What Is Good About Being You?

What Is Good About Being You?

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”  Buddha

In the last blog I discussed the importance of developing the personal resilience of young people for society as a whole and reminded us of the influential research by the New Economics Foundation and their 5 Ways to Wellbeing.

There are a number of self- assessments on line which various organisations have developed. A few years ago MacIntyre and the New Economics Foundation developed an easy read version of a wellbeing assessment which was co-produced by people with learning disabilities. The purpose is to widen access to the assessment and to provide useful information to someone which could be brought to their person centred review. The information can help set priorities eg see my results below but if wish have a go:


We are currently reviewing the way the final report is formatted so it more closely corresponds with the “5 Ways” but, after a bit of interpretation, here are my results:

Be Active: I did well here as I like running and live near mountains- but it tends to be all or nothing!

Take Notice: a low scoring area for me as I am always thinking what’s next and not enjoying the present (see Professor Frude’s1 suggestion below).

Give: I am ok in this area but should probably volunteer my time more.

Keep Learning: although I am not keen on formal learning I do enjoy experiencing new things and will make an effort to be exposed to new ideas.

Connect: away from work I am actually quite introverted and I confess to not being good at sustaining relationships beyond my nuclear family. A key development area for me!

As a result I resolved to volunteer more and perhaps undertake activities which will increase the opportunities for connecting with more people.

The field of Positive Psychology is based on two founding principles: personal resilience plays a crucial role in psychological wellbeing (sometimes known as psychological capital) and personal resilience can be learnt and taught. Therefore we can all build up resilience in ourselves, others and organisations. If one learns how to develop personal wellbeing then one can teach others.

I mentioned the workshop run by Profession Neil Frude in the last blog and he started with the question: “What is good about being you?” There was no opting out and we all had to think of something. I have participated in more workshops than I care to remember but I have rarely known such a simple question provoke such a stir and it took us all well out of our comfort zone (it was room full of social care professionals!).

Professor Frude then took us through a series of exercises based on research evidence which suggests that while we find it difficult to control our feelings we can learn to control what we think and do. Apparently what we think and do influences our emotions much more than we realise. As a rule of thumb our base wellbeing is about 50% inherited and no more than 10% affected by life events. This leaves 40% subject to our control and therefore, like reducing our natural level of cholesterol, through what we do it is possible to make a significant impact. We need to learn what helps us to calm down, what lifts us up and then using this self-knowledge to take action.

The Prof Frude recipe for improving personal wellbeing is to have:

–        Something to do

–        Something to love

–        Something to look forward to

He finished the day with a “What Went Well” exercise: a powerful and proven way to boost wellbeing which he has used many hundreds of times for people including those who are very unwell. At the end of each day we should recall three things that went well and ideally note them down in a book. They can be small things such as a smile, a compliment, a task completed etc. No negatives are allowed in the book no matter how many or how grave they may have been. The evidence is that doing this for just two weeks can have a measurable benefit because what the exercise is doing is to helps us to take notice of things as they are happening. By maintaining a daily commitment it has an accumulative benefit as it trains us to notice positives that might otherwise pass us by.

Although my 5 Ways to Wellbeing assessment concluded that I had reasonably good personal resilience I have been doing the What Went Well exercise and can report that it has benefitted me in two ways. Firstly, I am noticing the small things more (one of my assessed weaker areas) and, when I have had a bad day, I am forced to think of three positives which I otherwise wouldn’t have remembered and that has helped to balance things out a bit.

Next time I am going to move the discussion of wellbeing to its importance for the health and social care sectors and in particular the workforce. Professor Frude reminded us that personal wellbeing is related to our capacity for compassion and kindness and therefore: “We have a duty to improve wellbeing as the benefits will be felt by those we support