How's Your Wellbeing?
Happy New Year!! But don't worry, I'm not going to start with any of this New Year, New start crap....
I think we've been through enough drama so how's about a really easy 2021?
Yes??!?!?!? Erm yes!
Over the past 20 years I've turned myself into a human guinea pig and tried so many different things to improve my wellbeing and ultimately my happiness.
So I've taken it upon myself to really fly the happiness flag this year (no rah rah, I promise)...
When you have a great wellbeing, this in turn helps you to flourish which in turn makes you happier - win/win right?
So I thought it would be a great start for us to begin this year with the founding father of Positive Psychology - Dr Martin Seligman
He recognised Psychology only focussed on the pathology of an individual, which is what is wrong with you. Psychology was leaving out the good bits of a human.
So, Seligman developed the Positive Psychology movement back in the early 2000's to balance this out.
And I've been fascinated with this field for the past few years.
So a great introduction to this field is the ability to measure our own wellbeing.
Seligman developed a really simple model and measured it within countries around the globe.
He found that Denmark had the highest wellbeing (38%) and the UK was only half of that.
I can almost guarantee that this will have dramatically shifted downwards this year.
So it's now my job to help us to fix this. I want you to do something for me first though...
When you read this, I want you to do more than just read it....
HOW can I do that Nik???
I want you to FEEL it.....
Everything you read from now on I want you to embrace it. Embrace it and begin to take it on yourself and embody it. This is where the magic lies.
I spent over twenty years learning stuff and then passing it onto my clients but I missed the most important bit out....
ME! I wasn't doing the changing myself.
So twenty years later, I WISH someone had told me this ages ago. So I've just saved you that lost time. Don't do it.
So I want you to feel it and embrace it into your life. Fully immesrse yourself in anything you read from now and you'll begin to notice that you're doing things differently.
So, back onto Seligmans Model within Positive Psychology.....the Model of Wellbeing
It's in five parts and has a handy acronym - PERMA
The P stands for Positive Emotion.
When you experience emotions throughout your life, what happens to your mind, your body and your actions?
What happens when you experience happiness?
What happens when you experience anger?
Do you actually feel any emotions at all?
When I was growing up, my brothers very often got mad at me, but they didn't cry in front of me at all.
So when you last felt an negative emotion, how did you try and get rid of it? Did you drink, eat, take drugs or get into a relationship that you knew wasn't right for you?
This past year without my own form of distraction, I've found it really tough to sit with some pretty awful emotions; sadness, depression, loneliness, fear. And what I would have done before is get super busy being busy. Travel, seeing friends, going out, working or eating copious amounts of chocolate. Anything to not have to feel that emotion.
But this year, in all its blaze of glory including lockdowns, I found that I couldn't distract myself from feeling these crappy emotions.
So what did I learn to do instead? As hard as it was at the time, I sat with the emotions and I did absolutely nothing.
And do you know what actually happened? In time they passed. As I dealt with and felt raw from one emotion after another, I found that it actually got easier to handle the negative feelings.
I then learnt to replace the negative emotions with the more positive ones.
So instead of "Why am I going through this" it became "This is a lesson I needed to learn".
Instead of "We're never going to get through this" it became, "I'll never be blessed with so much time at home again"
And instead of "I'm never going to have my own family", it became "I will get my own family, it might not look like what I thought it was going to look like, but it will happen".
I started adding affirmations into my phone so when a negative thought or emotion happened, I didn't start to spiral.
These affirmations reminded me of the love I had already in my life, gratitude for the things I already had and all the joy I knew existed in my life.
So having the ability to a) feel any emotion and b) understand when you might be spiralling and replacing them with a more positive thought can lead to more positive emotions.
The E - stands for Engagement
When did you last lose track of time?
You know when you're doing something you love and you forget what time it is, sometimes you even forget to eat or drink!!
This is when levels of engagement are high which is also known as flow.
The higher your level of engagement, the higher your well-being will be.
I remember studying for my psychology degrees and as much as I disliked exams, I would find myself totally immersed in the subject. Hours and hours would pass by as I went over the material and I'd seem to wake up from a trance hours later completely oblivious to the fact it had gone dark.
What work do you do that makes you feel like this, what hobbies do you have that you love to do, which person makes you feel like this and what topics do you get engaged with?
The R - stands for Relationships
This is the area that's probably suffered the most this year.
Being locked up in a 10ft x 10ft room with your partner for most of the year probably hasn't been the most fun and for those of us that are single, try dating during a pandemic!
We've all suffered with this huge loss of not being able to see nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, mums, dads, sons, daughters, grans, grandads, friends, the whole lot.
As much as I've loved not having the long commutes, Ive really missed the face to face interactions with other humans.
The hugs, the touch, even eye contact at the supermarket. It's all disappeared.
I can imagine though that this is the one area you won't take for granted again.
Those Christmases with Uncle Barry will never be quite as annoying again!
As much as I don't agree with lockdowns, this is the area that I think will bounce back the quickest after this is all just a distant memory.
The M - stands for Meaning
You know when someone asks you when you're a kid: "What do you want to do when you grow up"? You'd get super annoyed and grunt a "Dunno".
Or you were the other kid who knew from an early age exactly what you wanted to do.
I fell into the first category. I didn't really have a clue what I loved until my mid twenties.
I'd always asked a lot of questions about people so there was an early sign that I was fascinated by people.
So having meaning within our lives is important. It gives us that feeling of belonging and of contributing to the world.
No one wants to get to the end of their life on this planet and realise they should have done something different.
The A - stands for Accomplishment
You've heard, 'the winner takes it all"? Winning is great right, it has a nice feeling.
And for the first few decades of my life, I felt that failing wasn't an option.
Even if failure stopped me trying in the first place.
Now though, I have focused on having a growth mindset. A mindset that a failure still teaches me lessons and edges me forwards in life.
So this isn't about wining at all.
It's about living life on your terms when free of any influence.
What is it you choose to accomplish within your own life?
Accomplishment is actually living life on your terms. When free of any influence, what is it you choose to do for your own sake.
The PERMA model gives us a really great foundation to understand our own well-being more. When we feel that life has thrown us a few curveballs, this gives us a way to figure out how to improve it, area by area.
You could start with looking at your positive emotions first, then work your way through the model having a look at how these things currently show up in your life.
If you find that one area needs some focus, stop and focus on that one area.
Positive Psychology is the way we move forwards collectively as human beings.
No more looking at what we have wrong with us, lets begin to look at what's right.