Wellbeing strategies can help you cope with whatever life throws at you
We all have unique understandings of what makes us happy or what wellbeing actually means. A helpful system, called PERMA, breaks down wellbeing into five elements: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments.
Positive emotions are abundant. If you drew up a list right now, it might include pride, joy, pleasure, excitement. These positive emotions make you happy because they relax you. An “attitude of gratitude” can be extremely helpful when feeling these emotions. Gratitude can help you feel empathy for others and feel better about yourself.
Martin Seligman, the brains behind the five elements of positive psychology, recommends writing a 300-word letter to someone who has significantly changed your life. The gratitude you feel can significantly improve your mood and you challenge directly any fears you have about what this person might think about you.
Tips on how to increase your wellbeing
● Show gratitude. Tell someone how they have changed your life. You will realise you matter more than you think
● Be engaged in your activities and avoid multitasking. You will learn more and feel greater enjoyment
● Maintain relationships that promote your wellbeing - join similar-interest groups or spend time with friends
● Seek meaning in what you do or do what you feel has a greater meaning
● Make a list of what you have done and achieved of which you are proud
Engagement is often cited by athletes when they are “in the zone”. People may talk about feeling at one with something you’re doing. Reducing the distractions will allow you to concentrate more fully and slip into that state of flow. This may be where “multitasking” could get in the way of totally focusing on a single activity or goal.
Relationships are critical to wellbeing and can reduce or prevent stress. They have a direct effect by improving adaptive behaviours and promoting clearer thinking. Social support may encourage a person to do the things that help them the most. It can also help manage stress, increase self-esteem and the ability to cope.
The second effect is the “stress buffer”. Social support can decrease the perceived threat of a stressor before it generates a physical response. It also is a support when you are actually coping with stress.
Meaning is the fourth element of positive psychology. Attachment to a greater purpose can increase wellbeing and make you more at ease with a situation. An example would be offering to help distribute food to homeless people or running a class at a school to share your skills. These acts involve more than thinking about yourself.
The final element is accomplishment. It’s helpful to list what you think you’ve accomplished even just today. If you were writing your own eulogy, what would it say?
● This article is adapted from Feel Good: How To Change Your Mood And Cope With Whatever Comes Your Way, by Dr Shane Pascoe and Dr Graham Law (Capstone, £10.99).
Dr Graham Law is senior lecturer at the School of Medicine, University of Leeds. A scientist in health research, he leads a team looking at the impact of sleep on our metabolism and general health. He is a keen practitioner of yoga and mindfulness