Using positive psychology for increased wellbeing.
Traditionally, psychologists have been focused on alleviating human suffering by supporting individuals to relieve the negative symptoms they experience.
This is not the same as supporting people to flourish and thrive in their life in a proactive way before they begin to experience these negative symptoms.
The science of positive psychology is focused on supporting all people, even those that are travelling well, to thrive in life, and not just help those that are struggling.
PERMA model of wellbeing
The area of positive psychology is the scientific study of the factors that enable individuals and communities to flourish. So what is human flourishing and what enables us to do so?
The PERMA model for wellbeing states that there are five building blocks that enable flourishing – positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment and there are techniques to increase each.
Take a look at each of the below: how many of these elements do you have in your daily life?
Positive emotion – feeling good
Being able to focus on positive emotions is the ability to be optimistic and view the past, present, and future from a positive perspective. We can increase positive emotions through cultivating gratitude and forgiveness, savouring physical pleasures and mindfulness and building hope and optimism. Positive emotion is partly heritable however and our emotions tend to fluctuate within a range, so do not be alarmed if you don’t experience positive emotions regularly and strongly, this is not the only way towards wellbeing.
Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities
Engagement is the experience of becoming fully absorbed in the activity that you are doing because it fully deploys your skills and strengths and is just challenging enough to keep you on task. According to scientists, this experience is called “flow”. Choose tasks that create this feeling for you: an interesting work project, playing a musical instrument, reading a book, writing, building furniture, fixing a bike, gardening, sports training or performance etc.
Relationships – being authentically connected to others
Our relationships often amplify our wellbeing by providing us with some of our basic human needs: interaction and connection with other humans and allow us to experience emotions which improve mood and overall wellbeing such as: joy, meaning, laughter, a feeling of belonging and pride. From an evolutionary perspective, connection also serves us because the drive to connect with and support others promotes our survival.
Meaning – having a purposeful existence
Meaning is the sense that you belong to and are serving something bigger then yourself and is in stark contrast to the way many of us live our lives – in the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth. Studies continuously conclude that meaning (as opposed to the ownership of material possessions) leads to a greater sense of purpose, belonging and connectedness, thus enhancing wellbeing and providing a barrier against mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Achievement – a sense of accomplishment and success
Having (and achieving) explicit goals and ambition in life can give us a sense of accomplishment and improve our self-esteem and self-worth. Make your goals achievable and timely so that you feel a sense of achievement as often as possible. When you achieve a goal, make sure you savour your accomplishment.
Written by Rajna Bogdanovic
Clinical Psychologist – Clinical Psychology BPsychology/Education (Hons), MPsych(Clin) MAPS
Rajna is a clinical psychologist whose enthusiasm and passion for supporting people has led her to working with children, adolescents and adults across multiple contexts.
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