Wellbeing and its definition have been discussed by philosophers and psychologists throughout time. What makes a life worth living? How do we define and measure wellbeing? How do we drive and create it? In 2012, Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, developed the theory of PERMA as an attempt to examine some of these questions. It states that the five components of well-being are:
There can be some confusion around the P in PERMA (positive emotion), though.. Simply put, positive well-being isn’t the absence of negative emotions. True wellness is a state of action with the freedom to oscillate between positive and negative states of mind. In fact, negative emotions are extremely important! Like all emotions, they have a beginning, middle, and an end, and if you try to take a detour, that stress will continue to live in your body. For us to experience well-being, we need to learn how to turn toward difficult emotions, process them, and move through them.
Burnout happens when we try to take that detour and get stuck in or avoid an emotion rather than moving all the way through. It should be noted that dealing with or removing a stressor doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve dealt with the emotion. For example, someone in school may think that because they’ve turned in their thesis that their stress will subside. Instead, they find themselves sick in bed with a cold. The stressor itself may be gone but the stress is still working its way out.
Try as we might, we can’t ignore the difficult stuff; instead, we need to process it. Fortunately, emotional processing is a skill you can learn, and it can become easier with practice. Here are seven ways to move through and complete the stress cycle:
Wellbeing requires us to deal with negative emotions, not ignore or avoid them. Let your feelings run their course! It’s the only way you’ll be able to get back to the P in PERMA!