Who's thriving? Here's the shopping list for it

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

I was scanning through some clinical study news recently when one headline immediately caught my eye: “Scientist finds secret to thriving.”

Well great, I thought. We can all pack up and go home now that this brilliant scientist has resolved this mystery and made our lives so much better with just one press release. Curiosity got the best of me, of course, and I clicked in to see what this grand discovery was all about.

The researchers behind the study compiled data on a huge range of people — from infants to the elderly, and just about every type of employee you can think of — to define what “science hasn't really managed to consistently classify and describe until now,” said lead researcher Daniel Brown, Ph.D. Past research has defined thriving as something similar to resilience or prospering, but that “stands alone” when you dive into it, the researchers said.

What the team came up with wasn't an instruction on how to thrive, necessarily, but more of the conditions and traits most frequently associated with thriving.

“It appears to come down to an individual experiencing a sense of development, of getting better at something, and succeeding at mastering something,” Brown said in the study's announcement. “In the simplest terms, what underpins it is feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something."

What Brown and his University of Bath-based team came up with were two lists: one of characteristics of someone who's thriving, and the other of factors that they have in their lives. Nobody needs to check off every item on the lists, Brown said, but having a combination of them means you (or your employees or residents) are more likely to thrive in your daily life.

People most likely to thrive are ... (drumroll please) … optimistic, spiritual, motivated, proactive, flexible, those who enjoy learning, adaptable, socially competent, and have high self-esteem, the researchers found. When it comes to outside influences, those who thrive have opportunities, employer and family support, manageable challenges, a calm environment, a high degree of autonomy, and trust of others.

If you're thinking Brown's list is nothing more than a collection of buzzwords, take a step back and think of the group of people sampled for this study.

The concepts presented here can apply to just about every facet of your life. If you have employees who seem to be struggling, think of the opportunities, autonomy and work environment you've given them. For residents, they might benefit from a calmer environment and activities that increase their motivation or social skills.

So take a moment to reflect on what Brown called the “shopping list” for his definition. You may already be closer to thriving than you think.

Follow Staff Writer Emily Mongan @emmongan.


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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.