African American woman working from home.

Why now is the time to priortise your own wellbeing

How are you? It’s a question so many of us brush off with a simple ‘fine’. But with the year fast coming to a close, a period where many of us can feel burned out, let’s take the time to consider how we really are, by creating the space to focus on our own wellbeing.

There are so many benefits to doing so. Having higher levels of wellbeing of course makes us physically healthier, but it also helps us perform better at work, have more positive relationships with others and feel happier and more in control. From an employer perspective, focusing on employee wellbeing results in higher employee engagement, less preventable sickness absences and higher performance and productivity – decreasing costs of poor wellbeing (Gallup, 2022).

Whilst global employee wellbeing has been stagnant over the years and employees have reported to be more stressed than ever in 2021 (according to Gallup), there are positive signs that employers are taking it more seriously. Top Employers UK, for example, finds the best employers in the country are taking a more proactive approach to wellbeing, with 96% promoting physical activity, 98% raising awareness around emotional wellbeing and 58% guaranteeing staff time to ‘unplug’.

We can all take responsibility for improving our own wellbeing, and contribute to improving the wellbeing of those around us as well. Getting moving, eating nourishing food, prioritising sleep where possible, and getting outside into nature and the fresh air are powerful actions, but so too are some of the intrinsic motivators tied up into our working lives. The PERMA model, developed by psychologist Martin Seligman, provides a useful and memorable framework for helping us all think about our wellbeing. Here is how you can use it to maximise yours…

Positive Emotions. It’s not hard to see why positive emotions such as hope, gratitude, amusement or compassion contribute to our general sense of wellbeing. But how can you cultivate them? Try spending time with people you love, doing something you enjoy, leveraging your strengths and reflecting on what you are grateful for. Creating positivity for others through your attitude and other-awareness at work, such as by encouraging people to share and celebrate their strengths, will generate a powerful virtuous circle.

Engagement. Engagement means losing yourself in your activity, being ‘at one’ with your work. It’s similar to the concept of ‘Flow’, complete absorption in an activity. We achieve flow or engagement when we leverage our strengths and skills for an activity that has just the right amount of challenge and a clear goal. When we are in flow, it can feel like time has stopped. ​​You can reach this state by identifying and playing to your strengths and taking part in activities that fully utilise them. According to research, individuals who try to use their strengths in new ways each day for a week were happier and less depressed after six months.

Relationships. Relationships are fundamental to our wellbeing. Spending time with others can help us access more positive emotions, as can giving back. Connecting with others can help give our lives more meaning. How can you prioritse your workplace relationships? Create space and time for personal conversations, take time out from your working day to connect or socialise, practise active listening and ask people meaningful questions that get beyond the surface (‘what did you most enjoy doing today?’, rather than ‘how was your day?’, for example).

Meaning. Finding purpose and meaning in what we do helps boost feelings of belonging and makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. People who feel they have purpose in their lives report higher levels of life satisfaction and fewer health problems – they even live longer. Think about how what you do gives you a sense of meaning and connects to your personal values – and help others to do the same. If the link is weak, could you craft your role to give you a stronger sense of meaning?

Accomplishment. That warm glow of achievement can contribute to our wellbeing as it makes us feel proud. You could find accomplishment in completing a challenging task, mastering a new skill or reaching a goal. Intrinsic motivators, such as doing something because you genuinely enjoy it, are more linked to wellbeing than extrinsic motivators like financial rewards. Setting achievable yet stretching goals is key to accomplishment. And so is reflecting on and celebrating your successes and the successes of those around you.

Self-care doesn’t just help us as individuals. We are able to bring more value to others when we are thriving in all areas of our lives. So with 2023 just around the corner, prioritising your own wellbeing could be one New Year’s resolution worth keeping.