Happiness or Wellbeing?

In a state of wellbeing, people can manage their happiness throughout life’s ups and downs, pick themselves up and move forward.

Positive Psychology looks at guiding somebody from feeling okay to really flourishing. Research from James Cook University (Dr Maria Hennessy) supports Martin Seligman’s work on the topic. Seligman (2011) suggested that there are five key elements of wellbeing, which make up a model, ‘PERMA’:

• P: balancing positive emotions and negative emotions for life satisfaction
• E: engagement, or a sense of being really in the groove of what you are doing
• R: social relationships which connect you to other people in your life
• M: having a sense of meaning and purpose in your life
• A: having a sense of skill, mastery, or accomplishment in your work.

Hennessy refers to ‘flourishing’ as a scale measure in ascertaining an individual’s wellbeing, when someone’s, ‘firing on all cylinders’. The opposite end of this scale refers to people who are, ‘languishing’, experiencing low levels of wellbeing. Others are in the middle of the scale, ‘moderately mentally healthy.’

Based on JCU’s research and the PERMA model, happiness is only a small part of wellbeing.

If in a state of wellbeing, people can manage their happiness throughout life’s ups and downs, they are able to pick themselves up and move forward again.

What do we have in place to support and encourage members of our School Community to flourish, to promote wellbeing?
• Provide purpose and engagement – our approach should be consistent, deliberate, visible and fun!
• Celebrate achievements
• Support difficulties, unconditionally
• Build strong relationships and belonging within the community – eating lunch together, having face-to-face conversations, Buddy activities, laugh!
• Encourage physical activity – physical and psychological health go hand-in-hand
• ‘Three good things’ – listing three good things that have happened in a day – our students write Diary sentences each day…..
• Weave our School Values as a thread throughout all aspects of life.

Hennessy encourages us, “to give ourselves little boosts of happiness everyday” – this will make a huge difference to our overall wellbeing, she concludes.

Martin Seligman (2018): PERMA and the building blocks of well-being, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2018.1437466


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