KEY CONCEPTS

ACTIVE CONSTRUCTIVE RESPONDING (ACR)

Good news in itself has a positive impact on wellbeing. Sharing good news is just as important in promoting a person’s wellbeing.1 When people share their good news, the response they receive can have a significant impact on their wellbeing and the health of the relationship. Of the possible ways people respond to good news, Active Constructive Responding (ACR) has been highlighted as the only response style which facilitates healthy bonding within relationships and increases wellbeing.2 ACR involves communication responses which are supportive, encouraging and enthusiastic to the person sharing the good news, allowing the person to tell their story, relive and savour the experience and enhances positive emotions. 

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BROADEN AND BUILD THEORY

Positive emotions are generally thought to be powerful signals that life is going well. The broaden-and-build theory explains why positive emotions appear to equip individuals for future success.3 4The broaden part of the theory focuses on how positive emotions broaden attention.3 The theory suggests that negative emotions (fear, anger, sadness) are experienced in situations perceived as threatening. In these situations, attention is restricted or narrowed and individuals engage in specific-action tendencies such as fleeing, repelling, or attacking. In contrast, positive emotions widen our focus and lead to broad, creative, and flexible thinking. The build part of the theory suggests that broadened attention leads to increased engagement with the environment encouraging the building of resources over time. 

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CHARACTER STRENGTHS

Strengths are ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that come naturally and easily to a person and enable high functioning and performance.5 Character strengths are a recognised subset of personality traits that are morally valued.6 In a significant piece of work, Peterson and Seligman created and validated the Values in Action (VIA) Signature Strengths Survey which measures 24 character strengths (to access the survey click here). Further research has shown that utilising your top 5 strengths (Signature Strengths) on a regular basis increases wellbeing. 

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FLOW

In short, flow states are enjoyable, challenging and interesting experiences. The concept of flow is defined as a state of intense absorption and optimal experience that results from taking part in intrinsically motivating challenges.7 Flow is a peak experience of engagement, when people are most immersed, focused, and energised.8 The concept of flow is closely related to positive engagement. Engagement is said to consist of three related components: concentration (absorption and sustained attention); interest (curiosity and inquisitiveness); and enjoyment (feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction) States of flow represent times in life when these three components are maximised.9 

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FLOURISHING

In simple terms, flourishing represents optimal wellbeing. Within the Model of Positive Education, flourishing is defined broadly as feeling good and doing good. Martin Seligman proposed that the fundamental goal of Positive Psychology is to build human flourishing.10  Another researcher, Corey Keyes put forth the mental health continuum which sees wellbeing existing on a spectrum from mentally languishing to flourishing (see wellbeing).11 Languishing individuals have low subjective wellbeing, challenged relationships, and poor functioning, whereas flourishing individuals feel good about their lives, have thriving relationships, and function well.12 

Like the term wellbeing, there are many definitions of flourishing. Recent definitions of flourishing combine hedonic and eudaimonic elements (see wellbeing). In his book, Flourish, Martin Seligman proposes five elements of optimal wellbeing that are requisites of flourishing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. Researcher Corey Keyes defines flourishing as comprising of three components: (1) emotional (hedonic) wellbeing or the presence of positive feelings about oneself and life; (2) social wellbeing which includes feeling connected to others and valued by the community; and (3) psychological (eudaimonic) wellbeing that focuses on functioning well.11,12 Corey Keyes work is largely based on Carol Ryff’s psychological wellbeing theory.13,14 Researchers, Felicia Huppert and Timothy So started from an assumption that flourishing is the polar opposite of experiencing symptoms of common mental disorders.15

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GRATITUDE

Gratitude is about appreciating what is good in life. In the research gratitude is defined as thankfulness or feelings of appreciation that result from perceived fortune or the kindness of others.16 Gratitude is one of the 24 character strengths in the Values in Action Signature Strengths survey.17 Of the 24 strengths, gratitude is one of the strengths most strongly associated with high life satisfaction.17 Individuals high in dispositional gratitude have a tendency to notice and appreciate good outcomes in the world.18

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MINDFULNESS

A state of mindfulness has been described as being aware of the present moment with purpose and without judgement.19  Mindfulness is derived from the Buddhist meditation traditions. The majority of approaches include formal practice such as guided meditations and informal practice such as focusing on the breath or bringing open and accepting awareness to activities of daily living.20 Research has shown that mindfulness practices assist people in realising higher states of wellbeing and flourishing.21

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MINDSETS

A mindset refers to how a person views their ability to learn.22 In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck outlines how a person’s core beliefs about the stability of their intelligence and abilities greatly influences their effort, motivation, and performance. 22 People are generally found to embody one of two mindsets. People looking at tasks or challenges from a fixed mindset see intelligence and talents as naturally determined and unchangeable. In contrast, those looking at challenges from a growth mindset see intelligence and talents as malleable. Importantly, those with a growth mindset see effort and determination as essential components of success and competence.23

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POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY INTERVENTIONS (PPIs)

Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) are strategies which attempt to increase our wellbeing through deliberate changes to our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.24 For example, writing a gratitude letter can be viewed as a PPI. Researchers have reviewed experimental studies into PPIs and found them to be effective in enhancing wellbeing and decreasing depression symptoms.25 In her books, The How of Happiness (2008) and Myths of Happiness (2013) Sonja Lyubomirsky continues to investigate the effectiveness and impact of PPIs whilst taking other factors into account such as how individuals differ, environmental context, delivery of intervention and sustainability.26 

RESILIENCE

There are many different definitions of resilience. Resilience has been described by researcher Karen Reivich ‘as the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity, enabling individuals to take calculated risks and capitalise on opportunities’.27 In the book The Resilience Factor, Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté propose that resilience comprises of 7 skills: (1) the ability to manage and regulate emotions; (2) the capacity to control impulses; (3) optimism; (4) flexible thinking; (5) empathy; (6) self-efficacy and confidence in one’s ability to achieve goals; and (7) reaching out and the willingness to connect with others.28

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WELLBEING

There are many definitions of wellbeing within the scientific literature. When trying to study wellbeing, researchers have continued to emphasise that wellbeing is subjective in nature. Subjective wellbeing is often divided into feeling and thinking. A person’s perception of the balance of positive and negative feelings in their life makes up the feeling part and their overall life satisfaction makes up the thinking part. Importantly, subjective wellbeing not only includes the absence of negative experiences, but also includes the presence of positive experiences.29 Underpinning these definitions are philosophical ‘hedonic’ and ‘eudaimonic’ understandings of wellbeing. Hedonism is strongly associated with the cultivation of positive emotions and minimisation of pain.30 From this perspective a good life is one where a person frequently experiences positive emotions, and feelings of happiness and satisfaction. A core concept under the hedonic umbrella is subjective wellbeing. 

Eudaimonia as a philosophical tradition posits that happiness results from the actualisation of individual potential and from fulfilling one’s daimon or true nature.31 Where hedonic approaches focus on how people feel, eudaimonic approaches focus on what people do, how they act, and the choices they make.32 From a eudaimonic perspective, being psychologically well involves more than feelings of happiness and entails personal growth, giving to others, and living in accordance with values.33 In this way, researchers have begun to see wellbeing as comprising of a happy and meaningful life.
Corey Keyes mental health continuum proposes that wellbeing exists on a spectrum from mentally languishing to flourishing (see flourishing).34 Languishing individuals have low subjective wellbeing, challenged relationships, and poor functioning whereas flourishing individuals feel good about their lives, have thriving relationships, and function well.35

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REFERENCES

References (PDF 197.7KB)