There are a lot of different definitions for wellbeing. The Oxford English dictionary simply states that wellbeing is ‘The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy’. The World Health Organisation include wellbeing as a key part of the definition of mental health: ‘Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’
But how useful is a definition?
There needs to be some agreement on the nature of wellbeing in order to try and enhance it otherwise there can be no measurement for improvement and certainly no united cause. Psychologists have gone further than just a definition and developed whole theories of wellbeing and the one I will outline is known as the PERMA model (Seligman 2012). This model/definition is very dominant into the field of Positive Psychology and I like it because the model in itself can act us a tool to enhance wellbeing.
This theory becomes a tool when we use it to reflect on our own lives. PERMA outlines five categories that are believed to help people lead, happy, fulfilled lives. Ideally, each of the five elements will be accounted for, so as I highlight each one, consider whether this is an area in your life that needs development.
PERMA is an acronym for the 5 categories
P - Positive Emotions
This can be linked to happiness, feeling joy, satisfaction, having fun. What do you engage in that gives you some positive emotions? Perhaps something you do for fun, just for you.
E - Engagement
When we are fully immersed or engaged in an activity we are said to be in ‘flow’. Everything is just flowing, happening as it should, seemingly without really having to think about it. This may happen for you in a sporting context, cooking, playing an instrument or something else.
R - Relationships
Humans are social beings, we need social interaction with friends, family and even colleagues. But ideally, we want these to be positive relationships. We have connections with many people, some will be more positive than others. Reflect now on your 3 most positive relationships.
M - Meaning
Recognising that there is something greater than ourselves is seen to be beneficial to our wellbeing. Therefore engaging in activities that help connect us to greater causes, perhaps in the community or through a charity can be very beneficial. We need purpose and meaning in our lives, for many this is bringing up a family, for others, it is in their work.
A - Accomplishment
This is about having goal directed behaviour. What are you working towards to develop or grow? Accomplishment is about doing something just for the sake of achieving it. You could choose to climb a mountain or learn the guitar for no other reason that it would be an accomplishment to achieve this.
Over the next four weeks, I will go into more detail on E R M and A and set challenges for each. So if you want to make sure you get to read them when they come out, sign up for our newsletter below and we will send them straight to your inbox.
But until then, the challenge for this week is to focus on where, when and how often you are experiencing positive emotions. Note down the things you do just for you.
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.