What comes to mind when you think “mental illness?” For most of us it’s depression or anxiety. Maybe something a bit more exotic, schizophrenia or alcoholism, if you’ve encountered it.
How about “mentally healthy?” What comes to mind on that? Again, for most people it’s something like the absence of depression, anxiety, and so forth.
What about “flourishing?” What comes to mind for that? And do you even think of it as a description of human functioning?
Not to make anyone feel bad about their adjustment, but just because you don’t have a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re flourishing. Flourishing, as defined by Corey Keyes, is having a sense of well-being and satisfaction with one’s life which includes feeling mastery, autonomy and ongoing personal growth.
To be flourishing, one must:
· Be interested in life and often cheerful
· Be satisfied with one’s life
· Feel good about yourself
· Seek new challenges
· Believe your life has a purpose and makes a contribution
· Have rewarding relationships
· Believe you can control your environment, and do so
· Be interested in the social community and its potential for growth
Flourishing adults miss fewer days from work, function better psychologically and have fewer physical illnesses.
So how do we flourish? There’s the rub. We’ve studied mental illness for so long we’re just beginning to get serious about flourishing.
But here’s one tip. Think about what you do really well. That’s something you’re very good at and something you love doing. It could be part of your job, something in your role as a parent, or your ability to make people happy with your cooking (remember Chocolat?). Once you’ve got something, then ask yourself how you can do more of it? And do it.