THE MINDSET OF WELL-BEING. The difference between being happy and having well-being
Think for a moment about someone you know that makes you feel energised and happy. Now think about their main characteristics. You may come up with things like; they smile a lot; they’re interested in others; they are open and always find ‘good’ things to say.
Now think for a moment about someone you know that makes you feel down and who zaps your energy. When you identify their characteristic you may come up with things like; they rarely smile’ they always find a reason not to do something; they only seem interested in others if that other is having a bad time.
When these two types are compared most people would want to be around the former – wouldn’t you? So it figures that when people are around us they too would find us more compelling if we display the characteristics of a more positive personality.
We are now entering the realms of Positive Psychology and creating our own happiness. Creating our own happiness for happiness sake can be fun – for a while – but like all hedonistic activities we can end up desensitised to it, eventually saying to ourselves ‘there must be more’. It is here that we meet the challenge of creating ‘well-being’. According to Dr Martin Seligman (author of Flourish) well-being is underpinned by five elements:
1. Positive emotion – ability to appreciate, thus creating the sense of a ‘the good life’
2. Engagement – being completely absorbed by an activity and where time stands still
3. Meaning & purpose – belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger
4. Positive relationships – other people, they are our antidote to being down and our most reliable ‘up’ (as discussed above)
5. Achievement – accomplishment, freely chosen for its own sake.
Take a little time to think about these five areas and ask yourself where they are present in your life. For example, I belong to a local community choir which contributes to my well-being in the following ways:
1. Positive emotion - Singing, especially in harmony, makes me feel joyous (however, without element 3 below, I would soon be asking myself ‘what can I do with this?’
2. Engagement - I am completely engaged and never want it to end – the 2 hour rehearsals fly by
3. Meaning & Purpose - We sing in concerts to raise money for cancer research. We also visit homes for old people and hospitals and bring some joy to the residents and patients
4. Positive relationships - There is plenty of laughter and chatter when the choir meets, and we support each other. The Choir Mistress is also great fun. (I get far more pleasure and I am more motivated when I sing with others than singing on my own at home)
5. Achievement - When we learn a difficult piece with 3 or 4 part harmonies I feel a great sense of achievement as in the past I have never been able to harmonise. The more I achieve the more joyous and engaged I feel and so it goes on………
If these five elements are not yet all present in your life, explore what these areas mean for you. In so doing, you may ask yourselves questions like:
1. What makes me laugh or smile and feel happy inside? What is good about my life?
2. When do I feel completely ‘at one’ with a task/activity I am doing? What am I doing when time ‘flies by?’
3. When do I feel that I am contributing to something bigger, something of importance that benefits others?
4. What part do other people play in my well-being? How do other people lift me and how do I lift others?
5.What have I achieved that I feel proud of? or what would I feel proud to achieve?
Once you have found answers to your questions (which may of course change over time), set about finding ways to incorporate what you have identified into your life. This may be through work, through a hobby or past time. However, one word of caution, well-being is not achievable as a solitary pastime – we do need to connect with others. The role that positive relationships play in our well-being is incalculable and is the ‘spark’ that ignites the other four elements.
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