How the science of wellbeing can help build resilience

From teddy bears in windows to panic buying, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crises can elicit different human behaviours. A University of Sydney expert is calling for a shift in thinking from ’me’ to ’we’ to bolster communities through the pandemic.

Professor Felicia Huppert , Honorary Professor with the Body, Heart and Mind in Business Research Group at the University of Sydney, gave an online seminar about how the science of wellbeing can be applied in everyday life.

"What the pandemic has shown us is that society is more than capable of acting collectively in the face of grave danger," Professor Huppert, Founding Director of the Well-being Institute at the University of Cambridge, said.

"The ways we are currently addressing big social and environmental issues are not working. By shifting our focus from short-term self-interest to the long-term benefit for all, we have the opportunity to develop happier individuals, a fairer society and a healthier environment."

With hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed journals, Professor Huppert is internationally renowned for her work on the science of wellbeing. During her seminar, she highlighted why loneliness is a real problem for our wellbeing.

"Feeling connected is profoundly important for sustainable wellbeing. One of the best antidotes to loneliness is connecting with others through volunteering, for example," she explained.

She co-authored the recently published book, Creating The World We Want To Live In , drawing on science and success stories from positive psychology. In the seminar, she discussed the five psychological principles for sustainable wellbeing:

  • Feeling connected
  • Sense of autonomy
  • Feeling competent
  • Noticing what’s going well
  • Sense of meaning
  • "Our wellbeing is far better when we focus on strengths rather than weaknesses, on assets rather than deficits. This is where positive psychology comes in," Professor Huppert said.

    "The way we think, feel and act has a profound impact on our personal wellbeing and also creates a ripple effect on those around us and the world we live in."

    She also highlighted the three core skills that underpin the principles, which are having:

    • Mindful awareness
    • Compassion and kindness
    • Clear or critical thinking

    Co-Directors of the Body, Heart and Mind in Business Research Group, Associate Professors Anya Johnson and Helena Nguyen , said: "We were delighted to host this presentation from Felicia who is a world-class expert on the science of wellbeing.

    "She has had enormous influence on our understanding of wellbeing, mindfulness and compassion at work, having advised governments across the world on how to integrate wellbeing into our national policies and budgets."

    Professor Huppert co-authored the seminal paper published by Nature in 2008, The mental wealth of nations. In the paper, Professor Huppert and colleagues call on countries to capitalise on their citizens’ cognitive, emotional and relational resources for better economic, social and health outcome.

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