Last updated on 31st August 2009
Here's a method that's exceptionally likely to both boost our overall level of wellbeing and move us towards the goals we feel our most important in our lives. It will take a bit of effort and commitment - so don't fall into the trap highlighted by Thomas Edison's comment: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Since I'm claiming that here's an excellent way to boost your wellbeing, a good place to start might be to estimate what your current wellbeing level is. There are many ways of doing this. One widely used method is to add your scores for positive emotions and life satisfaction while subtracting your scores for negative emotions - see the "Positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS)" and the "Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)" half way down the "Wellbeing & calming skills" handouts page on this website. You can also fill in these scales online at Martin Seligman's "Authentic happiness website". The advantage of using Seligman's site is that you can see how your scores compare with thousands of other website users. The site is also full of interest if you want to explore happiness and wellbeing more fully. The disadvantages are that you'll need to spend a couple of minutes logging in (if you haven't used this site before) and that Seligman's version of the PANAS is set up to measure current emotional state, while I prefer PANAS measures for a broader time frame such as "The last few days".
Another very good way to measure positive and negative emotion ratios is via Barbara Fredrickson's "Positivity ratio website". This has a facility for quickly completing and scoring an excellent recently developed positive and negative affect assessment questionnaire, and also for charting how your scores vary across time - particularly useful if you're working on the "Goal renewal boosts wellbeing" suggestions in these blog posts. It's interesting to note that Fredrickson finds 80% of people fall short of the important watershed 3:1 ratio for positive to negative emotions. Remember that low wellbeing scores not only indicate lower levels of happiness, but also indicate poorer levels of functioning generally (of course, it is sometimes functional to have a negative emotion too!). Now, for a further step see next week's "Goal renewal boosts wellbeing: second post".