Introduction to Wellbeing II Summary

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Congratulations on answering your questions correctly and completing Introduction to Wellbeing Unit II©.

Summary

You can download a summary of the Introduction to Wellbeing Unit II© below.

Certificate

You can access your CPD learning certificate by clicking on the “Mark Complete” button at the bottom of the page. This will take you back to the front page of the module, where you’ll be able to download your certificate.

Congratulations you have successfully completed this Wellbeing Unit

Below are your references and some suggested reading.

When you have noted these down, please continue through the Unit so that you can download your learning summary and your CPD certificate.

Aked.J., Marks. N.,Cordon. C.,Thompson. S. (2008) Five Ways to Wellbeing. A report presented to the Foresight Project on communicating the evidence base for improving people’s well-being. New Economics Foundation. London.

Antonovsky, A. (1979). Health, stress and coping. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Antonovsky, A. (1985). The life cycle, mental health and the sense of coherence. Israel Journal of psychiatry and related sciences, 22(4), 273–280.

Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unraveling the mystery of health—How people manage stress and stay well. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Eriksson, M., Lindstrom, B. (2006). Antonovsky’s sense of coherence scale and the relation with health: A systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60(5), 376–381.

Eriksson, M., Lindstrom, B. (2007). Antonovsky’s sense of coherence scale and its relation with quality of life: A systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 61(11), 938–944

Gray, D., Burls, A., Kogan, M. (2014) Developing a Salutogenic model for coaching practice: the findings of a proof of concept empirical study. International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol 12, No 2 pp. 41 – 58

Gray, D (2017) Leadership Resilience and Wellbeing. Results of a Scoping Project. In conjunction with Academi Wales. Welsh Government.

Keyes. C.L.M (1998) Social Well-Being Social Psychology Quarterly Vol. 61, No. 2 (Jun., 1998), pp. 121-140 Published by: American Sociological Association (opens in a new tab). doi:10.2307/2787065 (opens in a new tab)

McKnight. J. (2017) Asset-Based Community Development: The Essentials. Published by Asset Based Community Development Institute. Chicago. USA.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press.

World Health Organisation (opens in a new tab)

Additional Material

Some optional open access extra material for you to read and reflect upon.

The Handbook of Salutogenesis. Edited by Maurice B. Mittelmark, Shifra Sagy, Monica Eriksson, Georg F. Bauer, Ju rgen M. Pelikan, Bengt Lindstrom, Geir Arild Espnes.published by Springer Nature

Gray, D. (2017) Developing Leadership Resilience Through a Sense of Coherence, in Contemporary Leadership Challenges, Aida Alvinius (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/65770. Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/contemporary-leadershipchallenges/developing-leadership-resilience-through-a-sense-of-coherence (opens in a new tab)

Wellbeing and the ‘Best Self’ Model

The ‘best self’ model has been developed through empirical research (Gray, et al 2014; Gray, 2019) that focuses on sustaining wellbeing; and because of the way the model is designed, we are equipped to continue to understand and deepen our wellbeing knowledge over time.

There are seven spaces in the full model (see below), in this part of the programme, we look at the two polarised spaces which are called the ‘best self’ and ‘peripheral’ spaces. We go into more detail and practical guidance in the application of the full model in the Introduction to Wellbeing Unit III.

Best Self

Deep within your primordial being is a space that can be defined as your ‘best self’. This space is you when you feel the love of the world wrap itself around you. It is you when you shine with happiness. It is you when you are your purpose.

Your primordial being has other spaces too, and we could interpret these spaces as where you may experience life at its toughest, we define these as ‘periphery spaces’. You are still you in these spaces. You may feel physically unwell here, you may have low mood and be deeply sad, and even though it may seem dark here, the light still shines on and through you. Your biggest challenge when you are in the peripheral space is to accept that you can find your way back to being your best self.

Man standing on a mountain
“Mental health, as I conceive it, refers to the location, at any point in the life cycle, of a person on a continuum, which ranges from excruciating emotional pain and total psychological malfunctioning at one extreme to a full, vibrant sense of psychological wellbeing at the other.” Antonovsky, 1985, p 274

You may well be ‘stress aware’, but like many others, have become accustomed to feeling the effects of stress, so that the stressors and the effect become normalised. The ‘best self’ model serves as a visual aid, a way for you to check in on your wellbeing status, and a prompt for you to remain proactive about sustaining wellbeing.

