Words by Psychologist- Ingrid Schults
“Happy people remember more good events than actually happened, and they forget more of the bad events. Depressed people, in contrast, are accurate about both.”
― Martin E.P. Seligman, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment
Positive psychology is a growing, research-based field of study which extends beyond recovering from mental illness, to helping people thrive.
By focusing on what is good in our lives, and on positive states such as awe, contentment, optimism, wisdom, joy, courage and love, we are more likely to experience growth and happiness, and to achieve an optimal level of functioning.
It is well known that positive emotions and life satisfaction contribute to:
- Better physical health
- Increased creativity
- Higher quality relationships
- Increased coping skills
- Increased connection and helping behaviours
For example, one study observed Nuns who were, for the most part, living virtually identical lifestyles. It seemed that the nuns who expressed positive emotions more intensely and more frequently in their daily journals also happened to outlive many of the nuns who clearly did not.
Martin Seligman, the pioneer of Positive Psychology, recommends an outlook of hope and optimism. He believes that we can use our strengths and virtues to achieve a meaningful life, and also to become better at tackling the setbacks that are an inevitable part of life.
Five ways to boost happiness using Positive Psychology:
1.Find the positive in every situation – Happy people are the ones who can find the silver lining and finding a helpful lesson in every challenge. Start with finding the sliver lining in small problems, and in time your brain will find it easier to develop a proactive mindset towards more challenging problems.
2. Build your gratitude muscle – Expressing gratitude can bring attention to the positive aspects of your life. Practice on a daily basis in order to retrain your brain, perhaps by creating a gratitude journal. You will find that your attitude will become more positive.
3.Move toward rather than away – Try turning your goals into something you move towards in your life, such as excitement, rather than something you move away from, such as fear.
4.Work on what you’re good at – Look for skills and interests that play to your strengths. It’s a good idea to do some online courses in something that you’re good at. Also, network with people in the same field to learn new things and find new directions.
5.Engage with the present – It is easier to make deliberate choices in the direction you want to go when you are in the moment. One way to become more present is to start by taking deep breaths and following the movement of air in the body. Observe the movement and the sensations of your chest and stomach with each breath. Start with ten minutes and build from there, and try practicing often throughout the day.
By leveraging the principles of Positive Psychology, you can give your happiness a powerful boost.
Psychologist Ingrid Schults has recently joined the team at Psychology Consultants, Newmarket. She enjoys including elements of Positive Psychology into her practice, helping people to identify and to use their strengths to get them through difficult situations, and helping them to find meaning and purpose within challenges. To make an appointment with Ingrid call 07 3356 8255 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seligman, Martin E.P. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York, NY:Pocket Books.
Seligman, Martin E.P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York, NY: Free Press.