Wellbeing – living life to our full potential
In positive psychology, wellbeing is a heightened state that’s beyond just feeling happy or having good health. It’s a condition of flourishing, where we thrive in many aspects of our lives.
Wellbeing isn’t as straightforward as just being happy. Wellbeing looks at lots of different elements that make us complex humans tick. It considers how we:
- cultivate meaning and good relationships
- use our strengths
- contribute to a ‘greater’ cause
- find pleasure in losing ourselves in things we find challenging and enjoyable.
Wellbeing also explores the deep satisfaction we find in our social connections and in accomplishing things. Humans inherently want meaning and purpose in life. One way to achieve meaning and purpose is being a part of something greater than yourself.
Wellbeing helps us:
- stay resilient when times get tough
- build social supports and self-efficacy
- emerge from our challenges even stronger, knowing we have the ability to cope with adversity.
A strong sense of wellbeing contributes to good mental health. It also helps to protect us from feelings of hopelessness and depression, acting as a ‘guardian’ of our mental health. Mental health is not merely the absence of mental illness rather it’s a state of overall wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’
Wellbeing is about making a life where we can contribute to a greater society. Where we can have a more fulfilling existence with meaningful and supportive relationships. Wellbeing gives us a way to discover and explore our strengths. Wellbeing helps us live life to our full potential.
The pursuit of well-being and happiness has been going on for centuries. It began over 2,000 years ago in China, Greece and India with great thinkers like Confucius, Socrates and Buddha.
Ways to wellbeing
A pioneer of positive psychology, Professor Martin Seligman, tells us that wellbeing is made up of five main factors that contribute to human flourishing. He believes we should choose to maximise all five elements to achieve greater wellbeing, and in turn flourish.
Five main factors that contribute to our wellbeing
These ‘building blocks’ of wellbeing are easily remembered as the acronym ‘PERMA’:
Feelings of pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, comfort. We can take responsibility for our feelings, cultivating happiness and gratitude.
Living an engaged life, being absorbed and connected to activities to the point where we lose track of time and effort (flow).
Connections to other people and relationships give us support, meaning and purpose in life. Positive relationships have been found to have enormous influence on our wellbeing.
Being part of and working towards something that’s much larger than yourself rather than purely pursuing material wealth, it might be a political party, a charity, leading your local soccer team, helping your religious group, school council, or being a passionate bush regenerator, refugee advocate or volunteer in a shelter. Spiritual people have been found to have more meaningful lives, because they believe in something greater than themselves.
Pursuing success, achievement and mastery of things for their own sake can build self-esteem, self-efficacy (useful in tough times) and a sense of accomplishment.
Working on each of these factors (positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment) can help us flourish in all aspects of life.
What can we do to improve our wellbeing?
It’s good to know there are lots of things we can do to enhance our wellbeing. These skills are now being taught in some schools and to business leaders across the world.
We can all learn new ways to feel more positive emotions, have stronger relationships, and find meaningful work.
The following elements all contribute to wellbeing and resilience:
- finding your strengths and using them
- mindfulness and meditation
- lifestyle – sleep, exercise and diet.
This article comes from the brilliant minds at the Black Dog Institute.