In 1998 psychologist Martin Seligman was appointed president of the American Psychological Association (APA).
Up until then psychology had focused on reducing disease.
As president of the APA, Seligman wanted to focus on bringing about the positive ‘flourishing’ conditions of life.
His focus was on positive psychology, the study of personal strength, resilience, and what gives life meaning.
The goal of positive psychology isn’t just to get someone from sad or anxious to neutral.
The goal is to get them to thrive, flourish, and find resilience.
Our minds and our bodies are critically linked and I don’t believe either should be neglected in the overall pursuit of health and happiness.
Understandably, research effort is focused on reducing obesity because of associated disease (i.e. diabetes and cancer) and subsequent cost of treatment.
This is all very important, reducing body fat and increasing physical activity can improve and extend a person’s life.
If you don’t consistently exercise or need to lose weight, going from an unhealthy state to neutral is great. In fact, that is probably what most people need to do.
But I am of the humble opinion that everyone should find a way to explore what their body is capable of beyond the neutral. When we move beyond neutral we begin to talk about performance.
People who aren’t dealing with depression, anxiety, or other emotional disturbances don’t cost money so the conditions that promote emotional flourishing are only recently being discussed.
Similarly, people who maintain a healthy weight and exercise sufficiently don’t cost money. But outside of athletics research doesn’t give much love to the average person flourishing in their fitness.
That is, it is sufficient to be neutral in emotional and physical well-being.
There is nothing wrong with neutrality, it is better than the poor category. That being said, flourishing in different areas of life is always more fulfilling.
For example, in your work life a job is something that you do for money. It isn’t rewarding and if the money stopped coming in you would stop going to work. A career on the other hand is done for personal advancement and accomplishment.
Once you can no longer move up or have hit the proverbial glass ceiling you retire or cease with further efforts. A calling on the other hand is something you would do if no one paid you. No one can stop you from your calling.
|Relationships||Active destructive||Passive Constructive||Active Constructive|
|Physical Fitness||Obesity/sickness||Absence of disease||Performance|
|Emotional Wellbeing||Depression||Absence of depression||Passion and Resilience|
For physical well-being, obesity and sickness would lay on the negative end of the spectrum. It is fantastic if a person moves from this to a healthy body weight.
We would call a person like this healthy.
But if they wanted to move to the most positive end of the spectrum they might compete in an event and push their body to new limits. Examples would be:
- Competing in a half marathon
- Deadlifting 2x’s your body weight
- Completing a mile in under 6:00 minutes
- Doing 20 (women) 50(men) push-ups
These feats involve pushing your body past a level of comfort you are used to.
So, if you don’t think it’s sufficient to be neutral or want to learn how to move beyond neutral keep reading.
Emotional and Psychological Flourishing
All I can do is talk about my own personal experience. Everything on this list I practice either daily, weekly, or monthly.
The points I am going to cover are for emotional well-being. This means that if you do the three things on this list you will feel better, almost immediately.
The caveat is that I am not covering how to flourish in your work life. I am not going to cover how to find your calling. This is a whole separate category.
If you want to experience more emotional well-being try these three things within the next week
Start a Gratitude/Goals Journal
Once a week, usually on Sunday I like to look back and evaluate my week. Months ago, I came up with personal values that I want to live up to.
If I look back on the week and I see that one category was lacking I work on reducing the discrepancy between how I want to behave and how I did behave in the upcoming week.
For the record, I have never rated myself as very good in every category. This would be next to impossible.
At the end of the rating section I write down 2-3 things I am grateful for and then also write down some goals I want to meet or continue to meet for the upcoming week.
|Very poor||Neutral||Very good|
|Maintaining personal boundaries||1||2||3||4||5||6||7|
I am grateful for
Today’s goals are (examples)
-Fight a death eater
-Marry Emma Watson
Learn How to be an Active Constructive Communicator
There are four different communication styles. They are as follows:
- Active Destructive
- Passive Destructive
- Passive Constructive
- Active Constructive
Your goals should be as follows (1) identify where you are and (2) work towards being an active constructive communicator. Here is an example:
Your friend calls you to tell you that they went out with a new person they really like.
