The PERMA model was designed by Martin Seligman (2011) with five core elements of psychological wellbeing and happiness. Seligman (2011) suggests that these five elements can help people reach a life of fulfillment, happiness, and meaning. This model has been applied to workplaces and schools through positive education to evidence programs to help people develop new cognitive and emotional tools or positive psychology strategies, to build wellbeing, optimism and resilience as well as allowing the reliable measurement of well-being, through a variety of methods, including with our students, valid self- report methodology. These positive psychology strategies include exercises like keeping a gratitude journal, breaking the grip on rumination, developing your strengths, and finding meaning in small tasks, and positive self-talk (McQuaid & Kern, 2019).
Each year, our QAHS wellbeing committee decides upon an element of PERMA for intentional development. Our 2022 wellbeing committee has gifted 'positive relationships' for this year's wellbeing focus. While each pillar is integral for a well-balanced life, thriving relationships appear to be the single most important determinant to happiness (Peterson, 2006). Co-founder of the field of positive psychology Chris Peterson, suggests we could sum up positive psychology in three words: "Other people matter" (Peterson, 2006).
Human beings are social beings. A sense of belonging correlates with a range of positive outcomes, including higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, faster recovery from disease, lower levels of stress, reduced mental illness and a longer life (Smith, 2017). We would not be here without the nurturing and contributions of fellow humans. Not only do we need other people to survive, we need other people to thrive.
If we reflect for a moment upon how we feel when we have a sudden joy, then reflect about how we feel when we share that joyous experience with a loved one.
Shared experience meets our biological need for social support, as each time we connect, the pleasure inducing hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving trust, concentration and focus (Fredrickson, 2013). Research indicates that thriving relationships have a powerful impact on your well-being and are the 'SUPERFOOD" for wellbeing (Fredrickson, 2017).
Fredrickson's research (2013) has discovered that it takes a micro-moment of authentic connection or 'Positive resonance' to spark an upward spiral of mutual care between people. She describes this positive resonance process as mirroring each others emotional state, in these moments becoming the reflection and extension of the other.
Fredrickson's research suggests three simple steps to create positive resonance:
- Sharing of positive emotion, such as interest, joy, amusement or pride (however it must be noted that this can also occur in a negative emotional state- compassion)
- The synchronization of your biochemistry and behaviours through eye contact, or matching body gestures or vocal tones
- A reflective motive to invest in each other's wellbeing that brings about feelings of warmth and trust
Additional evidenced based strategies to nurture our positive relationships include:
- Be grateful for your blessings in your life. Focus on what you have, rather than what you do not have. Research suggests that it is not enough to solely feel grateful to others, you need to express that gratitude (Grant, 2013). If we do this regularly, we experience upward spirals of positivity.
- Spend a few minutes thinking about your relationships and the types of interactions you have with your friends and loved ones. Do we celebrate the joys and seek out opportunities to connect? We can reflect on specific steps you can take to strengthen your bonds with others.
- Focus on what is going right, rather than wrong in your life and the world. Good things happen five times more often than bad things on a daily basis, according to one research study. We can direct our attention to the good- or 'Hunt the good'. We then ask what is the smallest thing you can do today to help grow more positivity into the world.
- Identify and use your character strengths every day, and help your friends, family and significant other to do so as well. When you exercise your strengths on a daily basis you increase your individual well-being.
Good relationships take time and energy to develop and maintain, but are well worth the effort. Making time to genuinely connect with others has benefits for ourselves and others. Seemingly small acts of kindness have been found to have a ripple effect through our personal and work networks.
This year we will be sharing research, evidence-based practices and engaging with a range of strategies to prioritise and develop relationships within our community.
Our 2023 QAHS call to action this year..
When, where and how will you prioritise authentic connection today?