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How to take care of your well-being?

‘Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things’ Epictetus

Well-being is a concept that signifies the state of doing well. The currently promoted concept of well-being encompasses a holistic approach to life and diverse human needs. The well-being theory was developed by Professor Martin Seligman, a pioneer in positive psychology. The five main dimensions of well-being can be illustrated by the acronym PERMA, which consists of:

P - positive emotions,

E - engagement

R - relationships

M - meaning,

A - accomplishment/ achievement. 

 In order to cultivate positive emotions (P) it is helpful to understand the mechanism of emotions and a conscious practice involving, among others, meditation techniques to reduce rumination (persistent fear-based thoughts).

Emotions are not a direct reaction to what surrounds us. The brain is constantly processing past experiences (interpretations, assumptions and attitudes), on the basis of which it generates emotions and predicts what will happen next. This mechanism, described in a simplified way, is subconscious. Within seconds one starts to feel emotions and think in a certain way. Cultivating positive emotions is not about being an eternally happy person or suppressing or denying difficult, unpleasant feelings. It is a training in changing the narrative and disciplining the mind to see the beauty of everyday activities and to acknowledge and appreciate the positive side of events.

 To keep the mind disciplined, commitment is needed (E). When a person is no longer subjected to various stimuli, orders, messages, his or her thoughts may start to wander and

veer towards disturbing, depressing matters, often being the original matrix of his or her experience. In order to counteract increasing entropy (chaos, disorder), one should set quite ambitious goals for oneself, and also become involved in developing skills which contribute to the attainment of these goals. This creates harmony between feelings and actions and brings order by merging what seems to be unrelated information. This is why it is so important to occupy the mind with something positive by becoming engaged and concentrating on a satisfying and rewarding activity.

The importance of engagement is emphasised by the creator of the concept of flow, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. This theory describes the experience of flow - experiencing satisfaction and pleasure resulting, inter alia, from effortless, intense concentration on a task or complete devotion to an activity.

Involvement leads to achievements (A). Positive experiences are gained through achievements. A success in overcoming difficulties strengthens self-confidence and gives you the sense of empowerment, i.e. the feeling of being able to face challenges. The awareness of empowerment encourages further development. In an adverse situation, e.g. in a life crisis, it fills you with hope, helps you not to withdraw from efforts to achieve goals, leads to a sense of fulfilment, satisfaction and appreciation of your actions.

Finding the sense of purpose (M), especially in the face of difficulties, plays a similarly important motivational role in the achievement of goals. Searching for meaning is an effort connected with reflecting on what is known, accepting the fact of making mistakes in order to learn more about what is unknown, taking risks. The constant mobilisation and concentration of energy on the search is worth the effort, because once the deeper meaning of one’s actions is found, it fuels activity, ensures harmony and greater coherence, which increases the effectiveness of the achievement of goals.

Finally, the essential aspect of well-being I would like to address in this article is relationships (R). They signify the bond with other people, social support, being surrounded by kind people, caring for others and accepting care and the ability to love.

As early as in infancy the relationship formed between a child and the mother plays a very important role in psychosocial functioning. A child cared for by a parent who is sensitive

to the child’s needs, surrounded by care and love, develops a fundamental trust in himself or herself and in the world. Additionally, he or she acquires resources needed to perform developmental tasks in his or her subsequent stages of life. Well-being can be a continuation of these early experiences, but it can also build them anew, create something useful for us, for others and for the world, regardless of our limitations and barriers between people.

How to take care of your own sense of well-being at a time when you are permanently exposed to information, advice and advertising suggesting or even imposing ways to achieve success?

The answer is not simple, but each person can consider for themselves what they need and thus take responsibility for their own well-being, avoiding being a passive recipient of information.

One way out of an oppressive message is to question it and reflect on how to manage your life in order to maintain your well-being. The PERMA concept can be used to reflect on creating your own life: having a career, starting a family and taking care of your health and development.

Reference literature

Cikała-Kaszowska, K., Ponowoczesna koncepcja szczęścia. Logos i Ethos, 40, 2016, s. 63 –75. DOI:

Csikszentmihalyi, M., Przepływ, Biblioteka Moderatora, Taszów 2005.

Epel E., Blackburn E., The Telomere Effect. Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2017.

Khaw, D., Kern, M., A cross-cultural comparison of the PERMA model of well-being. Undergraduate Journal of Psychology at Berkeley, 2015, s.1-22.

Seligman, M., Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Alfred A. Knopf, New York City, 1991.

Wallin D., Attachment in Psychotherapy, Guilford Press, New York City, 2011. 

About the author

Alicja Strycharczyk, MA, is a psychologist and psychotherapist working at the Jagiellonian University Student Centre for Support and Adaptation.