5 Steps to Better Mental and Physical Health - Step 1: Positive Emotion


5 steps to better mental and physical health

Step 1: Positive emotion

To mark “Mental Health Awareness Week” - which this year has its focus on body image - I’m writing a daily blog describing five foundations for wellbeing and happiness. 

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, developed the PERMA model to show what we need in our lives to feel better both mentally and physically:

  • Positive emotion

  • Engagement

  • Relationships

  • Meaning

  • Accomplishments

This week, I’ll consider how each pillar can help us to see body image in a different light and build towards a healthier mind and way of living. Body image has two important aspects:

  1. how we think about ourselves and our bodies

  2. how others perceive us and the effect that can have on our mental state

Looking for what’s good

Today’s post, then, is about positivity - the idea that we should look for the good rather than focus on the bad. This doesn’t imply an approach to life where you believe that bad things won’t happen; they will! Instead, it’s about adopting a positive mindset in adversity - however big or small - and beyond those moments, too.

We can interpret situations in all sorts of ways, even though many may be out of our control (and therefore not a reason for being self-critical). In those parts of life where we feel that we are managing well, the failures can seem larger or more important - and may, as a result, mean that we think less of ourselves.

To be more positive and, consequently, kinder to ourselves, we have to recognise that events aren’t good or bad. Rather, it’s our interpretation of those events, and the meaning we attach to them, that give them a value. And these values, derived from our initially positive or negative thoughts about situations, can drive us into an upwardly positive cycle - or go the other way.

Cultivating gratitude

One way of savouring what’s good is to cultivate gratitude - an approach I’ve blogged about before.

Positive emotion and body image

The concept of body image can provide us with plenty of opportunities for feeling positive about ourselves. Although we can sometimes be tempted to focus more on the things we don’t like. 

Have you ever spent time feeling grateful for how your body WORKS?

When we move from thinking about the negatives - ‘this bit is too big’ or ‘this bit is too flabby’, to ‘wow, that muscles just allowed me to get up from my chair’ or ‘I’m feeling stronger in my back today’ we are cultivating gratitude towards ourselves and generating positive emotion (- one of the core foundations of wellbeing). 

So why not try it today? Spend a minute just noticing all the amazing things about you and your body. Acknowledge the parts of yourself that are working hard to help you perform everyday and supporting you to do the things you want to do. 

Here’s a few from my list:

  • My legs - thanks for being strong and allowing me to walk to the places I want to go, and even to run if I’m a bit late! 

  • My fingers - thanks for connecting with my brain and allowing me to type this blog post on my computer. 

  • My eyes - thanks for working well and letting me see the beautiful colours emerging in my garden. And for being so similar to my Mum’s eyes, that when I look in the mirror, I see her too. 

Tomorrow, we’ll be exploring ENGAGEMENT and I’ll be sharing more tips about how we can build a positive body image and support our wellbeing.