A question that first needs to be addressed is the definition of wellbeing. It is more than happiness or life satisfaction and is actually very difficult to define. Dodge et al (2012) write:
In essence, stable wellbeing is when individuals have the psychological, social and physical resources they need to meet a particular psychological, social and/or physical challenge. When individuals have more challenges than resources, the see-saw dips, along with their wellbeing, and vice-versa.
This is represented by a see-saw with our resources on one side and the challenges on the other:
It is interesting, the idea that to have a good level of wellbeing we need resources or support but we also need challenge. The problem with clergy is more often the challenges outweigh the resources. Also, times of transition are particularly difficult because the challenges increase and the support reduces. For example at the end of curacy a priest may move to a new area, losing many of the relationships that have been built and at the same time finding they are shouldering more responsibility and encountering unfamiliar situations.
Martin Seligman, developed a model of psychological wellbeing in his book Flourish (Seligman, 2011). He believes that the below five elements can help people work towards a life of fulfilment, happiness, and meaning. The elements are:
P – Positive Emotion
This is the pleasant life – warmth, good food, comforts, luxury items, travel. They make you happy while you are experiencing them but don’t have any long term impact on happiness.
E – Engagement
This is when we are absorbed in something and time disappears or ‘flies by’. Athletes refer to this as ‘flow’. It occurs when our highest strengths are matched with highest challenges in that moment. Consequently, it is really important that we find our greatest strengths and use them. We are so in the moment that only afterwards do we say ‘that was fun’ or ‘that was wonderful’.
R – Relationships
Relationships and social connections are crucial to meaningful lives. It is not very often that we value things alone – we want to share a sunset with someone else. We long for intimacy and love, we feel pain when we experience isolation. Strong relationships provide support in difficult times that require resilience.
M – Meaning
Belonging to and serving something that is bigger than ourselves gives us meaning. Religion and spirituality provide many people with meaning, as can working for a good company, raising children, volunteering for a greater cause, and expressing ourselves creatively.
A – Accomplishments
Having goals and ambition in life can help us to achieve things that can give us a sense of accomplishment. Having accomplishments in life is important to push ourselves to thrive and flourish.