Holding religious or spiritual beliefs is important for ‘thriving’ in life, a study by the University of Portsmouth has found. Dr Daniel Brown, a sport and exercise scientist, assessed all the research on what helps people to flourish to come up with a definitive list for living well.
To thrive a person must be optimistic, spiritual or religious, motivated, proactive, enjoy learning, flexible, adaptable, socially competent and have good self belief. They also must have opportunity, support from family and colleagues, a calm environment, trust and a high degree of autonomy. “Thriving is a word most people would be glad to hear themselves described as, but which science hasn’t really managed to consistently classify and describe until now,” said Dr Brown. “It appears to come down to an individual experiencing a sense of development, of getting better at something, and succeeding at mastering something. “In the simplest terms, what underpins it is feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.” Research has established that though thriving is similar to resilience, prospering or growth, it is also a stand-alone characteristic.
Thriving has been examined at various stages of human life and has at times been described as vitality, learning, mental toughness, focus, or combinations of these and other qualities. It has also been examined in various contexts, including in the military, in health and in child development. “Since the end of the 20th century, there has been a quest in science to better understand human fulfilment and thriving, there’s been a shift towards wanting to understand how humans can function as highly as possible,” said Dr Brown. “Part of the reason for a lack of consensus is the research so far has been narrowly focused. Some have studied what makes babies thrive, others have examined what makes some employees thrive and others not, and so on. By setting out a clear definition, I hope this helps set a course for future research.” The study is published in European Psychologist.