Jamie is getting along well in life, but she doesn’t feel any sense of well-being. Although she has a good family and makes decent money in her job, she dwells on the negative aspects of her life: “I’m focused on what’s wrong rather paying attention to what’s right. My husband is a good example. He’s a great guy, but it seems like I’m always upset about something he’s done wrong.”
“And it’s not just other people that I get down on,” she continued. “I’m hard on myself as well. I can’t stop thinking about my mistakes, and it’s not like they’re even a big deal. In fact, nothing in my life feels like it’s all that important. I’m just doing what’s expected of me most of the time. I do my best to take care of other people, but it doesn’t seem like anybody takes care of me. I don’t know, my friends seem happy and their lives aren’t much different than mine – maybe there’s something wrong with me.”
Jamie’s life has its positive pieces as well as its share of stressors. She actually does a pretty job of dealing with the challenges of life, but she doesn’t know how to generate good feelings. Like most of us, much of Jamie’s education and many of her mentors taught her to analyze and solve problems. However, no one ever made a concerted effort to help her to develop the skills necessary to be happy.
Jamie recently read an article featuring positive psychologists who study people who have been able to achieve a profound level of satisfaction with their life. She decided to enter Well-Being Therapy to learn how to apply this research to her own life.
WBT is a short-term, results-oriented approach in which patients learn six essential skills that have been found to be the key ingredients for having a feeling of well-being.
1. The process starts by increasing the person’s awareness of what’s already working to make them happy – however momentary those episodes might be – and then building and broadening those dimensions of life. Then additional elements that positive psychologists have been found to enhance a person’s well-being are gradually introduced, beginning with how to develop personal mastery of one’s world.
Acquiring this skill overcomes the most frequent difficulty people encounter in experiencing well-being – feeling unable to influence or improve their situation. WBT teaches patients how to make choices and create circumstances in which they’ll be able get their needs met. By pairing possibility thinking with enhanced awareness of external opportunities, patients are able to develop a sense of mastery in managing their environment.
2. Next, WBT teaches people how to develop a healthy perspective on personal growth. People learn how to stop dwelling on past failures, let go of their current worries and doubts, and manage the stress that arises from feeling overwhelmed by all the demands placed on them. They break free of feeling stuck, scared, dissatisfied and discouraged. They learn to identify their personal strengths and the skills by carefully examining how they achieved successful outcomes in the past. Then they discover how to use those attributes to handle their current challenges.
3. WBT also focuses on enhancing the individual’s ability to create a meaningful life. Many people are out of touch with what will be most important to them in the final analysis, making it impossible for them to have any sense of direction and purpose. WBT emphasizes creating a vision based on values, and working to accomplish a series of goals that will lead to fulfillment.
4. Another well-being skill is learning to boost one’s level of self-love, low levels of which cause people to be unassertive. When a person hides their preferences or consistently put others needs ahead of their own, he or she ensures chronic frustration and dissatisfaction. By overcoming their high need for social approval, WBT assists patients to identify and assert what they need in order to satisfactorily engage in discussions that lead to a win-win outcome.
5. Dealing with self-dissatisfaction helps people to overcome feelings of disappointment about their past behaviors and negative attributes. WBT assists people to adopt a positive attitude toward their good and bad qualities, and to accept their past choices as lessons rather than mistakes.
6. The final well-being skill is to develop positive relationships. Critical, uncompromising, or stonewalling behaviors lead to loneliness and isolation. WBT teaches patients to engage with empathy, understanding, and affection in order to have warm and trusting connections.