Checking in becomes something you can do anywhere and it amounts to asking yourself, ‘What number am I? Knowing where you are gives you both a starting point to improve and/or sustain the space you are in.

Sustaining wellbeing in each of the spaces becomes your goal, and you can ascertain your ability to do this through your ‘power of return’ (Gray, 2017) towards the ‘best self’.  At times the ‘power’ available for you to do this may result in a determined crawl rather than rebounding into wellness, but that is ok, do what you can. It is encouraging to know, that you are more likely to become strong in your ‘return’ to ‘best self’ when have experienced the ‘knock down’, and having a SoC improves your ability to get up again. This is because having a SoC adds years to life and life to years (Eriksson and Lindstrom, 2006: 2007), and in order for it to become an enduring mindset, it needs to accrue, through experience and practice.

Many of us, and more than likely you yourself, find it easier to ask for help for others, but may be reluctant to ask for help for yourself. One reason for this is that you expect to be able to cope no matter what life throws at you, another reason may be that you view asking for help risks being seen as a failure.

Perhaps it will help you to know that all the evidence points us to the fact that asking for help is a key feature of sustaining wellbeing and is actually one of your GRRs.  By asking for and receiving help, you will overcome challenges to your wellbeing, and that feeling contributes to potency.  Asking for help is also a meaningful example of self-compassion, it is especially relevant during stressful situations, and literally fuels your power of return. 

Text Box: Fig. 1 Peripheral spaces in the ‘Best Self’ model. Gray, 2017
‘Best Self’ Model (Gray, 2019)

Please do not be disheartened that sometimes when you are in the peripheral spaces you find that you are alone. This is not a judgement on others or on you, it is simply how it is. Perhaps this is because some parts of the journey back to being your best self are where you have to dig deep and find your own way back. So that a critical factor in returning towards your best self, lies solely with you.

During these times your greatest power is kindness. Your kindness is turned towards your ‘self’: loving your ‘self’, supporting your ‘self’, respecting your ‘self’ and caring for your ‘self’.

There are small things you can do every day that take moments:

  • you can say ‘thank you’ to your ‘self’
  • you can say ‘well done’ to your ‘self’
  • you can say ‘ I am proud of you’ to your ‘self’
  • you can say ‘ I love you’ to your ‘self’.

Self-Assessment

Antonovsky and Salutogenesis

Antonovsky’s work initially involved discovering ways in which to cure disease, working in a public health context in deprived communities, he examined the social factors that contributed to good or bad health status for the people who lived there.

Over time, he noticed that some people managed stressful and traumatic life events in a way that contributed towards having a better health status, the thing that struck him was that this was the case even though groups of people had endured the same experiences.  This led him to shift his focus away from figuring out what made people ill, to what made people well, he looked for the origins of health and began to develop his body of work on Salutogenesis.

What is salutogenesis?

The word salutogenesis means ‘origins of health’. To have a salutogenic approach or mindset means shifting away from a pathogenic model of being, which focuses on finding out what is wrong and fixing or curing the problem, and moving towards what is good and what is working well.  Many examples of this in action are the  application of the New Economic Foundation’s work in 2008 called the ‘5 ways to Wellbeing’,  and the evidence based training known as ‘ABCD – Asset Based Community Development’, both adopt a strengths based approach to life, and much of what we know about wellbeing is constructed on this approach.

Antonovsky’s ‘salutogenic’ way of thinking and being in the world led to the publication of two very important books, these are Health, stress and coping: New perspective on mental and physical well-being published in 1979, and Unravelling the mystery of health – How people manage stress and stay well published in 1987. These books and the many more research papers Antonvosky published, form the cornerstones of salutogenic thinking and practice.

There has been many successful applications of Antonovsky’s theories of wellbeing within a range of contexts, these include, educational, community, work, health, prison, and care home settings.  If you go to the extra reading provided at the end of this unit you will find the reference to the Handbook of Salutogenesis, this is an open access reference book which provides a wealth of information about the application of salutogenesis across the world.

The Salutogenic Mindset and Model

If you have a measure of wellbeing during exposure to stressors, we can imply that you have the basis for having a salutogenic mindset.

