Amid numerous ways to measure your social, emotional and physical well-being, here’s a new question to ask yourself: Are you flourishing in life? The idea of human flourishing has been gaining traction within the field of positive psychology as “the pinnacle of well-being,” according to a a recent Vox article entitled “Who gets to flourish?”

Flourishing has its roots in virtue and character, according to Tyler VanderWeele, the director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University. The program studies and promotes human flourishing by developing new approaches to the field and by integrating research from the quantitative social sciences on topics such as happiness, virtue, religious community and meaning.

“We believe that one of the strengths of the flourishing literature has been resisting the temptation to reduce well-being to happiness, and thus to include within flourishing notions of character and virtue, following centuries of philosophical and religious wisdom throughout the world,” VanderWeele wrote in an article for Psychology Today.

Flourishing also implies a kind of all-encompassing state of well-being, not excelling in one particular area — “A state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good,” Brendan Case, the associate director for research at Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program, told Vox.

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The article highlighted VanderWeele’s 2017 paper, which identified six domains that are key to an individual’s flourishing in life: happiness and life satisfaction, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, close social relationships, and financial and material stability.

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Corey Keyes, a sociologist and professor emeritus at Emory University, defined flourishing as “feeling good combined with functioning well,” according to Vox. Keyes is the author of the forthcoming book “Languishing: How To Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down.”

Feeling connected to our communities is a key to flourishing, according to Vox, and busy routines can get in the way of meaningful opportunities for growth. “We need others. We desire to be loved. Our social connections are part of who we are — they are a part of our flourishing,” VanderWeele wrote for Psychology Today last year.

Keyes suggests five area we can focus on to achieve flourishing, according to Vox:

  • People who flourish help others: Contributing to your community and society at large through volunteering, for instance, can increase our sense of purpose.
  • People who flourish embrace learning: Learning opens us up “to growing and becoming better people.”
  • People who flourish are spiritual: Regardless of whether it’s connected to a particular religion, spirituality opens us up to life as the “beautiful mystery,” according Keyes.
  • People who flourish engage in play: Active entertainment, spending time with friends and cultural activities can have positive mental and physical impacts on our well-being.
  • People who flourish connect with others: Through connection to others, people can deepen the sense that they “matter and are useful to others,” Keyes explained.
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