The Physical Aspects of Happiness & Wellbeing

The Physical Aspects of Happiness & Wellbeing

As most of you know I (Dr. Happy) spend much of my time talking about (and, obviously writing about) happiness and the various applications of positive psychology. 

Within this, I tend to focus more or less on different aspects of positive psychology and on different strategies that have been shown to boost happiness depending on my audience and, to be practical, on how much time I have. 

Accordingly, the reality is, that in a short keynote or a brief blog posting, some things get lost; and some of those things are important things! And I know I'm not the only one that finds this frustrating at times but…you can't do everything (now there's an important happiness lesson)!

Anyway, one of the apsects of happiness, health and wellbeing that I make a point of trying NOT to leave out is physical happiness. What is physical happiness? Well, by that, I refer to exercise and activity; diet and nutrition; sleep and rest. 

The basic premise is that it's hard to be happy if you're literally sick and tired all the time. 

Just to give you an example I was, last week, speaking to several hundred teachers from a school in Sydney and I mentioned my concern that many of us and many of their students were almost certainly sleep deprived! I noted that I could not imagine that they, or their students, could possibly funtion at the their best if they were tired and, therefore, their cognitive functioning was affected (e.g. their thinking, memory, attention, concentration, decision making etc). There was a unanimous response from the audience…yes that's so true! 

Anyway, with all this in mind I thought you might enjoy and find helpful this article I read a few months ago in which my friend Jeremy McCarthy writes about "phsical flourishing" on the Positive Psychology News Daily website. It begins like this…

With the release of his new book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin Seligman presents his new model for well-being under the codename PERMA. PERMA is an acronym for the five pillars of well-being that Seligman has identified through decades of research and thought on the science of human flourishing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and (the newest addition) accomplishment.

My first reaction when I learned of the PERMA model was that it neglected to consider the importance of physical health to well-being. Movement, exercise, fitness, mobility, touch, and so on are all physical aspects of life that are critical to well-being, and yet they seem to be left out of the PERMA model. Did Seligman allow his psychologist experience to narrow his field of vision to only the psychological domain?

I had the opportunity to hear Martin Seligman explain how he chose the 5 pillars of PERMA at the recent Leading to Wellbeing conference held at George Mason University. Each of these five components is something that people pursue intrinsically and independently of the others. According to Seligman, people pursue meaning, engagement and accomplishment for their own sakes, and not only to experience more positive emotions.

Seligman mentioned that he had heard a lot of criticism for the absence of physical health in his model, and he thought long and hard about including it. But he believes that physical health is pursued ultimately as a means to one of the PERMA ends, and not as an end of itself. I think this is still good fodder for debate, and one could argue that we have a need for physical well-being that transcends the psychological aspects of PERMA. But it does provide a clearer framework to understand the PERMA model, and to begin to ask questions of how elements of physical health and PERMA might interact.

What would Physical PERMA Look Like?

You can read the full and original article HERE

And as always, we'd love to know what you think so please come and visit our Facebook Page and post your comments on the relationship between physical health and psychological health (or happiness!)

Thanks in advance and have a great Monday… : )