People with a salutogenic mindset focus primarily on what is working well in their lives, this is a global and pervasive orientation and exists in individuals, groups and systems. It is an enduring way of being and persists even though you may face serious challenges and difficulties. Key to this mindset is to acknowledge that a given situation is challenging, to look for the positive gains within the experience, and assume that something good can be gained from whatever is happening.

Sense of Coherence (SoC)

Having a salutogenic mindset means that you have been able to develop a ‘sense of coherence’ (SoC) about your life and are able to apply that SoC to any situation you might find yourself in.  Countless studies demonstrate people who have a SoC fare better than their counterparts who do not, a major contributing factor is the ability to live heterostatically and not strive for homeostasis.

So what are the differences?

When you confront a stressor this brings a state of tension within your being, how you manage the tension is what counts. If you adopt a homeostatic approach you view the stressors as damaging, that they will make you unwell, that they are to be feared. If you take the heterostatic view you appreciate that stressors are part of all that life has to offer, and can be experiences that contribute to wellness. Rather than trying to get things ‘back under control’, you accept that life is chaotic and you cope by learning how to live in it, part of the process involves relinquishing a controlling mindset.

Having a salutogenic mindset means that you view your life as being on a continuum, and on this continuum you accept that it is natural to experience challenge, change, and even traumatic episodes. You know that some life events will bring about unwanted changes, the impact of which may be temporary or long lasting.

We can reduce the impact of events by developing your psychological processes to utilise your SoC, as you do this overtime, potentially harmful experiences will prove to be salutary. You may need a little help at times to develop and retain a SoC, but by choosing to ask for help in this, you become resourceful and this directly contributes sustaining your wellbeing.

The three SoC components

Having a SoC revolves around three components, these are:

  • Comprehension – engaging with this aspect of Antonovsky’s model requires you to take a step back and look at what is happening in your life from a broader perspective. By doing this you can stop from ruminating on a particular issue and see that when things have happened in the past they have not endured, things have changed and you have moved on. You see the ebb and flow of your life as part of a natural cycle.
  • Management – requires you to examine what resources you are utilising to deal with events, and to consider new ways of doing things. You know that passive acceptance is not conducive to your wellbeing, instead you adopt a managed approach and look for help, you are prepared adapt and build on what is working well.
  • Meaning – involves you understanding the reasons behind the events that are happening and helps you to find purpose from the events that are unfolding. Whatever has or is happening to you has some essence of value, you know that you can learn from this, and perhaps help others too.

Generalised Resistance Resources (GRRs)

Generalised Resistance Resources (GRRs) are the final element of Antonovsky’s salutogenic model. An indicator of a salutogenic mindset is an ability to create and utilise a bank of GRRs that sustain your wellbeing.

GRRs are all of the internal and external assets that act as buffers to stress, and help you to manage and flourish within stressful environments. They can be anything such as:

  • having a confidante
  • having a mentor
  • taking exercise
  • meditation
  • having some respite and/or recovery time.

Essentially your biggest GRR is compassion, being kind to you, making you your priority.

REFLECTIVE LEARNING EXERCISE

You will gain so much more from this unit if you take a little time now and apply some of what you have just read to your life.

  1. Get yourself some paper and a pen or pencil, give yourself a little time and explore the following by drawing out a mind map and put the word ‘salutogenesis’ in the middle.
  2. Recall an experience that you found challenging.
  3. Write a few short words to describe this.
  4. Then under the headings ‘comprehension’, ‘management’ and ‘meaning’, bring to mind (using the explanations above) how you processed and are now living with the experience.
  5. When you have done this, note down a new heading entitled ‘Generalised Resistance Resources’ (GRR’s) and under this put all of the things you did to help you get through. When you have done this complete this sentence:
    ‘I have a salutogenic mindset because……………….’

Salutogenesis

The wellbeing theory that we focus on and is core to the Wellbeing Programme is salutogenesis, a term that was coined by medical sociologist Arron Antonovsky (1979). You will discover some of the reasons why we underpin the Wellbeing Programme with salutogenic theories as you progress through this course, one worthy of note here is that it ties in with stress management.  If you have completed Unit I you will understand how stressors impact upon your mental and physical being, salutogenesis emerged from the study of stress and trauma so it makes good sense to use them here.