Active Destructive Example
Friend: “I just went out with this girl, she was awesome! She could quote entire episodes of Spongebob”
You: “Are you sure you want to date someone as immature as you?”
Passive Destructive Example (using the same scenario)
You: “Oh, that reminds me, I wanted to talk about my day at work today. My boss is such a jerk”
You: “That’s nice”
You: “She sounds right up your alley! Tell me, how did you meet?
The active constructive style is supportive and also includes some open-ended questions so your friend can talk about what is important to them.
On the other hand, destructive communication styles can make the person feel like they aren’t really being heard or understood.
Being on the other side of a destructive conversation is entirely unpleasant.
If you are anything other than an active constructive communicator you will be less likely to be the friend people reach out to when they need advice or have good news.
Of course, it’s not easy to be active constructive all the time. It does require effort which can be tiring. Just do your best to avoid falling into a destructive communication style.
Give a Spontaneous Compliment
Months ago, I was driving to get some whey protein at GNC (cause gains) and my mind went to my cousin-in-law, Tony.
Tony came up from having very little. He is now an outstanding athletic trainer at DI school and also an assistant athletic director. People respect and love Tony. He is also an intelligent strong role model. He perfectly demonstrates the active constructive communicator.
When I parked at GNC I thought I would send Tony a message expressing how much I looked up to him.
After I sent the message, I re-read it and started crying (that’s what I do with strong emotions- can’t help it). Apparently, he got a little emotional as well. His wife (my cousin) texted me later and said I had made his day.
I felt great the rest of the day.
Physical Flourishing: Going Beyond Neutral and Focusing on Performance
Even if you are in a depressed or sad state (*if you are very depressed please see a psychologist) you can still implement those three tips I just listed.
However, if you are in a poor state of health your best step is to move more towards neutral. You can do this through:
- Regular physical activity
- Creating a caloric deficit to induce weight loss
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
Now, the things that are necessary for reaching physical neutrality are the same things you need to do to achieve physical flourishing.
But to achieve physical flourishing and performance you need to do significantly more than what your body is used to. To do this, you need to create progressive overload.
Prior to that, decide what kind of performance metric you want to achieve
What do you want to achieve?
There are several different metrics that you could focus on. Some of them go hand in hand. Here is a list of some performance metrics
- Improve endurance: compete in a 10k
- Improve strength
- Increase muscular size
- Improve athleticism: jump 30 inches
- Reduce body fat (i.e. below 12% for men, below 20% for women)
Planning and Progressive Overload
If you go to the gym and work hard day in and day out you will see results. But at some point, you’re going to need an organized plan to continue to see gains.
A plan introduces the concept of progressive overload. Progressive overload is the systematic increase in training variables.
If you want to improve muscular size you should be on a plan that increases resistance training volume.
If you want to improve strength you need to systematically increase the weight you are lifting.
To compete in an aerobic event, you should increase your speed, distance, or both.
So, a plan might look like this
|CYCLE 1||WEEK 1||WEEK 2||WEEK 3|
|Squat||3×12 @ 150 pounds||3×10 @ 175 pounds||3×8 @ 200 pounds|
|CYCLE 2||WEEK 1||WEEK 2||WEEK 3|
|Squat||3×12 @ 160 pounds||3×10 @ 185 pounds||3×8 @ 210 pounds|
Notice how you increase the training weight as a you move into a new training cycle.
You can join my mailing list below to get your own free training program geared towards physical flourishing.
What to Do?
There was a lot covered here. For many people, this might have been the first introduction to the concept of flourishing emotionally and physically.
The great thing is that everyone has the capability to move towards the flourishing end of the wellness continuum.
Start by examining where you lie on the continuum and what you can work towards.
Interested in flourishing? Fill out my coaching application here.