Published: October 31, 2019
Thaddeus Mantaro, M.S.
Graduate work in the health professions is a time of growth and learning. As with any endeavor, there are challenges and struggles and opportunities for personal and professional development. The UNT Health Science Center seeks to prepare students to be providers of the future, equipped with the skills needed to succeed and thrive in school and in their future careers.
Our wellbeing program is a five-year project focused on enhancing the learning environment creating a culture of health and wellbeing. The plan will utilize the best evidence for the science of wellbeing, and create a range of activities that will provide students with skills to care for themselves and those they serve. We envision a community of practice devoted to high-level flourishing among students that fosters pedagogical innovation, enhances scholarship, transforms the educational experience across the university, and produces substantive change in our students.
Quality Enhancement Plan
Our wellbeing program is a part of the standard regional re-accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC). As a part of this 10-year process, the UNTHSC is required to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan–called the QEP–that occurs over five successive years. Components of this re-accreditation require schools in the region to improve student learning or student success outcomes, integrating stakeholders across the institution in the process. The focus of our plan includes, awareness of the science of wellbeing, enhanced emotional intelligences skills, and the creation of a plan for wellbeing by each student, flexibly adapted to the individual program/school.
The Science of Wellbeing
The Science of Wellbeing (a.k.a. PERMA) defines wellbeing as the interaction of these five constructs*:
The path to wellbeing grows from increasing positive emotion. Within limits, we can increase our positive emotion about the past (e.g., by cultivating gratitude and forgiveness), our positive emotion about the present (e.g., by savoring physical pleasures and mindfulness) and our positive emotion about the future (e.g., by building hope and optimism)
Engagement is an experience in which someone fully deploys their skills, strengths, and attention for a challenging task. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this produces an experience called “flow” that is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, rather than for what they will get out of it. In such an activity, concentration is fully absorbed in the moment, self-awareness disappears, and the perception of time is distorted in retrospect, e.g., time stops. Character strengths are important to this process.
Relationships are fundamental to wellbeing. The experiences that contribute to well-being are often amplified through our relationships, for example, great joy, meaning, laughter, a feeling of belonging, and pride in accomplishment. Connections to others can give life purpose and meaning. Support from and connection with others is one of the best antidotes to “the downs” of life and a reliable way to feel up. Research shows that doing acts of kindness for others produces an increase in wellbeing.
A sense of meaning and purpose can be derived from belonging to and serving something bigger than the self. There are various societal institutions that enable a sense of meaning, such as religion, family, science, politics, work organizations, justice, the community, social causes (e.g., being green), among others.
People pursue achievement, competence, success, and mastery for its own sake, in a variety of domains, including the workplace, sports, games, hobbies, etc. People pursue accomplishment even when it does not necessarily lead to positive emotion, meaning, or relationships.
*Adapted from the Positive Psychology Center. (n.d.). PERMA Theory of Wellbeing and PERMA Workshops. Retrieved from https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/learn-more/perma-theory-well-being-and-perma-workshops