Happiness and wellbeing are not believed to be caused by just one thing. This, of course, is probably obvious to most of us. If it were that simple, everybody would be happy all the time. If you are reading this blog, it’s worth noting that this is part 2 of a series of 5 blog posts that cover the theory of wellbeing known as PERMA, with ideas on how you can use this knowledge to improve your own wellbeing and happiness. To read part 1, click here.
The ‘E’ of PERMA stands for Engagement. It is believed that having activities or things in our life that we can become fully engaged in is beneficial for our mental wellbeing. True engagement is often described as being in ‘Flow’ a term coined by Csikszentmihályi. The basic idea is that we enter flow when the activity is at a level that will challenge our skill in that activity but without it becoming too challenging and leading to anxiety or fear.
In a sporting context being in ‘flow’ or ‘in the zone’ is often referred to. As a climber I know this sensation well. It is when everything is going your way, you are effortlessly moving up the rock, but at a level where you are challenging yourself. It’s like nothing else around matters, you are totally in the moment, lost in the activity and being successful. With climbing the moment you slip out of flow and into fear is all too obvious because it is usually a feeling of ‘I’m going to fall!!’.
But it is not only in a sporting context that we can achieve ‘flow’ or enter into this level of engagement. I know that I also feel this way when I am presenting sessions on happiness and wellbeing. Some people will feel this sense of engagement from writing, or singing or maybe reading. Cooking is another lovely example. If you are a good cook, having 12 people over for dinner might be a challenge, but one that your skill level can match up to. I’ve seen friends totally in their element creating a wonderful meal for a dinner party and they were definitely ‘in the zone’. I, on the other hand, would be exceeding my skill level for such things and rather than being in flow or engaged, would definitely be tipping into the stress and anxiety side of things!!
So, the challenge right now is to consider what activities do you currently do, or can remember doing in the past that allows you to enter this state.
Then make sure you find time to engage in this thing at least once this week. Improving our mental wellbeing is not about just one thing, but we can start with one thing at a time. Try this simple addition and look out for the next blogs on the PERMA theory of wellbeing.
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.