The Wisdom of Wellbeing, Catherine Murnin

Although I’ve worked in various roles across health, my journey with wellbeing really developed 11 years ago, following my husband’s cancer diagnosis. At the time, I was leading on a change management process in a national charity, supporting a remote staff team, being a mum, and balancing the usual balls that go with living a full life. Cue a debilitating episode of vertigo and time to reflect on how I could look after myself, my wellbeing wisdom started to grow, just like the amazing seeds in nature!

I focused on personal and professional development, taking courses, reading, observing, surrounding myself with people who inspired and shared their learning, with the aim of having wellbeing conversations in the places where I live, work and play. Wellbeing was viewed by some then as a bit of a fluffy thing, aligned more to marketing and self-care gestures that focused on holidays, handbags and having the latest wrinkle busting treatment. I loved challenging that notion!

Over the years, I have been privileged to absorb wellbeing wisdom from others who I’ve met on my journey so far. From families waiting on news from ICU to rural women trying to set up meaningful programmes in their communities; from female leaders struggling with imposter syndrome to healthcare staff who go the extra mile for a patient; from the women in my tribe who encourage and support me to the new networks I continue to develop where other women are there to pass on their learning.

In all of these experiences, wellbeing wisdom is underpinned by values, by lived experience and by recognising that we are all connected in this life with gifts to share that can enrich the lives of others. Of course, there are times, for example, when I support workplaces around wellbeing programmes that outcomes and processes have to be in place, but even then, the great ideas always start with the conversation, the openness and the belief that in coming together we can achieve better health and wellbeing for all.

Reflecting on the impact of covid, there are people across our communities who have faced many challenges and are still struggling. The World Health Organisation tells us that “Wellbeing is a positive state experienced by individuals and societies. It encompasses quality of life and the ability of people and societies to contribute to the world with a sense of meaning and purpose. Focusing on wellbeing supports the tracking of the equitable distribution of resources, overall thriving and sustainability. A society’s wellbeing can be determined by the extent to which they are resilient, build capacity for action, and are prepared to transcend challenges”.

That’s why I’m passionate about creating space for everyone to talk about wellbeing, what it means, what it looks like and how we can challenge the current power imbalances that exist across society. There are too many examples of job roles or status being considered as a measure of someone’s ability or contribution, overlooking the person, the values, the wisdom.

I recall when my husband was ill and an important face in our hospital visits then was a support worker. I commented on her knowledge and lovely manner to a senior staff member who responded by saying “Oh and she’s only a Band 4”. Why was that relevant? At an event celebrating International Women’s Day I sat with an amazing lady over lunch, listening to her story of rural life, helping run the family business alongside caring for children, one with additional needs, going through menopause and setting up a women’s group. She told me that she was introduced at a council community planning meeting as the “farmer’s wife” with a nudge and a wink. Why is this considered acceptable?

People are so interesting! Everyone I meet has something to offer and if we are in the privileged position to help someone up, we have to do it. If we create and communicate our small words of wellbeing wisdom, the ripple effect could be transformative. We just need to listen and connect with platforms where we can share skills and tools to build resilience, a sense of purpose and use our power to challenge those structures and processes that contribute to societal illbeing.

“Life is not merely being alive, but being well” (Marcus Aurelius)



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