Balance and perspective have been themes for me this week. The coaching conversations I have been having, have all been related to balance and perspective, and how it is so easy to lose track of either and get caught in a cycle that has a negative effect on our well-being. These attacks on our well-being can feel like they come out of nowhere. They slowly creep up on you and overwhelm you, impacting on your mood, behaviour, and your ability to think rationally.
During a coaching session when we were discussing this, Martin Seligman’s PERMA came back into my mind. If you are a regular reader of my blog or have listened to my Connected Living podcast you will recognise PERMA. I have used it a lot, it is a really simple acronym to check in with your mental wellness. Seligman’s research showed that there are 5 elements of life promote mental health and help you flourish.
- Positive Emotion
He suggests if we attend to these we will maintain a mentally healthy life and flourish. In our busy lives, when work, complicated home lives and global pandemic’s get in the way it is often challenging to maintain all 5 elements. So it is not always possible to prevent an attack on our well-being and the difficult painful emotions that result, but what we can do is maintain balance and perspective. If we attend to all 5 elements we are able to see that the emotional pain we are experiencing is acute and will pass, and for everything that is painful and difficult in your life, there are aspects that bring your joy, and contentment.
Over the past year and half I half have experienced frequent and sustained attacked on my well-being, as I am certain most of you have, and there have been times when I have focused on the pain and discomfort and attempted to dampen it down or push it to one side. It never worked and it always leaked out effecting how I behaved, how I saw the world and how I saw myself. When I stopped fighting the pain and attended to myself and in particular the those important 5 elements, I was able to acknowledge that these emotions were not all encompassing and there was plenty of opportunities to see joy.
To make it easier to use PERMA for each element below I have suggested some questions you ask yourself, to help you gauge if you need to pay it more attention than you are now.
Do you smile everyday? Not a forced smile when you see your boss, but a genuine heartfelt smile when you see someone you like. Or do you laugh when you see or hear something that amuses you? Or like me do you burst into song in the kitchen when a favourite song comes on the radio or playlist?
Do you take part in activities that engage you completely? Like playing a musical instrument, playing computer games, knitting, exercise, reading, talking with a best friend. An activity that is for the activities sake, that requires no encouragement, you do it for the sheer pleasure and contentment it gives you.
Do you have connections with people that is not just on a transactional level? People you have a shared experience with, that you can talk to, listen to, and be heard. Connection with people that have a level of interdependence, even if it is over the phone, or via zoom, connections with other humans is vital.
Do you have a purpose? Does your life hold meaning? The why question, why do you do what you do? I am a parent, a husband, and a coach. This element for me over the past few years has caused me the most challenge, as my purpose has shifted or has been challenged. As my children grew up my purpose as a parent shifted and I had to find new meaning in that. Nearly 2 years ago I stopped being a Nurse, and for a few months I felt lost and adrift, as this coincided with Ben my eldest son leaving home, which was then followed by a global pandemic, and the next August Jack my youngest leaving home. This for me is the one element I have to revisit and re-examine the meaning my life has. Hence the regular blogs I suppose.
What have you achieved this week? It does not have to big and dramatic, just a challenge you have set yourself. It might be doing 10,000 steps, finishing work on time, getting to work on time, or not swearing in the car on the way to work. Acknowledging small wins privately or publicly will shift your mindset to a more optimistic view. It does not mean you ignore so called failures, after all if you are like me that would be impossible as it is my default setting, it means you actively pay attention to what you do well and give it equal billing with your shortcomings.
It is worth considering PERMA every week, just to check in with yourself, to prevent you getting overwhelmed by all that is challenging in your life. It is so easy when we are busy to neglect one or two aspects of our lives, and before we know it everything has just got too much.
Be kind to yourself and take care.