A feature of having/sustaining wellbeing is resilience. Resilience and wellbeing are common bedfellows and often we use the terms interchangeably, resilience however is a construct and Antonovsky’s salutogenesis is a theory.

Why am I pointing out the difference? Studies into resilience and salutogenesis have yielded knowledge that identify similar aspects, (for example we gain both through experience), salutogenesis is a defined theory that has been tested repeatedly through empirical studies, while resilience has many different definitions. Also, salutogenesis focuses on exposure to stress and health promotion – identifying who is staying well and discovering what are they doing to remain well. Resilience focuses on exposures to risk and health protection, locating who stays healthy despite hardship and adversity.

Salutogenesis has a problem solving/finding solutions focus too, and part of the theory is extremely practical because when it is operationalised we look for what Antonovsky (1979; 1987) called Generalised Resistance Resources (GRRs) which enable us to improve and sustain wellbeing.  

Self-Assessment

Understanding What Wellbeing Is

Wellbeing – What does it mean?

To start with let’s have a look what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has to say about it. According to WHO, wellbeing is encompassed within their fuller, holistic description of health, which incorporates physical, mental and social wellbeing. It is not the absence of disease or infirmity it is the presence of other factors. What these other factors amount to has been researched and described many times, through this we have been able to develop our understanding of various dimensions of wellbeing, rather than decided on one particular definition.

In the not too distant past we related a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as indicative of wellbeing, and while it is true that being financially secure brings a sense of safety, status and identity (all associated with hedonic wellbeing), this is not the whole picture. We now understand that wellbeing is a much broader concept and critical to all of us is eudemonic wellbeing. Eudemonic wellbeing relates to living a life that has purpose, where you have self-determination, where you embrace life’s challenges as part of the ‘whole’ in order to have a fully functioning life (Seligman, 2011). Wellbeing theorist Martin Seligman (2011) states that in order to have wellbeing, we need to have a “meaningful life” which is expressed through  ‘Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishments’ (PERMA).

In Unit I we explored the psychobiology of wellbeing, making the connections between perceived stressors, cognition, behaviours and biological functioning.

In Unit II we lean towards the psycho-social aspect of wellbeing, some of which has been identified through the wellbeing theories of Keyes (1998) as, social coherence, social integration, social acceptance, social contribution, and social actualization.

Pivotal to our psycho-social wellbeing are the therapeutic relationships we have with others, which may be rooted in our family or friendships. Increasingly they are also part of our workplaces, not least because a huge part of who and what we identify with is personified in the work we do and through that, the company we keep. It is through this dynamic interchange of the personal and social aspects of our lives, we develop our self-determination, self-acceptance, autonomy and purpose.

Self-Assessment

Introduction to Wellbeing II

Dr Dee Gray

Hello and welcome to your Introduction to Wellbeing programme. During your programme you will be learning about wellbeing in a way that is both evidence based and very practical. When you have successfully completed your programme, you will have acquired a notional 4 CPD hours and a certificate of completion for your portfolio.

Thank you for joining us!

Dr Dee Gray

Programme aims

The aim of your Introduction to Wellbeing Programme© Unit II is to help you to develop knowledge and skills pertaining to wellbeing from a salutogenic and ‘best self’ perspective. You will gain a deeper understanding of wellbeing, which will be useful in both your professional and personal life.

Structure

Your introductory programme is divided into two units, Unit I (opens in a new tab) is about stress and wellbeing. In this part we look at what is happening to you when external stressors bring about changes in your body.

Unit II (this unit) discusses how to manage stressors and sustain wellbeing over time. In Unit II you will learn about some very practical wellbeing theories and the ‘best self’ model, both of which will help you to identity where you are in terms of your wellbeing, and become proactive about managing your wellbeing in the long term.

We highly recommend you take part in all of the learning activities and engage in reflective learning episodes.

Assessment

Your learning is assessed at intervals using short question and answer sections, when you have answered each question correctly you can progress through the programme. On successful completion of Unit II you will be able to:

  • Understand wellbeing from an evidence based perspective
  • Utilise your new knowledge within your professional and personal life
  • Become more wellbeing aware and proactive about your own wellbeing

After you have successfully completed The Introduction to Wellbeing Programme© Unit II, you will be able to download your CPD certificate and unit summary.