Wellbeing in context
Widening circles and bi-direction effects
The effect of shifting the mean of the wellbeing spectrum
Shifting from Me to We and from short term to long-term thinking
Guided by wellbeing science, this framework differentiates the psychological conditions that support wellbeing, from the skills and practices that foster these conditions.
3 Core Capabilities
These are fundamental behaviours or skills that can be developed or learned. Practising them nurtures the psychological principles, and makes them more effective.
The capacity to be aware in real time, of whatever is going on around us and inside us, with an attitude of curiosity, and without instantly reacting or rushing to judgement. This involves directing attention to our experience while we are experiencing it – both inner experience (thoughts, emotions, body sensations) and outer experience (how we are interacting with others and the wider world). This is the skill of mindful awareness – mindfulness. The well-established benefits of mindfulness extend beyond the individual, to improved relationships, increased helping behaviour, decreased polarisation, better leadership and organisational outcomes.
Seeing struggle and suffering opens our heart and motivates us to help. Kindness and compassion are behavioural responses that seem to be hardwired; they are seen in very young children and social animals,, produce positive emotions, and activate the reward centre of our brain. Having an open heart benefits both givers and receivers.
The ability to carefully evaluate information is an essential skill for understanding a situation and knowing how to respond appropriately. It requires us to appraise the reliability of the information source, and what has motivated it. Clear thinking is fuelled by curiosity and healthy scepticism, and the willingness to change our views in the light of sound evidence.
It is often assumed that good choices are the consequence of clear thinking or rationality alone, but we believe that good choices and wise action result from the combination of an open mind, open heart and clear thinking.
5 Psychological Principles for Well-Being
These are evidence-based psychological conditions, each of which makes a major contribution to individual and collective wellbeing. The more of these conditions that are in place, the stronger the foundation for flourishing.
How do the Core Capabilities Influence the Psychological Principles?
1. Feeling connected to others
How we relate to others has a profound effect on their wellbeing and ours. When we connect in a mindful way, we really see and hear them, while at the same time being aware of our own thoughts and emotions. This makes us more likely to respond in a considerate way, and less likely to be triggered. Showing kindness or acting with compassion when someone is struggling or suffering can produce deeper and more enduring relationships, and a greater chance of working co-operatively towards common goals. Clear thinking helps us evaluate needs, beliefs and motivations in ourself and others, and respond in appropriate ways.
2. Sense of autonomy
Autonomy is being able to make choices, and mindful awareness combined with clear thinking, enable us to see and carefully weigh up the options, including options that can benefit everyone. If there are few desirable choices, kindness or compassion towards ourself or whoever is making the choice, can help us accept difficult decisions.
3. Feeling competent
Being mindful helps us notice the pleasant experience that arises from feeling effective and making progress towards valued goals. It also helps us recognise discomfort when we or others feel incompetent, while kindness and compassion help us manage the discomfort. In new and challenging situations, clear thinking alerts us to the need for additional learning, perseverance, or the courage to seek support.
4. Noticing what's going well
Positive experiences and attitudes produce many benefits for our mind and body, and for how we relate to others in the world around us. But our inbuilt negativity bias often gets in the way. Sometimes a deliberate shift is needed to become aware of pleasant rather than unpleasant experiences, of strengths rather than weaknesses, of beauty and goodness. Mindfulness practice can facilitate this shift, while clear thinking about its benefits, encourages us to deliberately savour the positive. Compassion is important if negativity has become pervasive or overwhelming.
5. Sense of meaning
Feeling that what we do is worthwhile and makes a contribution beyond the self, motivates and energises us. A sense of meaning comes about when our actions are congruent with our values. Being mindful helps us recognise what we truly value, while clear thinking helps us identify and implement congruent actions. One of our pre-eminent values is caring for others, including the natural world, and this is underpinned by kindness and compassion.