Creating A Thriving Life

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about Creating More Happiness In Your Life.  I appreciate the huge response.  It was a topic very close to my heart.

Today I wanted to share a bit more.

In fact, I wanted to create a short series, for the next four Fridays, that will help you not just “be happy” because let’s be real, happiness can come and go with our mood.  I want you to find MORE than happiness, I want you to learn how to thrive.  To be reaching and stretching.  To have happy, fun times, but also find a deeper connection with God, your family and yourself.

To put it simply- be thriving.

There is an incredible theory in the world of psychology, put out by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, called the Well-Being Theory (Flourish, 2011 Seligman).  He and his colleagues have done decades of research creating and testing this theory.  He argues that in order for a person to thrive, or in other words have “well-being,”  they need four elements in life:

  1. Positive Emotion
  2. Engagement
  3. Meaning
  4. Relationships

A quick definition of each:

  • Positive emotion: The feelings you feel everyday- pleasure, enjoyment, warmth, comfort, etc.
  • Engagement: The psychology world uses the term “flow” to describe this.  Flow is when you’re doing an activity and are so engrossed that time seems to stop and you lose self-consciousness.  Usually it happens when you’re using your best strengths, for example, a pianist deep into the music or a researcher deep into studying.  You usually don’t feel much emotion during flow, but afterwards you may think- “huh, that was fun.”
  • Meaning:  Belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself.
  • Relationships: Positive relationships with other people.

Imagine your life is like a building; held up with four pillars.  Your well-being is the top level.  The pillars represent each element.  If all the pillars are strong and straight, your building is steady.  But… if one of those pillars is leaning or absent, the top will precariously tilt or even fall off.

Well-Being Image@4x

I know what unbalanced pillars feel like.  Do you?  For me, it usually manifests through depression, loneliness or unrest.

At the risk of being too personal, here’s an example from my life. 🙂

I lived in Las Vegas with my family the year after my husband graduated from law school.  He was working full-time and studying for not just one, but two bar exams.  This left me to take care of the children and all their needs, keep up the home, and keep my husband fed and functioning.  For an entire year.  With no breaks.  I was also super pregnant.  During this time, I threw myself into taking care of my family and consequently, isolated myself from others.  The result?  I hit the deepest depression I’ve ever felt.

My “meaning” pillar was completely intact and strong.  I was definitely serving something bigger than myself, but the rest of my building?

My relationship pillar?  Gone.

My engagement pillar?  Nonexistent.  Because let’s be honest- changing diapers and doing dishes do not provide any sort of fulfillment (well… unless you’re a diaper). 🙂

My well-being tipped and tipped until finally, it just fell.

It took years of work for me to dig back out.  I had to rebuild my pillars brick by brick.  Some were painful.  The relationship pillar was the hardest.  Creating friendships and maintaining them is by far, one of my hardest challenges in life.

But I did it.  And boy, it was so worth it.

So my goal is to help you create strong, steady pillars that create a thriving life.  Or at least plant a seed that may one day sprout when needed.  We will work through these elements one by one.


Today’s Pillar: Positive Emotion.

Positive emotion is exactly what it sounds like- any feeling that is positive- pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, fun, happiness and adventure.  To thrive, we need more positive emotions everyday.

Sounds great, right?

Sounds easy?  Um…..

I’m really good at helping my children create positive emotion.  I make them cookies (pleasure).  I tuck them in and sing them a song (warmth).  I give them time to relax (comfort).  I create activities for them to do (fun and adventure).

But for myself?  Historically, I’ve been terrible at this.

But I’m not terrible anymore.  In fact, I’m getting down right amazing at it.   I fight tooth and nail to keep this pillar strong.  I know that taking care of myself is worth every second of effort.

You’re worth it too.

I want you to create a list of things you can do to “infuse” your life with good feelings.  This list will be totally unique to you.  These things don’t need to be big.  In fact, science has proven that- exercise, journaling, expressing gratitude, volunteering, savoring happy memories, forgiving and meditating- all boost mood.  And those are little things!

Sometimes, this is just a deliciously warm shower all by yourself.  Sometimes it’s praying and studying the scriptures.  Reading.  Taking a walk.  Other times it can be bigger- creating, learning something new, planning a vacation, or just finding something ridiculously fun that you want to do.

Here are a few example from others:

  • I have a friend who needs a nap. Every. Single. Day.  Her body just seems to need more sleep than others.  So she recognized that need and builds it into her everyday.  Her kids know she needs it and have learned to have their own “quiet time” while mom is resting.
  • Another mom loves to travel.  She has four young children (and is pregnant with her fifth), so money and time are short, but she and her husband make a big trip every 6 months. No matter what.  This gives her something to look forward to and plan and save for while she’s in the midst of everyday life.
  • Another mom joined an adult soccer league.  She plays once a week after her kids are in bed.  There is no other purpose in this than simply creating positive emotions!
  • Another woman is a writer.  She writes in her journal everyday.  She wakes up before anyone else and spends 30 minutes writing her thoughts.  It gives her clarity for the remainder of the day.

Your turn.  Pull out a piece of paper and write a list of things that bring you happiness and fun.  Start with small, everyday things you can do, like exercising and praying.  Move to bigger things that you have always wanted to do.

Take this list and post it on your fridge.  Do something everyday that makes you happy.  Don’t wait until you’re pillar is weak and tipping.  Be proactive.  Do something everyday to keep it strong.

You’re assignment this week:  Do something everyday from your list and pay careful attention to how it makes you feel.

P. S.  If you’re wondering how you’ll ever have time to do any of this.  Please read The Fringe Hours.  By Jessica N. Turner.  It is an incredible book about finding time for yourself.  It changed my life.

P.P.S.  Come back next Friday for Pillar #2: Engagement!!