What is 'Wellness'?

You must have come across the term 'wellness' or 'wellbeing'. You can find it in advertising, the media, and the corporate sector. 

In this learning opportunity, you can read about a hot topic, learn some new vocabulary, and express your opinion verbally and in writing. 

If you have a conversation partner or a teacher, you can use the topic as the basis for conversation practice.

How to use this material

  1. Warm up by recalling prior knowledge.
  2. Read/listen to the article, focusing on main ideas.
  3. Check unfamiliar words in glossary/dictionary.
  4. Answer comprehension questions by revisiting text.
  5. Reflect on questions; consider writing or recording answers.
  6. Prepare short oral presentation using 4/3/2 method.
  7. Review material multiple times using spaced repetition: hours, day later, 3 days, then a week.

1. Warm-up Questions

  1. What comes to mind when you hear the term "wellness culture"?
  2. Have you ever tried any wellness practices like meditation, clean eating, or energy-boosting supplements?
  3. Do you believe that purchasing products or experiences can lead to true happiness and well-being?
  4. What do you think are some potential drawbacks of a "good vibes only" approach to life?

2. Read the text. 

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The five-step wellness model that really works – and the psychology behind it

There’s nothing wrong with a bubble bath but there’s more to wellness than pouring a glass of wine and lighting some candles. Chiociolla/Shutterstock

Ben Gibson, De Montfort University and Victoria Ruby-Granger, De Montfort University

The wellness movement appears to have the answers that our burnt-out minds need. However, psychological research and practice suggests that a superficial focus on candles, juice cleanses, and a “good vibes only” approach to life is unlikely to create meaningful changes to your wellbeing.

It’s not a surprise that wellness culture has become so popular, especially among women and young people. A US$4.4 trillion (£3.5 trillion) wellness industry promises that clean beauty, clean eating and energy-boosting supplements will provide happiness, meaning and a stress-free existence. But if wellness can be bought, why aren’t we all happier?

Purchases may make us happy (and even reduce some lingering sadness) but genuine changes to wellbeing are probably limited. In fact, feminist critics, journalists and psychologists have expressed concerns that wellness culture may exacerbate destructive perfectionism, promote an unhealthy relationship with our bodies, and even draw people into conspiracy theories and multi-level marketing scams.

Wellness culture focuses on what feels good for you as an individual, providing only a surface level experience of wellbeing. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, said in his 1991 book Flow, that “it is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness”.

Indeed, psychological research suggests that long-term wellbeing comes from a committed pursuit of both pleasure and meaning. Consider the psychologist Martin Seligman’s model of flourishing: Perma. Seligman’s model breaks wellbeing into distinct, workable “elements”, which gives us an idea as to how to make wellbeing more achievable.

A 2016 study of 1,624 participants recruited online found an intervention based on the Perma model increased levels of happiness and helped decrease depression symptoms, although the intervention seemed to work best for people around the middle range of wellbeing.

Studies have also found Perma-based interventions promoted wellbeing in university students following the Covid pandemic, seem to improve the emotional states of lung cancer patients and decrease anxiety in breast cancer patients. And researchers have tested this model across different contexts, ages, and cultures.

Perma is an acronym that stands for what Seligman considers the five pillars of wellbeing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. This model suggests that rather than spending money to focus on “self-care”, we should aim to meet what psychologists consider our fundamental, psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

Perma suggests we ask ourselves: Am I acting in ways that make me feel competent, in control, and connected with others? Here are some wellness tips that work, based on the five pillars of Perma:

1. Positive emotions

The broaden-and-build theory states that we are at our most psychologically creative, responsive and flexible when we are experiencing positive emotions. However, it’s important to move beyond momentary hedonic pleasure and aim to reap the rewards of a range of positive emotions. This allows us to experience more positive emotion, as part of an upward spiral effect.

