• Sarah Tottle

New Measures of Wellbeing



Rather than measuring Gross Domestic Product (GDP), positive psychology focuses on measuring a country’s overall happiness level. There are several indexes used to measure happiness: The Happy Planet Index, Gross National Happiness, and National Accounts of Wellbeing. These measure what matters most: the happiness and wellbeing of people in any given country.


The World Happiness Report in 2017 found Norway to be the happiest country in the world. Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland followed close behind. Denmark had long reigned as the world’s most happy nation, with the concept ‘hygge’ (pronounced hoo-guh) the key contributor. Hygge basically means finding enjoyment in life’s simple pleasures.


Glossary:

Happiness: the state of being happy. A mental or emotional state of wellbeing defined by positive or pleasant emotions, ranging from contentment to intense joy.


Fulfilment: satisfaction and happiness at the achievement of something desired by the meeting of a requirement or need.


Joy: A feeling, source, or cause of great happiness, and the highest emotional energy that allows you to attract and create at the highest possible level.


Happiness Pie Theory:


50% of our happiness is genetic, 40% is intentional activity, and 10% is life circumstances. This means that we can control 40% of our happiness levels.


To flourish, we need the following:

v Positive emotions

v Engagement

v Relationships that are fulfilling

v Meaning and purpose

v Accomplishment

This model is known as the PERMA theory of flourishing.


Resilience


“If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it”


Resilience is a term used in positive psychology that refers to the ability to overcome setbacks. What makes resilience different is individuals usually emerge from setbacks or adverse circumstances in better shape than they were before. Some individuals can get knocked down, but they emerge stronger than they were beforehand. These people are called resilient individuals.


A resilient person will work through challenges, drawing on personal resources such as inner strength and other psychological capital such as hope, optimism, and self-efficacy, which is the belief in our ability to succeed.


Relationships play a vital role in harnessing and building resilience. Children that were raised by parents with an authoritative parent style are said to be the most resilient. However, resilience can be developed through life experiences. Authoritative parenting styles display qualities, such as warmth and affection, and give the child the structure and support they need. This is said to create well-rounded individuals.


Lopez and Snyder (2009) found that there are several protective factors that make way for the development of resilience, and these include parental educational levels, socio-economic status, and home environment (organised versus disorganised), etc. While these factors may play a fundamental role, there are occasions where a child has experienced hardship, adverse poverty and abuse but have managed to overcome setbacks and succeed in life.


Positive relationships with peers and parents, where the child is given autonomy and empathy, can help build the inner resources needed to become a resilient person. The converse of this, lack of autonomy and lack of empathy, may lead to a child feeling helpless and powerless over life’s challenges.


Children can develop resilience through learning a variety of personal resources. Lopez and Snyder call these ‘protective individual factors’ which include:


  • Good self-image

  • Ability to problem-solve

  • Self-regulation

  • Adaptability

  • Faith

  • Positive outlook on life

  • Useful skills and talents

  • Acceptance by others

Resilient people express more positive attitude, and they see failure as something they can learn from. They use failure to motivate themselves.


Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine


The Challenge-Hindrance Stressor Framework was formed by Cavanaugh et al. (2000) and means that when we are served with a problem, many people see it as an attack on them and something that prevents them from moving forward. This is the victim mentality, and it hinders progress. It thus prevents a person from experiencing resilience.


However, the opposite of the victim mentality and the hindrance perspective is the challenge perspective where a person strives to view a problem as an opportunity for growth and a chance to better themselves. The challenge perspective allows you to see the problem as something that has happened in your favour rather than against you. This allows growth and resilience to take place.

Finally, the victor mentality encourages growth and boosts resilience. With this perspective, the victor will want to know why something failed and went wrong so they can grow from it and adapt. By acknowledging the obstacles, you are positioning yourself for success.


“Resilient people are those individuals who display “the capacity to remain well, recover, or even thrive in face of adversity” (Hardy, Concato & Gill, 2004)


Resilient people choose not to play victim. They may mourn, but they opt to learn and grow from it. Resilient people tend to have the following traits: self-efficacy, good regulation of arousal and impulse, a sense of humour, attractiveness to others, flexibility, optimism and a positive self-view (Flynn, Ghazal, Legault, Vandermeulen & Patrick, 2004).


In the US army, where many of the 1.1 million employees may suffer trauma, it is also relatively common for some to experience post-traumatic growth. They become better people after the traumatic event than what they were before the event. On one end of the spectrum are people that experience PTSD symptoms, anxiety, depression, and even suicide. In the middle, there are those that experience PTSD and then recover, returning to a normal state of mind after a month or so. Finally, there are those people that experience all the symptoms of trauma, but then eventually recover better than what they were before the traumatic event.


People that face challenges and do not give up see the negative event as temporary, changeable, and local.


Three ways to become more resilient are to:

1. Express gratitude

2. Leverage your strengths

3. Savour the good


Resilience: A Two-Way Approach


Another interdependent intervention is resilience training. Luther et al. (2000) describe resilience as the ability to overcome adversity and to grow positively from the adverse situation, with state-like resilience something that can be taught utilising training interventions (Bonanno, 2005). Resilience training focuses on the employee, the team, and the organisation to help build a healthy organisation that can flourish through challenging times.


According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2011), organisational level resilience is important because organisational leaders influence resilience through their leadership. They argue that approaches to organisational resilience can be clustered into four categories:


1. Job design

2. Organisational structure and Culture

3. Leadership

4. External environment


Utilising the work of Johnson-Lenz (2009), they argue that interventions that look at the organisational environment are important because building trustworthy relationships and having social support at work means that organisations are more likely to overcome stressful encounters.


Individual, Team, and Organisational Resilience


Individual training interventions on resilience focus on not only teaching resilience itself but on stress management approaches, such as mindfulness, CBT, positive psychological interventions, and hardiness and self-efficacy training.


Employee focused interventions on their own are likely to have short-term effectiveness (Karasek and Theorell, 1990). However, fostering resilience on multiple levels (employee, team, and organisational levels) mean it is much more likely to be effective. If there are a range of resilience strategies at an organisational level, these will, in effect, increase the ability to respond to challenges. Similarly, fostering team level resilience means increasing social support and collective efficacy (Bandura, 2000), that essentially means employees do not feel alone when going through challenging situations.

Despite the interdependent approach to resilience training and its general effectiveness on multiple levels, it can be argued that organisational level interventions must be prioritised to maintain effectiveness. The focus of employees’ wellbeing must still be a top-down approach.


Resilience training, although useful in broadening an employee’s ability to cope, should not be a measure merely taken so that organisations can abdicate responsibility for their employees’ wellbeing. As a result, the Human Resources Development (HRD) model has two approaches to developing resilience, which they call reactive and proactive HRD. Reactive HRD focuses on individual level interventions that utilise a broaden-and-build model. This approach emphasises the need to broaden the employee’s coping style of positive emotions that in effect support the growth of positive psychological capital. Paradoxically, proactive HRD is an organisational level measure to increase psychological assets and reduce risk.


Although resilience training has shown effective improvements in organisations that implement it, there are several limitations to the research studies that have been conducted. There has been a lack of longitudinal research and an over-focus on self-reports that may be limited by memory bias and may affect validity due to their subjective nature.


There has also been too much focus on the individual rather than situational factors that impact on resilience. However, interventions have been useful in addressing job design, leadership behaviour, processes and culture at an organisational level. On an individual level, positive changes have occurred through addressing personality and external environmental factors, with group level resilience fostering competence and growth (Sutcliffe and Vogus, 2003).

©2019 by Sarah Tottle.