Our wellbeing - what is it?
Looking after our wellbeing has always been important, but it has become amplified this year with COVID-19 and endless restrictions and rounds of lockdowns. We hear about wellbeing all the time now through organisations such as the NHS, and social media but what does it actually mean? How can we look after our wellbeing without a clear understanding of it?
We share our clinical views on what wellbeing is and reference Martin Seligman, a psychologist. Wellbeing is a construct. It is more than just being happy. We know that realistically we cannot experience happiness every second of every day. This is because happiness is an emotion and like all other emotions, including anxiety, they are short lasting and come in waves. Many of us have a notion that we should be happy all the time, and if we aren’t then we should spend our time searching for things that makes us happy so that we can have a good level of wellbeing. This is misguided because we forget about all the other positive emotions and factors in our lives that are also important. As such, we risk living a life unfilled and actually become unhappy.
According to Seligman, there are five elements that make up wellbeing, and if we give some time to each area then overall we are likely to experience good level of wellbeing. A good way of remembering the elements is through the acronym PERMA;
Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.
Let’s break down each element further:
It is not enough to experience just happiness. We need to create opportunities and engage in activities where we can experience a range of positive emotions such as joy, peace, excitement, inspiration, and creativity. Take a moment to consider if there are activities that you engage in that brings you these emotions. Can you do more of it? Of most importance, we need to experience optimism. Optimism is the emotion that enables us to view life’s challenges and setbacks in a positive and constructive way. Clinical research shows a high correlation between optimism and positive wellbeing.
Engaging in activities that meets our needs for engagement elevates our wellbeing. This could be a work project or a hobby. If we can find an activity where we are so absorbed by it to the point where time literally flies, then we can say that we were fully engaged and entered a ‘state of flow’. Being in a ‘state of flow’ means that we are so immersed by what we are doing, and we deeply enjoy it. Too often we are on autopilot, thinking about the next task in hand, or our worries, that we are not fully engaged. Research shows that being in a state of flow stretches our intelligence and our resilience; it’s key to nurturing and boosting our wellbeing.
It comes as no surprise to know that humans thrive on connecting with others. We are social animals and have an innate need to connect with other humans. Making time for our relationships and surrounding ourselves with people who bring value and support to us especially during difficult times is key to becoming an optimistic and resilient person. Take the time to examine your relationships, is there anything that could be improved on? Could you connect more?
We all need meaning in our lives. We need to feel a sense of purpose and something that we are passionate about. It’s okay not to have one right now if this is not you, but perhaps it could be worth it if you take the time to think about it. It could be work, relationships, health, spirituality or religion. Having something else that brings meaning to us can actually help us to stop ruminating over different things and become present. What is it that brings you meaning? Are you willing to make time and find out? If so, have fun experimenting.
By setting goals and ambitions and achieving them, we give ourselves opportunities to experience a range of positive emotions (bringing us back to P of PERMA) including reward and satisfaction. This alone can inspire us to set further goals and moves us forward in this journey of life. We learn to deal with daily setbacks and life challenges more efficiently and of course, it enables us to become even more optimistic and resilient. Setting goals is a good way of having something external to focus on and work towards. It takes us out of our mind. We do not need to have big goals. We can start small such as getting out of bed every morning, talking to someone once a day, and asking for help.
So, there we have it, our view on wellbeing and how we can actually look after it. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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