The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society. They list and define the keys to well-being:
- awe – the feeling that we get in the presence of something that challenges our understanding of world, like looking up at the night sky.
- compassion – feeling that arises when we are confronted with another suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
- empathy – the ability to sense other people’s emotions, along with the ability to imagine what someone else might thinking or feeling.
- forgiveness – a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
- gratitude – we affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we have received, including help from other people.
- happiness – variance of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile. (Sonja Lycomirsky)
- mindfulness – maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
- social connection – feeling that you belong to a and generally feel close to other people.
- altruism – when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves.
The online Greater Good Magazine includes research articles, videos and quizzes on each of these subjects.
In my own life, I’ve added a few other topics, aimed at living a good life even in the midst of health challenges. They are:
- vulnerability – uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure; being able to ask for and accept help gracefully.
- creativity – the ability to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations.
- patience – being able to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity.
- generosity – being willing to share resources and strengths
All those qualities are lovely, but the list is a bit overwhelming. How do we practice these qualities of character? I do it by focusing on one kind promise each month. The promises move me from definition to action. Experimenting with how I might integrate those promises into my life keeps me mindful of my values.
This month, I am playing with the promise “I will spend my days in a way that enhances the well-being of myself and others.” I’m reminding myself of what constitutes well-being and making sure I am using my time well. (This is not to say I don’t binge on Netflix. Play is important too!)
Having research and tools to help define and practice what makes for a flourishing life is invaluable.
What qualities make for a successful life? How do you practice them?
Have you asked and received forgiveness from God? If we have experienced God’s undeserved forgiveness and peace, God expects us to give the same love and mercy to others (Matthew 18:23-35). Seventh, know that forgiveness will cost us, just as it did Jesus.
Thanks, Haagmedia, for sharing your faith. Forgiveness allows us to take a fresh start, letting go of resentments that we may hold about the past. When we understand that we are forgiven, it allows us to move forward into the light.