by what is happening all around us, including our exposure to experiences of fear, violence, and inequity. These outer challenges come from current social and environmental conditions, including economic instability, social division, climate change, widespread pollution, hunger, and war. These external influences distract us from being aware of what truly brings meaning and satisfaction to our lives. These all converge to give people the false notion that they should seek approval and validation from others, rather than developing self-respect. That false notion is further amplified by a media that focuses on events that make people feel afraid and mistrustful of one another, rather than encouraging everyone to work to help one another.  

Lauren Munsch, MD

One of the biggest challenges to well-being in 2023 is the pervasive sense of isolation and disconnection that many people are experiencing. While this issue has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a broader problem that existed even before the pandemic. As technology has advanced, many people have become increasingly reliant on digital communication and social media for connection, which can create a false sense of closeness while actually deepening feelings of loneliness and disconnection. The pandemic has only worsened this problem, as many people have been forced to physically distance themselves from others and limit in-person interactions. This has resulted in a growing mental health crisis, with rising rates of depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders. Even as the pandemic subsides, many people may continue to struggle with feelings of isolation and disconnection. To address this challenge, it will be important for individuals and communities to prioritize building and maintaining meaningful social connections. This may involve reaching out to friends and family more frequently, joining social groups or clubs, going to work in-person, volunteering in the community, or engaging in other activities that foster connection and a sense of purpose. It will also be important to continue to develop and use technology in ways that facilitate genuine connection and communication, rather than substituting for it. By prioritizing connection and community, individuals can improve their well-being and build a stronger, more resilient society.

Nigel Lester, MD, NBC-HWC

Without a doubt, the biggest challenge to well-being in 2023 will be cultivating our Mental Health. I would say that, wouldn’t I, because I am a psychiatrist! But I truly believe that this is the most pressing challenge to the health of individuals and communities right now. In the physical environment we have created pollution, toxins and unhealthy stressors that have negative impacts on the body. And so it is in the psychological sphere, we are now inundated with toxic and poisonous thoughts feelings and behaviors; fear, division and confusion, competition and aggression are everywhere and the work of Anthropedia is a powerful way to help bring about calmness of mind, a hopeful outlook and a sense of community and unity.

Sita Kedia, MD, MPH, FAHS

Our single biggest challenge in 2023 is for individuals to live three-dimensionally.  We walked into this decade with a globally experienced trauma that forced humanity into survival mode. The changes we experienced, physiologically and psychologically, to deal with the tremendous stress, were initially meant to be protective. We changed our behaviors dramatically, from our general lifestyles, to how we learn in school and communicate with our friends, families, and community (video chat, etc.). We relied on video streaming for exercise, Zoom calls to conduct meetings and business, and social media for our news source. With the fear of the unknown, our social networks have contracted, and we have created a 2-D world in every aspect of our life. Our constant stress, hibernation, tunnel vision, and the thick layer of protection between us and others are now leading to unhealthy behaviors and lifestyles. We have to get off our phones and computers, develop meaningful relationships with those around us, connect with nature, and open our eyes to see the 3-D world around us. So, this year, we need to nurture our relationships with human contact (yes, I mean to hug, shake hands, to be closer than 6 feet), look at the horizon instead of just what is in front of us, and to live with hope, despite some uncertainty.

Peter Hutchings, PhD

After millennia of humans struggling to meet their basic needs, this past century has seen, at least in economically developed countries, an unprecedented access to comfort.This has appeased some physical and emotional drives, but it has also disconnected us from certain things that define us as human. Technology, overconsumption, and the ease of modern life have solved some problems while creating others. Without needing to rely on a local community, we've become more isolated. Without a daily struggle to survive, we've forgotten how to adapt creatively in the face of hardship. Without a connection to something greater than ourselves, we've become depressed and cynical. The challenge, then, is how to be in this modern world but not of it. How to eat three meals a day while being grateful for every bite. How to work in a global economy while remaining connected to our community. How to enjoy our favorite TV show without forgetting to marvel at the star-filled sky.

BarbaraWashington, PhD

Anxiety is one of the most common challenges to well-being this year. People are increasingly experiencing negative ruminating thoughts, isolation, and feelings of being overwhelmed, which perpetuate certain fears--of something bad happening, being judged socially, and so on. Also, the fear of uncertainty (that many people are currently experiencing, due to a challenging economy, political and social conflict, etc.) may bring on anxiety, stress, and possible depression. This is one of the big challenges people will need to address in 2023.

Sarah Bird, DNP, NBC-HWC

Staying calm. When we get anxious, it is very difficult to think with our rational brain, and we usually react out of fear. These reactions are often problematic and create conflicts in our lives, relationships, and ourselves. The stress of these reactions and our emotions definitely hinder our well-being. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to stay calm in a turbulent world.  If you are paying attention to what is going on, there are many reasons to feel anxious. Furthermore, when the people around us are anxious or agitated, that agitation can spread, creating a kind of collective anxiety that is difficult not to be affected by. So this is a big challenge but a very important one.  Learning to calm the mind and body is a key to our well-being.

Christina Mengert, PhD

In an increasingly complicated and unstable world, I think perhaps the biggest challenge is staying focused on the things that give our lives purpose and meaning. Whether we are adapting to a global pandemic or natural disaster, living in a war-torn region or constantly seeing violent images through a screen, it can feel like the world is falling apart. Of course, we can’t ignore or deny the realities of the world, but we can face them with a spirit of love, hope, and faith. We can insist on our own kindness. We can remember what we truly value, what brings us joy and connects us to other human beings. We can lovingly remember everything that is beautiful about being alive, and let that beauty be proof of the possibility of a better world.

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