“Your well-being is of primary importance, especially right now”. You must have heard that many times over from your partner or boss since the pandemic hit. Unless you live or work with someone who you should not be living with or working for in the first place. Now you know.
But what is well-being anyway? According to Martin Seligman, Father of Positive Psychology, well-being can be defined in these five elements:
According to Seligman, to attain full life satisfaction, you have to have positive emotions, engagement (flow), positive relationships and accomplishment in your life.
In his book Flourish (2013), Seligman explains that:
“No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it. Some aspects of these five elements are measured subjectively by self-report, but other aspects are measured objectively… Happiness has three aspects: positive emotion, engagement, and meaning, each of which feeds into life satisfaction and is measured entirely by subjective report… Well-being cannot exist just in your own head: well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships, and accomplishment. The way we choose our course in life is to maximize all five of these elements.” (Seligman, 2013)
So now that the meaning of well-being is clear to us, can it also be increased? According to Seligman, you can try these four actions to make this possible:
1. Say ‘thank you’
I have written about the three blessings before in a post about gratitude. This is an exercise that you can do at the end of the day when you reflect on the three good things that happened to you. Unfortunately, we are somehow wired to focus on negative incidents when truly, there are a lot of beautiful things that happen in a day. Writing them down makes you really pause and remember. What makes this exercise more powerful is to add why they went well. Knowing why makes them easily repeatable.
I started doing this again the last few weeks and in the morning. The exercise improved my mood and made me more resilient to stressors. It has also made me more aware of the little things that I don’t usually notice, like clean water, fresh coffee beans and evening walks.
2. Relive good times well
Remember the time when your partner went home with the good news of getting promoted? Do you remember how you responded? Even in the movies, we often see the partner responding, “That’s great, honey. You really deserve it.” Dr. Seligman calls this the wallpaper. It doesn’t count.
There is also a popular vignette of a female CEO’s life where she went home very excited one evening and told her mother that she just got promoted to CEO post. To which her mother replied, “Did you get the milk?”
Both of these replies hurt relationships. Instead, try ACR. Not CPR. ACR stands for Active Constructive Responding. It shows real interest in the situation at hand by asking, for example, “How did the promotion go? Tell me all about it.” Your partner/daughter then goes to remember the positive situation and you end up reliving it together. This kind of communication is supposed to strengthen your relationships. Stop and savor.
3. Put your strengths to work
What are your strengths? Have you used them lately? There are two popular tests out there with which you can find out what strengths you have, the:
They are two different tests and VIA is free but the results match. I have taken both. According to Seligman and the researchers behind both tests, putting your strengths to work, you are happier, develop better relationships and live the best version of you. If, for example, creativity is your strength and you are only transcribing data all day, you might be in the wrong job and need to do something creative. This will increase your engagement with your work, give you meaning and a sense of achievement.
4. Be kind
Once I was cranky and my mother said, “Go out and help someone.” I thought then, “Well, what would that do?”
In Seligman’s teaching, he gives his students assignments of doing something fun and doing something good and comparing the impact of the two actions. While doing something fun, like hanging out with friends, is a good mood booster, doing something good and being generous is something that lasts a longer time.
Altruism is a simple exercise that works and lasts. It turns out that we are wired to help others and be phlantrophic.
In other words
Gratitude, ACR, strengths and altruism are the four roads to an improved well-being. The more you practice, the more happy you get. And it is not just about smiling all the time but having that inner joy that makes you rebound easily from the lemons that life might throw at you. Practicing starts with a personal choice. As soon as you wake up in the morning. #
- Authentic Happiness website
- Clifton strengths online assessment
- Seligman, M. E. (2013). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Atria Paperback, a Division of Simon & Schuster.
- Online course on Positive Psychology: Martin E. P. Seligman’s Visionary Science by University of Pennsylvania
- VIA Character strengths assessment
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