Year could be life-changing

WE ALL better be ready for 2016... cos here it is.

To kick off, I would like to set the intention for this year's wellbeing journey, along with some shameless self-promotion.

The intention of the wellbeing journey is to inspire people to get out of their comfort zone, take life by the horns and live a life that is imbued with love, compassion (for self and others), meaning and purpose.

I draw heavily from the field of positive psychology, but also from lessons learnt from people that inspire me. I hope to share this year's wellbeing journey with other Whanganui members who are doing amazing things in our community, and they too can share their stories with the aim to inspire others.

For instance, I am lucky to have met Scott Lee, whose intention is to help people have better money conversations so they can live the life they want to live. Scott - formerly ANZ bank's regional manager for the Whanganui region - is going to share the column with me this year and there is every possibility some positive change may sneak into your life as a consequence of reading his articles.

My first column for this year involves a bit of self-promotion.

Last year I wrote a research paper, which was accepted by the New Zealand Journal of Human Resource Management (special edition " Positive Psychology at Work: Flourishing Work, Workplaces and Futures). The paper, Recipes for Occupational Wellbeing: An Investigation of the Associations with Wellbeing in New Zealand Workers, is due out soon so have a Google search.

I wanted to investigate if around 5000 people in different occupations in New Zealand experienced wellbeing in exactly the same way, or if there was a unique recipe for wellbeing according to occupation. The sorts of occupations included professionals, drivers, machinery operators, through to community workers and labourers.

The results of my analysis have so intrigued and excited me that I wanted to share them.

I discovered that no matter what type of work people did, and no matter what their socio-economic or demographic position was, every single occupational group experienced "meaning and purpose" as the factor that most strongly associated with flourishing (ie, a measure of their wellbeing).

Beyond that, each occupational group had different factors that were associated with their wellbeing. Things like "feeling respected", "receiving/providing support to other people", "use of strengths" and "autonomy" were different for different occupations.

But what intrigued me the most was that for more than 5000 people all working in different occupations and in all different walks of life, meaning and purpose was most strongly correlated with higher levels of wellbeing - way ahead of 32 other factors that we know strongly impact on wellbeing.

In other words, people's level of wellbeing related most strongly to their answer to the question: "I generally feel that what I do in my life is valuable and worthwhile."

It goes to show that if you are doing something you are passionate about, that inspires you and makes you feel you are making a difference in this world then you are going to have fairly reasonable levels of wellbeing.

Perhaps we all need to stop and think what matters most to our wellbeing and do more of that, rather than chasing our tail following someone else's dream or their version of success.

Find a passion in life, do something important for another person and develop intimacy in your relationships. When you live your life with meaning and purpose I think it is easier to not sweat the small stuff and wellbeing will naturally follow.

So 2016 is my year to deepen my meaning and purpose for life - and I welcome you to join me.

-A registered psychologist with a masters in applied psychology, Whanganui mother-of-two Kristen Hamling is studying for a PhD in wellbeing at Auckland University of Technology.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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