We spend our lives building our skills for school, for our jobs and learning things that help us make more money. I don’t discount the importance of this, however, what’s more precious than money?
The things that people wish they’d done more of when they’re on their deathbeds, relationships, health, following their passions, living fully, being really present in life…these things, we leave to chance.
We think that all of these things should just take care of themselves with no learning, practice or effort. When we take the time to really think about this, it’s obvious that this is a flawed way of thinking. Actually, very little thinking is involved. When it comes to the most important areas of our lives, we’re on autopilot. With little or no intention.
One way to take control is the same as with anything you are learning…start with the basics and build from there. Let’s start with Martin Seligman’s Well-being Theory within Positive Psychology and the basics of the PERMA model.
Why worry about Thriving?
But, why should we care about well-being?
Why should we strive to flourish and thrive?
When there are so many people in the world that are desperate, suffering and dying, why should we be so selfish as to want more?
Much like putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others; reaching a state of true well-being- thriving and flourishing- can open your heart to have a larger capacity for love and helping others.
Other than feeling good, what benefits does well-being really have?
A lot actually. Research shows that compared to people with lower well-being, those with higher levels of well-being have:
- Better work performance
- More fulfilling relationships
- More cooperative dispositions
- Stronger immune systems
- Better physical health
- Longer life spans
- Reduced cardiovascular mortality
- Fewer sleep problems
- Lower levels of burnout
- Greater self-control
- Better self-regulation and coping abilities
- A more active social life
Optimism is one of the key contributors to well-being. Studies show that optimism has many benefits compared to pessimism, including:
- Less depression and anxiety
- Better performance at school, sports, and work
- Reduced risk of dropping out of school
- Better physical health outcomes, including fewer reported illnesses, less coronary heart disease, lower mortality risk, and faster recovery from surgery.
How do we thrive?
Now we know why well-being matters, but how do we thrive and flourish?
Dr. Seligman’s PERMA™ theory of well-being attempts to answer these important questions. There are five elements that make flourishing possible – Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA™) – and there are practices to increase each.
There are varying degrees of how people derive well-being from the individual elements.
There are many paths to thriving.
What one person experiences as being a good life may be very different for another person. Positive Psychology is not prescriptive, it is descriptive.
It does not tell us what choices to make or what we should value. The research is here to help us make more informed choices that align with our values and our interests, so we decide what it takes for us to live a more fulfilling life!
What is Positive Emotion?
- Satisfaction, intellectual stimulation, and enjoyment
- NOT pleasure
How to Increase Positive Emotion
Positive emotion about the present can be increased by savoring moments and being mindful
Positive emotion about the future can be increased by building hope and optimism.
This path is limited by how much an individual can experience positive emotions, unlike the other paths we will discuss below. In other words, positive affectivity is partly genetic and our emotions tend to vary within a set range.
Many people are born with low positive affectivity and are therefore low in experiencing positive emotion. While others are born with high positive affectivity and experience positive emotions easily.
Conventional thoughts on happiness tend to focus on positive emotion so it can be comforting to know that there are other routes to well-being.
What is Engagement?
- Being completely absorbed in activities
- Losing sense of time
- State of flow
- Fully deploying skills, strength, and attention to a challenging task
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “flow” is an experience that is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, rather than for what they will get out of it.
The activity is its own reward.
How to Increase Engagement
Flow is experienced when our skills are sufficient for a challenging activity and we are in pursuit of a clear goal and have immediate feedback on progress toward the goal.
You are fully concentrating on the current moment.
Time appears to no longer have relevance. We feel like we have only been doing the activity for a short time, but hours may have passed.
Flow can be experienced in an assortment of activities, dependent on your skill and interest level in the activity.
- A good conversation
- A work task
- Playing a musical instrument
- Reading a book
- You get the idea…
What are relationships?
- Connecting with others authentically
- Intimate relationships
- Family relationships
- Relationships with colleagues
- Relationships with friends
Good relationships are core to our well-being. Humans are, by nature, social.
We often see that people who have significant, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not.
From an evolutionary perspective, we are social beings because the drive to connect with and serve others promotes our survival. Developing strong relationships is central to adaptation and is enabled by our capacity for love, compassion, kindness, empathy, teamwork, cooperation, self-sacrifice, etc.
How to increase Relationships
The experiences that promote well-being are often strengthened through our relationships:
- Great joy
- A feeling of belonging
- Pride in accomplishment
Relationships with others can give life purpose and meaning. Support from others is one of the best pick-me-ups when you’re feeling down and a consistent way to raise your spirits.
Additionally, research shows that performing acts of kindness for others increases well-being.
What is meaning?
- Purposeful living
- Attaching to something larger than yourself
- Larger purpose of life
How to increase meaning?
A sense of meaning can come from belonging to and serving something bigger than ourselves.
- Work organizations
- Social Causes
What is achievement?
- A sense of accomplishment and success
- Having specific goals and making efforts to accomplish them
- Builds confidence
- Strengthens self-esteem
- Noticing small achievements
How to increase achievement?
We pursue achievement, success, and mastery for its own sake. We can accomplish things in a variety of areas, including the workplace, sports, games, hobbies, etc.
Each of these five elements contributes to well-being and:
- Is engaged in for its own sake, not as a means to an end
- Is described and evaluated independently of the other elements
Now that you know the basics of human thriving, we can begin our journey! Come back to this blog often for tips and strategies that you can take action on immediately and begin your path to flourishing!