What Does 'Quality of Life' Mean and How Can One Improve It?

What Does 'Quality of Life' Mean?
We often hear people speaking of quality of life, but what is it exactly? Is it to do with wealth, health, family, or your job?
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
"It's all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family."
― Philip Green
When asked how do you define quality of life, people are quick to state their standard of living. It is natural to calculate that standard of living is equal to quality of life. However, in reality, these two do not necessarily mean the same.

Standard of living takes wealth, employment, status in society, etc., into consideration. It is only a part of a good quality of life; it isn't it entirely. From the point of view of politicians and economists, quality of life is in terms of livability of society. Now you see how quality of life is measured in diverse contexts.
Meaning of Quality of Life
Now that the myth has been debunked, let's get to understanding the meaning. Quality of life or QOL is a general term used in the context of job satisfaction, financial security, safety, family life, and of course, health. It also involves positive, multidimensional, negative, and subjective aspects of life.

The true question arises when the question gets more personal. It is often believed that the following attributes lead to a good quality life.

❖ Ability
❖ Acceptance
❖ Adaptability
❖ Appreciation
❖ Balance
❖ Basic Needs
❖ Sense of Belonging
❖ Career
❖ Community
❖ Control
❖ Demands
❖ Distress
❖ Diversity
❖ Education
❖ Enhancement
❖ Enjoyment
❖ Environment
❖ Experiences
❖ Family
❖ Flexibility
❖ Freedom
❖ Fulfillment
❖ Happiness
❖ Health
❖ Hopes
❖ Identity
❖ Improvement
❖ Integrity
❖ Judgments
❖ Knowledge
❖ Living Conditions
❖ Needs
❖ Opportunities
❖ Pleasure
❖ Politics
❖ Religion
❖ Responsibilities
❖ Safety
❖ Security
❖ Self-esteem
❖ Society
❖ Spirituality
❖ Status
❖ Stress-free life
❖ Truth
❖ Well-being
❖ Well-wishes
❖ Work
There are several theories and studies being conducted by different universities to know the answer to this age-long and subjective question.
"There are essentially two perspectives taken in quality of life research: social indicators research which considers the elites' valuation of what the people need, and conventional quality of life research which studies what people want, in order to improve their quality of life."
― Quality of Life, Ramkrishna Mukherjee, Sage Publications, 1989
Another research conducted at QOL Research Unit, at the University of Toronto, believes that QOL depends on 3 Bs, which are better explained below.
Being
Physical being
➤ Physical ability to move around all by oneself.
➤ Nutrition and food that one gets.

Physical being includes clothing, exercise, grooming, hygiene, nutrition, physical appearance, etc.
Psychological Being
➤ Being stress and worry-free.
➤ The mood that one is usually in.

Psychological beings include aspects, viz., adjustment, cognition, feelings, evaluations about oneself, and self-control.
Spiritual Being
➤ Hope for a future.
➤ Morals about what is right and wrong.

Personal values, standards of conduct, and spiritual beliefs like religion, meditation, etc., all come under spiritual being.
Belonging
Physical Belonging
➤ Proper accommodation.
➤ A safe neighborhood to live in.

Physical belonging is the connections you have with your physical environment, viz., community, home, workplace, neighborhood, etc.
Social Belonging
➤ Being close to the people you love.
➤ Having a spouse or that special someone.

Social belonging is linked to your social environment, which makes you feel accepted by close and intimate group of people, viz., your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, community, etc.
Community Belonging
➤ Being able to get professional services.
➤ Having sufficient money.

Community belonging stands for community members and people of the same stature, viz., employment, educational, community activities, health, income, social services, and recreation.
Becoming
Practical Becoming
➤ Doing things around the house.
➤ Going to school or having a paid profession, be it a job or business.

Practical becoming are the day-to-day routines you follow such as domestic activities, job, looking after health, school, social needs, volunteering, etc.
Leisure Becoming
➤ Outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, etc.
➤ Indoor activities, viz., watching TV, listening to music, etc.

Leisure becoming includes activities that help you relax and be stress-free. Activities include card games, walks, and visiting family, holidays, and vacations.
Growth Becoming
➤ Improving one's health.
➤ Being able to cope up with changes.

Growth becoming promotes improvement of knowledge and skills.
However, life cannot be defined by a mere list based on statistics. What does quality of life truly mean to you should only be defined by you.
The desire to want a better life is natural. For instance, you might want a bigger car, a bigger house, better job, bigger bank balance, all the luxuries and comforts that life has to offer. That's great! But will that equal to satisfaction? Will you feel completely at peace once you get that? If yes, then there's nothing wrong with that. If not, then what else is pending in your life? Is it a spouse, family, friends, health, pets, a job that you like, satisfaction?
Improving the Quality of Life
Hoping that you have understood what QOL means, let's move on to improving the quality of life that you already have. Ask yourself, "What will give me satisfaction?"
You are wondering why not happiness? It is quite simple; happiness is short-lived as compared to satisfaction. Satisfaction and contentment do not last you longer and are easily attainable, but lead to happiness. Let me explain better―attaining these smaller goals will give you immense satisfaction and contentment, which will further make you happy, with a strong backing of satisfaction. It will also calm you down, which in turn will allow you to enjoy the moments, fruits of your labor, and increase the lifespan of your happiness. So, are you ready to know how to improve your QOL?
Sit calmly and evaluate your life. What are the things that you are unhappy about? Is it your job, family, health, etc.? If it is your job, which you need to keep doing and have no way out of it, take up a hobby class/gym after it. This will keep you from being sad all day long and give you something to look forward to every day.
If it is your family, talk to them; give them some more quality time. Relationships are 24 x 7 jobs that cannot be ignored. Be it friends, colleagues, spouse, parents, siblings, children, etc., give them your undivided attention. For example, if you are spending time with your parents, spouse, or children, switch off all the gadgets and talk to them; get to know what is going on in their lives. Take advice even if you don't need it; give some in return.
Growth is an integral part of life, be it at home, at work, or personal growth. Begin with doing something selfless―try helping out in a homeless shelter, or a shelter for animals, or better yet, adopt a homeless cat or dog. If that kind of charity is not for you, simply pay for a homeless guys' meals, or offer some food to someone who looks like he's not eaten for days, or help out an old neighbor. Doing something selfless opens you up spiritually, which gives you a lot of satisfaction.
Help yourself a little. Indulge in some activity like a jog, brisk walk, dance, painting, pottery, playing a musical instrument, cooking/baking, just about anything that you've wanted to do but couldn't. Make some quality me time. Let me elaborate, not everything needs to be done that very day. Segregate the work as per priority. Most important to-dos should be done that very day. Less important can be done the next day, and so on and so forth. Here you need to be a little cautious as you could just begin procrastinating, which you have to avoid at any cost. Share your burden with your spouse. Ask them to help you out. There's no shame in asking for help. Learn to make better choices when it comes to big life decisions. Ask for suggestions, guidance, and help. No one is expecting you to know it all. Spruce things up in your life with trivial decisions; take a new route for instance or try a new flavor of ice cream, a new restaurant, etc.
Little changes make a huge difference, but the true key to contentment is the most difficult one. Balance. Once you attain balance in your life with regards to health, job, friends, and family, you have gained it all. Talk to your dear ones and inform them of what you want in your life and how they can help you with yours. Make small attainable and relevant goals. Take each day as a new beginning, and keep having fun along the way.