When it comes to achieving sustained improvements in your wellbeing all the tips tricks and good intentions in the world won’t work if you don’t get your mindset right first.
The three most common reasons people’s attempts to improve are de-railed are:
Low levels of self awareness
A harsh, comparison focussed & perfectionistic approach
to improving their wellbeing
A lack of belief that they or those around them are going to be able to change
After a review of relevant and recent studies we developed the Betterment Mindset, which combines the three skills you need to best combat these common de-railers and set yourself up for success.
To be self aware is to know and understand what it is you are feeling and thinking and how you are behaving. It is being aware of your strengths, vulnerabilities, limitations and patterns, how you impact others and how others impact you; all of which are key to managing and improving your wellbeing.
People with low levels of emotional awareness have been shown to be more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and are less able to cope with distressing emotions and relationship difficulties1Stewart, J., Garrido, S., Hense, C., & McFerran, K. (2019). Music Use for Mood Regulation: Self-Awareness and Conscious Listening Choices in Young People With Tendencies to Depression. Frontiers in Psychology, 10,.
High levels of self awareness set you up not only to be better at looking after you but to also be better at looking after others2Jack, Kirsten, and Anne Smith. “Promoting self-awareness in nurses to improve nursing practice.” Nursing Standard, vol. 21, no. 32, 18 Apr. 2007, pp. 47+. Gale OneFile: Health and Medicine, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A163332190/HRCA?u=anon~cebdb010&sid=googleScholar&xid=73259198. Accessed 19 Oct. 2022. and are essential to having a long and fulfilling career3Ouliaris, C. (2019). The importance of self-awareness: musings of a medical student. Australasian Psychiatry, 27(3), 267-269. and preventing burnout4Hoffarth, M. (2017). The making of burnout. History of the Human Sciences, 30(5), 30-45..
Improving this skill is also associated with lower levels of perceived stress, a better capacity to self regulate, and higher reported overall wellbeing5Hepburn, S., Carroll, A., & McCuaig, L. (2021). The Relationship between Mindful Attention Awareness, Perceived Stress and Subjective Wellbeing. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(23).
To be self compassionate is to be kind and encouraging to yourself rather than harsh and critical.
Self compassion is a true super skill with studies showing it helps with everything from improving sleep6Kim, J., Oldham, M., Fernando, A., & Kirby, J. (2021). Compassion Mediates Poor Sleep Quality and Mental Health Outcomes. Mindfulness, 12(5), 1252-1261, to increasing your self esteem7Stapleton, P., Crighton, G., Carter, B., & Pidgeon, A. (2017). Self-Esteem and Body Image in Females: The Mediating Role of Self-Compassion and Appearance Contingent Self-Worth. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(3), 238-257. and even ageing more successfully8Kunuroglu, F., & Vural Yuzbasi, D. (2021). Factors Promoting Successful Aging in Turkish Older Adults: Self Compassion, Psychological Resilience, and Attitudes towards Aging. Journal of Happiness Studies, 22(8), 3663-3678.. High levels protect you from mental disorders and unhelpful behaviours9Trompetter, H., Kleine, E., & Bohlmeijer, E. (2016). Why Does Positive Mental Health Buffer Against Psychopathology? An Exploratory Study on Self-Compassion as a Resilience Mechanism and Adaptive Emotion Regulation Strategy. Cognitive Therapyimproin such as perfectionism10Wang, Q., & Wu, H. (2022). The mediating role of self-compassion and its components in the relationship between maladaptive perfectionism and life satisfaction among Chinese medical students. Current Psychology, OnlineFirst, 1-13. and defining your self worth by the constant comparison with others11Seekis, V., Bradley, G., & Duffy, A. (2021). How Self-Compassion Moderates the Links Between Fitspiration Use and Body Concerns in Young Women. Mindfulness, 12(8), 1985-1998..
Self compassion at work leads to better work performance, lower rates of burnout, higher motivation levels and greater goal progression12 Jennings, R., Lanaj, K., & Kim, Y. (2022). Self‐compassion at work: A self‐regulation perspective on its beneficial effects for work performance and wellbeing. Personnel Psychology, EarlyView,.
In challenging times and situations those with higher levels of self compassion experienced less exhaustion and were more satisfied overall with their lives13Babenko, O., Mosewich, A., Lee, A., & Koppula, S. (2019). Association of Physicians’ Self-Compassion with Work Engagement, Exhaustion, and Professional Life Satisfaction. Medical Sciences, 7(2).
It is not surprising that those who increase their capacity to be self compassionate often describe the impact on them as ‘life changing’.
After years of uncertainty and challenges, and with more looming on the horizon, many of us are in danger of sliding into a debilitating state of toxic negativity and hopelessness. Developing a hope mindset has been proven to be protective against the impact of enduring long term stressful circumstances14Sherwin, E., Elliott, T., Rybarczyk, B., Frank, R., Hanson, S., & Hoffman, J. (1992). Negotiating the Reality of Caregiving: Hope, Burnout and Nursing. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 11(2), 129-139..
To be hopeful is to have an informed and realistic belief that a positive change or goal is possible. And a flexible plan for what the steps are to get there.
High hope people are more solution focussed and find it easier to be certain and confident about the steps to take towards their goals15Shorey, H., Roberts, C., & Huprich, .S. (2012). The roles of domain specific hope and depressive personality in predicting depressive symptoms. Personality and Mental Health, 6(3), 255-265. People with low hope suffer more from emotional exhaustion and are more likely to experience depressive symptoms16Shorey, H., Roberts, C., & Huprich, .S. (2012). The roles of domain specific hope and depressive personality in predicting depressive symptoms. Personality and Mental Health, 6(3), 255-265 and chronic anxiety17Scott T. Michael, (2000). Hope Conquers Fear: Overcoming Anxiety and Panic Attacks, Handbook of Hope 301-319. High hope people find it easier to stay on task, feel more in control of their lives, tolerate distressing emotions and setbacks better18Berg, C., Snyder, C., & Hamilton, N. (2008). The Effectiveness of a Hope Intervention in Coping with Cold Pressor Pain: . Journal of Health Psychology, 13(6), 804-809., have healthier relationships19Worthington Jr, E. L., Hight, T. L., Ripley, J. S., Perrone, K. M., Kurusu, T. A., & Jones, D. R. (1997). Strategic hope-focused relationship-enrichment counseling with individual couples. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44(4), 381-389, and outperform those with low hope levels20Snyder, C., Shorey, H., Cheavens, J., Mann Pulvers, K., Adams, V., & Wiklund, C. (2002). Hope and Academic Success in College. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(4), 820-826..
High levels of hope were shown to be more predictive of life satisfaction than resilience, particularly in challenging times21Munoz, R., Hanks, H., & Hellman, C. (2020). Hope and Resilience as Distinct Contributors to Psychological Flourishing Among Childhood Trauma Survivors. Traumatology, 26(2), 177-184..