Wellbeing is a popular topic these days and everyone seems to have a wellbeing product or tip. When I think of wellbeing, I often think of those dreamy, wanderlust posts on Instagram, then after a few minutes, I come back to reality. I would love to have a completely stress free, blissful life, but it ain’t going to happen. Do you know why? Because life happens.
I don’t know about you, but some days I rush from one thing to the next, eat breakfast or lunch whilst doing 10 other things, skip going for a walk, or overthink all the things I still have to complete.
Hey, I know what you are thinking……. I should have my shit together as I’m a psychologist. Unfortunately, I don’t have superpowers, even though a lot of people think as soon as you graduate uni with a psychology degree you can read minds. How much fun would that be?
Now back to wellbeing. A much more interesting and important topic. Wellbeing in the simplest sense is feeling good and doing well across different areas of our life. The level of wellbeing we experience at any given time is based on the situations we find ourselves in and what we do we think, feel and do.
So, although I get stressed and feel overwhelmed from time to time, this is not an everyday occurrence. My wellbeing ebbs and flows depending on what’s happening in my life and how much attention and importance I place on it.
An interesting way to think about wellbeing is to see it as sitting on a continuum, with one end representing languishing, low levels or an absence of wellbeing and the other end flourishing, high levels or an abundance of wellbeing. The middle zone is the functioning zone. We sit in different zones of wellbeing depending on what is happening in our life.
Languishing – Functioning – Flourishing
If you are in the languishing zone, it’s highly likely you are unhappy, everything feels hard and you feel that you are getting nowhere. When languishing, the following experiences are common: poor health, high levels of psychological distress, active signs and symptoms of mental health condition/s, social and interpersonal problems, and feeling lost or empty. If this is you, you certainly need to take proactive steps to boost your wellbeing. Talking to a health professional about how you feel and what options are available is a good start.
If you are in the functioning zone, things are generally going well, but you feel there is more to life or you wish you could be happier and more fulfilled. You more than likely experience some stress and feel overwhelmed at times, depending on what is happening in your life. Maybe you are dissatisfied or bored, or you are indifferent. Or maybe you are not achieving all you would like to or you are unsure about your direction. Overall, life is going okay but you probably aren’t living your life the way you want to be living it. The functioning zone is like a comfort or as usual zone.
If you are in the flourishing zone, you are fit and healthy, are interested and involved in your life, experience a wide range of positive feelings, have strong social connections, achieve your goals and feel good about your accomplishments, and have a strong sense of direction and purpose in life. Life is going great and you get the most out of each day.
Where do you fit on this continuum – are you flourishing?
Most of us would like to be flourishing, however, we are often in the functioning zone and for some of us, we can find ourselves languishing. Unfortunately, flourishing just doesn’t happen, we have to make choices and do things to boost our wellbeing. When we flourish, we thrive, we are at our best. That’s not to say that we don’t experience challenges or setbacks, it’s just that they just don’t knock us for six. We bounce back and take what has happened in our stride because we have lots of internal and external resources to help us cope.
There have been many times in my life when I’ve been in the functioning zone and I don’t know about you, but even as a psychologist I‘ve found it a bit overwhelming trying to work out what I should do to feel and be my best with all the information out there.
Seeing people in my practice and talking to friends who felt the same way motivated me to cut through all the hype that surrounds wellbeing. This led me to Positive Psychology, which is the science of wellbeing. Yes, there is such a thing. In fact, it’s one of the fastest-growing areas of psychology.
Psychology is often criticised for being too focused on the past or on problems, however Positive Psychology studies what makes life most worth living. One of the founders of Positive Psychology, Professor Martin Seligman identified five pathways to wellbeing. These pathways are ways of being and ways of living that lead to flourishing. Many in the field have recently added an additional pathway due to the ever increasing recognition of the connection between physical and mental health. Known as PERMAH, this is a simple framework for understanding wellbeing and the practical steps that we can take to improve it. These pathways to wellbeing will be the topic of my next blog. The key to wellbeing is finding feel good exercises and activities that boost these pathways.
Here is a sneak peek at a feel good exercise.
Each morning before you leave for work, spend a few minutes writing down three things you are grateful for in your life. They can be big or small. Take the piece of paper with you and look at it you need some positivity in your day.
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