Take one (or more) of psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s top ten positive emotions, and find ways to cultivate more of it in your life. These emotions include awe, joy, inspiration, gratitude and love. For example, to cultivate gratitude try the three good things exercise: take time to list three good things that happened in your day, or three things that you felt grateful for. You can also write about the cause of those things.

Maybe combine this with nature’s wellbeing benefits by looking for three good things in nature. If it’s difficult to find green space in your area, there are creative ways to incorporate connection with nature into your daily life, such as taking the time to look at the stars at night. Notice the bumblebees or count the different types of plants you see on your walk to work.

2. Engagement

Find an activity that gets you into flow, a state of deep engagement in an intentional, inherently rewarding activity in which we lose track of time and feel at one with what we are doing. It’s also sometimes known as “getting into the zone”.

Flow activities stretch us just enough to keep us engaged, but not so much that we become bored or demotivated. High flow activities include music, sports and even gaming.

Two women hold each other with happy expression on their faces
Look for people who celebrate your successes.Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

3. Relationships

It’s quality over quantity when it comes to personal relationships. It sounds simple, but look to (or find) people who are eager to celebrate your successes and be wary of those who belittle them.

This will help you prolong the good feelings that go along with life’s little wins. Personal connection is important, and features as a core component in most theories of wellbeing.

4. Meaning

Find a way to connect with something larger than yourself. Volunteer, join a community group or perform a random act of kindness.

Thinking about a future best possible self can help you set goals and help you understand what gives you purpose in life.

5. Achievement

Do something challenging; something that stretches your abilities. You may want to identify and use your strengths. Some strengths, such as perseverance, are related to achievement. True positivity is not just about feeling good, but about rising to the challenges that life sets us.

Just remember: Perma pillars are independent paths to wellbeing, but they’re also highly related. Taking up dancing, for example, might be a way to experience positive emotions and flow, allowing you to make new connections so that you stick at it long enough to develop a sense of purpose or achievement. The Conversation

Ben Gibson, Lecturer in Applied Psychology, De Montfort University and Victoria Ruby-Granger, Lecturer in Psychology, De Montfort University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

3. Glossary.

Here are some key words you might not know. 

Superficial - appearing to be true or real only until examined more closely.
- to make a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling worse.
- relating to or considered in terms of pleasant (or unpleasant) sensations.
- the right or condition of self-government; independence.
- the state or quality of being closely connected or associated with someone or something.
- existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.
- extend the duration of.
Core component
- a fundamental or essential part.
- steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
- disadvantages or problems.

4. Understanding Check

Answer the questions below by referring back to the text. You can check possible answers at the bottom of this page but you don't need to.

  1. According to the text, what criticisms have been raised about the wellness culture?
  2. What is the Perma model, and what are its five pillars?
  3. How did the Perma-based intervention affect participants in the study mentioned in the text?
  4. What are some examples of activities suggested for each of the Perma pillars?

5. Reflection Questions

  1. Think about what you now know and think about the topic. Read and think about the questions then write or speak your responses. Why not record yourself?
  2. Do you think focusing on superficial aspects of wellness can truly lead to long-term well-being? Why or why not?
  3. How do you currently fulfill the five pillars of the Perma model in your life?
  4. Reflecting on your own experiences, do you think pursuing both pleasure and meaning contributes to a sense of well-being?
  5. In what ways do you think societal pressures or trends influence our perceptions of happiness and well-being?

6. Speaking Practice

Now, answer the question below. Speak for as long as you can. Try the 4/3/2 or 3/2/1 method. 

Take your time. Make notes if you like - but not full sentences - and then record yourself responding to the prompt below. 

Speak for 3/4 minutes the first time. Speak again for 2/3 minutes. Finally, speak for 1/2 minutes. Your final version will be more fluent, concise, and with a clear opinion.

Discuss whether you believe focusing on finding meaning in life is more important for well-being than simply pursuing pleasure. Support your viewpoint with examples or personal experiences.