Founder of Positive Psychology Dr Martin Seligman is in Australia, and I heard him speaking on ABC LifeMatters this week about PERMA – how to actively practice wellbeing. He asserts that it’s every person’s right to experience more:
- Positive Emotions – emotions such as joy, belonging, acceptance, fulfilment
- Engagement – being totally involved in doing something you love – just to do it.
- Relationships – positive, supportive connection and communication
- Meaning – doing things that are for more than just pleasure – things of purpose and philanthropy
- Achievement – knowing you have done something worth doing – even if it’s just eating an apple instead of junk food.
Seligman has been working on wellbeing for over 20 years, shifting the focus of Psychology from “fixing broken people” to “flourishing – the how of being well and happy”. He’s written best selling books sharing how to flourish. Over his career he’s worked with organisations as big as the US Army – and with schools to teach children how to flourish.
He started this work in Australia 10 years ago, with Geelong Grammar’s Institute of Positive Education He’s back this week to speak at the Positive Education Schools Association national conference
WWW? W? – a question of resilience
In a world of immediate personal catastrophe – when you’re facing war or famine – “What went wrong?” is an important question.
But when we live in a world of prosperity and can think beyond survival, the more important question for building resilience and a bright future is:
“What Went Well? And Why?”
This exercise is just one for building the foundation skills of wellbeing – and is being taught everywhere from the slums of the US south to China.
Try using it tonight at bedtime – to yourself, or with your kids. Aim to find three things (small is good) that went well – and understand WHY they went well.
Human achievement goes hand in hand with wellbeing, and so does human health. When we’re scared, depressed and anxious then our brain and our body get busy emitting inflammatory hormones like cortisol. They create a downwards physical spiral in health, from back pain to diabetes.
So if your system is out of whack, don’t just reach for tablets. Complement them with physical exercise AND some resilience training.
For more on Seligman’s approach to flourishing:
- The first interview in this week’s Life Matters series: Martin Seligman on hope and helplessness
- A video from 2012, when bestseller “Flourish” was published: Martin Seligman ‘Flourishing – a new understanding of wellbeing’ at Happiness & Its Causes 2012
- Test your current wellbeing levels at the Authentic Happiness Questionnaire Centre