A novel but simple framework has been designed to help understand the critical dimensions of human flourishing to improve emotional wellbeing.
The Plasticity of Wellbeing
Focusing on awareness, connection, insight, and purpose alongside targeted mental training, a new study has proposed will foster better emotional wellbeing. The study, ‘The Plasticity of Well-being: A Training-based Framework for the cultivation of Human Flourishing‘, has been published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US).
This is imperative in the times that we live in today. The framework has been designed as a starting point to act as a common language and for further evolution. Each of the four dimensions is subjective. The good news is that everyone can strengthen each dimension through focused training.
Of course, for this to work, there needs to be a great deal of self-awareness and discipline to learn, undergo training, and ultimately integrate each skill’s practice and application into one’s daily life.
Awareness is the first dimension. It relates not only to the internal senses, thoughts, and emotions but also to external awareness of one’s environment. In short, it is being present and aware of our emotions and environment in a focused and consistent manner.
According to the authors, this state of awareness is called meta-awareness. John Flavell, a psychologist, derived the term meta-awareness. Meta awareness is –
“a purposeful focus (at a conscious level) of how you are developing and maintaining situational awareness.”
Training via mindfulness and meditation helps prevent our minds from getting distracted and allows us to remain more conscious and present. It also helps us to regulate our emotions to the extent that this awareness helps us to recognize and manage a feeling more effectively and thereby helps us consciously choose a more regulated emotional response.
With this heightened awareness and training, you can change your default emotional response, such as anger, anxiety, or frustration, to a more regulated reply, such as calm or reflection. In short, awareness helps one recognize the signals, situations, and environment that causes us to activate our fight versus flight response and allow us to remain calmer and more collected.
Operating at a high level of awareness strengthens the prefrontal cortex and helps instill and regulate our emotional responses.
Undoubtedly, the COVID pandemic and this period of isolation have allowed us to reflect on our individual needs around connections and social relations. The medical and scientific communities generally accept that the quality of your social connections and relationships is a better predictor of your quality of life.
With varied social connections comes the ability to share how we perceive each other and acknowledge our similar traits, increasing our empathy and relationships. This helps us to understand and appreciate our similarities rather than our differences.
As we regulate our emotions, this activates wellbeing and is reflected in patterns in our brain activity. Better connections can be created by extending our social environment and networking.
Actively practicing kindness, engaging in kindness meditation, and gratitude and appreciation of each other, our environment, and our communities will help our wellbeing. This all underpins this connection dimension which ultimately promotes high levels of wellbeing.
The third-dimension insight is the knowledge of our emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and behavior obtained by self-reflection and curiosity to understand our personality traits and who we are. This insight includes understanding our limiting beliefs and why we behave the way we do, perhaps due to a childhood experience that may cause anxiety in adulthood.
To gain insight suggests that we need to be in a state of insight. This is the ability to reflect on our “experiential understanding of one’s psychological processes and how the dynamic interplay of these processes influences experience.”
This insight helps us challenge our self-beliefs and clarify our maladaptive view of self and our environment, which ultimately helps us understand the impacts we have on our wellbeing and physical health.
Understanding our behaviors and emotional responses will help us to stabilize and reduce fluctuations of low levels of moods and improve our emotional wellbeing and self-esteem. Self-curiosity and inquiry activate the ventrolateral region of our brain, which increases wellbeing. However, balance is required, and it is important not to confuse this with overthinking a maladaptive trait.
Unlike awareness and connections, insight is closely linked to mindset. Mental training for strengthening this dimension includes adopting a growth mindset, having meaningful values, tracking your goals, and using CBT to replace your maladaptive beliefs.
The final dimension, purpose, is a well-used buzz word but what does purpose mean, and how can we understand its contribution to our daily lives? Purpose is – “the sense of clarity concerning personally meaningful aims and values one can apply in daily life.” Simply put, it’s the aims and values that one applies and lives by.
Undoubtedly, a strong sense of purpose is an essential component of an individual’s emotional and physical health. The alignment of aims and values equates to a more meaningful life and helps to make sense of life.
Purpose is believed to be a vital element of wellbeing; life can be meaningless and confusing without purpose. Purpose also helps an individual build resilience and steer themselves through difficult times. When an individual’s aims and values align, there is more emotional regulation and effective decision-making.
Scientists argue that having a strong purpose is a central function of becoming a healthy individual. Research shows that this is true across all age ranges as it increases memory, cognitive ability, and resilience and also helps us organize and stimulate focus and goals. In several studies, those with high levels of purpose generally had lower cortisol levels, but further research is required.
In terms of correctly aligning values with purpose, Scientists have identified that those who rely on materialistic values and external validation have low levels of wellbeing compared to those who have spiritual and/or intrinsic values that encourage wellbeing.
To increase purpose, individuals should try contemporary interventions such as acceptance and commitment therapies, healthy mind programs, and wellbeing therapies.
By identifying the four dimensions of human flourishing, the study’s authors hope to shine more light on what it is to be happy and feel a greater degree of contentment. It identifies how humans process emotions and how wellbeing largely depends on how the four dimensions are incorporated into everyday life.
My Mind News would love to hear from you on which one you will really focus on in 2023. Let us know in the comments.