Because many of us spend up to one-third of our time at work, our jobs play a big role in our wellbeing.
Wellbeing is about human flourishing, achieved through the proactive care of our mind, body and spirit, and is just as important to our working lives as it is to our personal lives. Happier individuals out-perform their less-happy peers on work performance, as well as physical health and relationships1.
Positive psychologists, who study the science behind human flourishing, have developed a theory of wellbeing known as PERMA-V2. PERMA-V identifies the following six elements as essential to our wellbeing:
- Positive emotions
Experiencing emotions such as joy, interest and contentment on a regular basis are important for our wellbeing.
Positive emotions trigger an upward spiral of wellbeing. They expand our possibilities for social, intellectual and physical interactions and broaden our range of habitual behaviour. Experiencing joy has been shown to encourage our desire to push the limits and be creative. While feeling interested increases our urge to digest new information and to explore. Positive emotions result not only from our current experiences, but also from reflecting positively on the past and looking forward to the future.3
Have you ever been so immersed in an activity you enjoy that you feel a sense of flow and lose track of time?
That's engagement, and it occurs when we use our strengths to perform an activity we like, are good at and which gives us energy. Being fully engaged creates a sense of flow, or blissful immersion, which contributes to a sense of vitality and wellbeing. Engagement helps us learn and grow, which develops our abilities. It also contributes to a sense of accomplishment and the experience of positive emotions.
Positive relationships - with colleagues, friends and family - are critical to wellbeing. Humans thrive on love and positive emotional and physical interactions with others. Research shows the pain centres in our brain are activated when we're at risk of being isolated - from an evolutionary perspective isolation is disastrous for our survival.4
Expressing gratitude is one way of building positive relationships. It can develop friendships and positive working relationships, improve empathy and establish a sense of wellbeing. Studies have shown people who practise gratitude have better physical health and mental resilience.5
This is about having a sense of purpose or the pursuit of something bigger than ourselves. It includes engaging in work that provides meaning or fulfilment, as well as spiritual, religious or community activities, creative work and raising children.
Having a sense of purpose and meaning increases our sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. When we feel our work and activities have an impact beyond ourselves we experience a range of positive emotions and associated behaviours, which improve the quality of our life and work.
A sense of achievement that comes with reaching our goals and being able to accomplish what we set our minds to.
Achievement does not mean winning awards (although it can!) it means the ability to meet goals you set out to achieve. It may be writing a report in time, delivering a project or completing a task well. A sense of achievement and accomplishment contribute to feelings of pride and fulfilment.
Eat, sleep, move. Vitality is about feeling healthy, capable and energetic, and having a zest for life.
High vitality is about feeling alive - living energetically with a sense that your actions have meaning and purpose. High vitality is supported by nourishing the body with healthy food, good sleep and physical activity. It also includes activities that are good for the mind and spirit such as mindfulness, meditation and stress management.6
- Dr Lucy Hone, psychologist. http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/inspire-me/90888926/Lucy-Hone-Striving-for-happiness
- The PERMA theory was developed by psychologist Dr Martin Seligman, and developed by other positive psychologists to include 'Vitality'.
- Dr Barbara Fredrickson, psychologist. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3122271
- "The neural bases of social pain: Evidence for shared representations with physical pain" published in Psychosomatic Medicine journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273616/
- Harvard Medical School http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude
- University of Pennsylvannia https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletters/authentichappinesscoaching/vitality
Interview with Annalise Roache, Positive psychology practitioner: http://www.thecoachingtoolbox.co.nzThe positive psychology programme: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/perma-model/ 'Positive emotions and wellbeing', https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-cultures/201611/positive-emotions-and-wellbeing