Flourishing: A Path to Well-Beingby Nicola on 2015-05-13
Flourishing: A Path to Well-Being
By Dr Nicola Davies
As a community, Kugluktuk has been through many negative experiences involving the residential schools. These schools no longer exist, but they continue to affect the different generations within families.
When a person is surrounded by a lot of negativity, it is easy for them to feel helpless and pessimistic. It also increases risk of depression, physical illnesses and even suicide. These unfavorable situations can be contagious for other people and can create a community that is collectively unhappy, unproductive and dissatisfied with life.
On a positive note, there are interventions that can turn things around. A famous supporter of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, says such interventions should not simply aim to lessen the misery of people, but should also build the enabling conditions of life.
Healthy Kugluktuk is doing its part to reduce the negative impact of the community’s past experiences through various programs and efforts,
Flourishing: To Live Heroically
When people are exposed to conditions that make life worth living, they more easily flourish. Flourishing is a term in Positive Psychology that refers to a positive and optimal way of living. It should not be mistaken to mean living a life that is perfect and free from illness or difficulties. Rather, it is a positive approach to life despite the reality of negative past experiences or existing problems. Looking at weaknesses often leads to frustration. Instead of looking at weaknesses and spending so much time and energy attempting to fix them, a flourishing adult identifies and focuses on their strengths. Flourishing builds towards a high level of well-being.
It is true that not all people are born naturally optimistic. Some have a natural tendency to be sad. Traumatic experiences, such as those that took place during and as an effect of the residential schools, can increase the tendency to have a negative outlook on life. It is also true that some negative thoughts or emotions cannot be avoided or eliminated. However, flourishing can help a person deal with negative thoughts and emotions. It allows a person to still function well in society despite any negative thoughts. Seligman calls this ‘living heroically.’
Flourishing can be rewarding and life changing. To be associated with the word ‘hero’ is rewarding in itself, even if it is only about dealing with one’s own thinking and behavior. Positive things like happiness, growth and purpose are also rewarding in themselves. When a person envisions a flourishing life ahead, it develops a hopeful outlook for the future, which can ultimately change the person’s future for the better.
How can Inuit Flourish Together?
Inuit can make human flourishing the central goal of their community. Positivity, like negativity, can also be contagious. Individuals who live heroically and deal with negative adversities around them can therefore build towards a flourishing future together as a community.
Flourishing is a measure of how high a person’s level of well-being is. Seligman says there are five specific areas that measure how much a person is flourishing:
Positive Emotions. Good feelings, moods and emotions affect a person’s happiness and overall satisfaction with life. Inuit can practice positive feelings, especially optimism. Seligman considers a person optimistic when they view setbacks as temporary, changeable, and will not affect everything else that happens afterwards. Kugluktuk members must openly participate in activities that provide positive emotions, such as volunteering and community games. During their personal time, they can practice good feelings like contentment by making a habit of listing down good things they are grateful for before going to sleep.
Engagement. This refers to a state where a person is fully absorbed in an activity. Their attention is completely focused on the task at hand, to the extent that they can easily lose track of time. The experience of being fully engaged is rewarding in itself and builds on a person’s motivation. This happens when tasks bring a level of challenge that the person knows they can overcome. Inuit can practice engagement by discovering new skills and talents and pushing the boundaries of their known talents to discover or develop new ones. Skills can be physical (driving), mental (English speaking), or even emotional (positive self-talk).
Positive Relationships. Connecting with other people is needed for personal well-being. Healthy interactions with other members of the community builds stronger relationships and encourages people to listen and be empathic to others. A positive relationship means both people are flourishing and this can build the well-being of the community. It can be developed through communication building and group activities. People who are experiencing trouble with personal or family relationships can assess them and take time to improve them. If improving personal relationships seems beyond a person’s own capacity, then they could ask for the help of a counselor.
Meaning. A person finds meaning when they feel they belong to an effort that serves a bigger purpose. When an effort is known to benefit other people other than the self, it gives meaning to the actions of the person and improves their well-being. Kugluktuk members can find a deeper meaning in their relationships when they practice kindness and forgiveness. They can find meaning in mentorship and volunteer work that helps others. They can also join initiatives that protect their heritage, values and culture.
Achievement. How can a person continue to be engaged and find meaning in tasks when there is no sense of achievement? There needs to be personal growth and development for a person to flourish. People need to have goals to work towards. Kugluktuk members must be made aware of their goals as a community. They must also know their individual roles so that they find meaning in them. Consistent engagement with their role will build competence and expertise.
Flourishing is a benefit for the person and for society. It allows people to focus on their strengths and the optimistic side of life, despite inevitable difficulties. It also allows a community to gain from the positivity and relationships of members who are engaged and productive, helping them find purpose in their lives. Ultimately, flourishing builds towards a happy community that has a high level of collective well-being.