July 30, 2022
Writer: Azie Libanan
Editor: K Ballesteros
Creatives: Jacklyn Moral, Krystle Mae Labio
“To flourish is to find fulfillment in our lives, accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks, and connecting with others at a deeper level—in essence, living the “good life” (Seligman, 2011).”
Fairly recently, while we were all struggling to navigate the many unforeseen circumstances that the global pandemic has propelled us into, the classic concept of flourishing (and its spectrum pair, languishing) has re-emerged and taken on new meaning. “Flourishing” had even become a buzzword, for a time, on the internet.
After years of working on learned helplessness, Dr. Martin Seligman introduced positive psychology that supported related landmark studies on flourishing and well-being that are very useful now in a time of heightened uncertainty.
As Dr. Seligman puts it, “the discipline of positive psychology studies what free people choose when they are not oppressed.” It aims to achieve for everybody a positive human future, and not just a nonnegative human future. And this is anchored on the elements of well being. 
Well-being or flourishing might itself be defined as “a state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good” (VanderWeele, 2017a; VanderWeele, McNeely, and Koh, 2019a) or as “a state where people experience positive emotions, positive psychological functioning and positive social functioning, most of the time” (Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, 2010).
According to Seligman, the well-being theory is plural. This means that it is a dashboard theory and not a final common-path, monistic approach to human flourishing. For instance, positive emotions alone are subjective variables: what you think and feel are dispositive. And as he puts it firmly, “well-being cannot exist just in your own head: well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, engagement, good relationships, and accomplishment”. 
Seligman’s PERMA model for well-being can better define “flourishing”. It has five measurable elements:
- Positive Emotion (of which happiness and life satisfaction are aspects)
- Engagement (being in flow, being one with the music)
- Good Relationships
- Meaning and Purpose (belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger than you are)
- Accomplishment, Achievement, and Mastery
As a psychotherapist, Dr. Seligman’s work has focused on removing the disabling conditions of life. He says that this is laudable, but he emphasized more on the contention that this is not the same endeavor as building the enabling conditions of life.
Once in a while, he adds, he would do pretty good work. He would get rid of almost all of a patient’s sadness, anxiety, and anger. He thought that he would see a happy person. But what he mostly got, he shares, was an empty person. Building the skills of having better relationships, more meaning in life, more engagement, and more positive emotions are almost entirely different from building the skills of living with and managing depression or anxiety, or anger problems. So it is important to understand that positive psychology proponents endeavor to develop interventions that build the enabling conditions of life, not just interventions that decrease misery.
Self-care and Flourishing
According to the Oxford Living Dictionary, self-care is “(t)he practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health…well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress”.
Butler et al., in their work, posits that such the definition of self-care highlights two central aims of self-care. One is to limit negative outcomes, and this entails guarding against, coping with, or reducing stress and other related adverse consequences. Another aim is to promote broad positive outcomes, specifically, to maintain or enhance well-being and overall functioning. Hence, self-care is about taking proactive steps to enhance resilience and overall well-being. 
Another proponent of the research on flourishing, Dr. VanderWeele, has released a very helpful, evidence-based guide on activities to flourish. The activities and interventions are divided into four categories :
1. Cognitive exercises. These can be respectively viewed as an orientation of the mind to what is good in either the past (gratitude), or in the present (savoring), or in the future (imagining).
- Gratitude – taking time once per week to reflect upon five things in life that you are grateful for and writing these down, and then repeating this for ten consecutive weeks
- Savoring is sometimes described as the capacity to attend to, appreciate, and enhance the positive experiences in one’s life/ Saving means thinking about positive events, recognizing what is good in the present situation, trying to heighten one’s focus on and awareness of a present positive experience, and sharing or celebrating something good.
- Imagining one’s best possible self – imagining and writing about one’s best possible self increases various aspects of well-being
2. Behavioral exercises
- The use of character strengths – taking a survey to identify one’s five central character strengths and then using one of these top five strengths in a new way, every day, for one week.
- Acts of kindness towards others – A number of studies also suggest that doing acts of kindness do not only increase others’ well-being, but they also increase one’s own sense of well being. Acts of kindness refers to helping others, and going out of one’s way to be of assistance to those in need
- Volunteering in the community – volunteering and regularly participating in various volunteering activities and organizations is a commitment to repeated acts of kindness, and is generally directed to an important goal of improving the life of a community
3. Institutional and relational commitments – these are voluntary activities and commitments that can substantially contribute to human flourishing, if and when participation in them is appropriate. These commitments are considered as extensions of oneself and are oriented to the good of communities. Such commitments entail seeking the good of family (marriage), the good of the world (work), and the good of the transcendent or divine (religious community)
4. Workbooks to address psychological distress – there are workbook interventions that can help address various forms of psychological distress, and they are essentially oriented towards removing or helping people recover from what are sometimes conceived of as three central negative emotions: sadness (in the case of depression), fear (in the case of anxiety), and anger (experienced in unforgiveness).
More details of this journal article through this link.
To end, we go back to the WHO’s definition of Mental Health:
Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in. Mental health is a basic human right. And it is crucial to personal, community and socio-economic development.
Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders. It exists on a complex continuum, which is experienced differently from one person to the next, with varying degrees of difficulty and distress and potentially very different social and clinical outcomes.
This definition echoes what flourishing as a concept is at its heart, and this is our glow up wish too for you and me this 2022; may we all go for our goals, grow our relationships, glow from the inside out, and flourish.
 Butler, L. D., & McClain-Meeder, K. (2015). Self-Care Starter Kit. Retrieved at: http://www.socialwork.buffalo.edu/students/self-care/index.as
 Butler, L. D., Mercer, K. A., McClain-Meeder, K., Horne, D. M., & Dudley, M. (2019). Six domains of self-care: Attending to the whole person. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 29(1), 107-124.
 Seligman, M. (2014). Flourishing as a goal of international policy. In Creating a Sustainable and Desirable: Insights from 45 global thought leaders (pp. 113-116).
 Seligman, M. (2010). Flourish: Positive psychology and positive interventions. The Tanner lectures on human values, 31(4), 1-56.
 VanderWeele, T. J. (2020). Activities for flourishing: An evidence-based guide. Journal of Positive School Psychology, 4(1), 79-91.