If you’re like most people, you probably feel disheartened and down sometimes. Whether we stress about work, family, our love life or the political climate, problems, whether they be personal or global, can cast a pall over our life. Happily, there is a solution.
With the heightened tension in the world, you may find that you’re having more negative thoughts and feeling dispirited lately. If you are, you’re not alone. Now of course, knowing that more people are feeling down doesn’t really help to alleviate the negativity, does it? But, the good news is, there are ways to combat the toxicity that has gripped the world at large.
It’s safe to say that most people would like to be happier, or at least more contented and peaceful and that’s where “positive psychology” can help. Positive psychology aims to help us better understand how we can be happier and more positive and, live a more fulfilled life.
Positive psychology is the study of happiness. Psychology has traditionally focused on dysfunction—people with mental illness or other issues—and how to treat it. Positive psychology, in contrast, is a field that examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled. – Psychology Today
Through positive psychology, we can learn to how recognize and maximize our strengths so we’re better equipped to accept the positive in our lives — to orientate away from stress and negativity and toward optimism and tranquility. The way I interpret it, it’s about a conscious choice to focus on goodness, hope, promise, peace and fulfillment — bringing these positive thoughts into the forefront of our mind, leaves little room for the negative ones.
“The aim of Positive Psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life.” – Martin Seligman
There are a lot of ways we can use positive psychology in our daily lives and these are just a few of the strategies we can try. Of course, they’re not cure-all’s and for serious depression or anxiety, etc., one should always seek the care of a qualified professional.
Some means to cultivate long-lasting meaning and joy include:
1. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Increasing our joy means actually noticing and appreciating positive points in life, no matter how small. When we stop to notice the little things, like beautiful flowers, the Autumn leaves, the puppy playing or a kitten frolicking, we basically ingest positivity. Appreciating those moments and letting them imprint into our mind, allows us to savor those good thoughts and feelings and recall them when we need an influx of positivity. Take the time to relish as many good and positive experiences as you can and over time, you’ll see that on the whole, the good does outweigh the bad.
2. Have gratitude. An attitude of gratitude is one of the most prevalent positive psychology recommendations and for very good reason. It’s proven that people who show and feel gratitude have more positive emotions — they have more energy, express more compassion, are more relaxed and overall, seem to thrive in life. Some people start out by keeping a “gratitude journal,” but it’s a personal choice on how you incorporate gratitude into your daily life — the important thing is to let go of negativity and let the positive wash through you. Once you start to realize you have so much to be thankful for, your mind will become more open to moments of joy and those moments quickly add up.
3. Have a sense of purpose in life. Keeping busy is important, but even more valuable is to have a meaning in life — something or many things that give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Think that means you have to sit down and write a great novel? Maybe, but only if that is your true drive and purpose. But having purpose(s) can be as simple as volunteering to help the less fortunate, painting, crafting…anything that stimulates your mind and gives you a reason to feel happy.
“For happy people, time is ‘filled and planned’. For unhappy people time is unfilled, open and uncommitted; they postpone things and are inefficient.” – Michael Argyle
4. Continue to expand your horizons. A sense of awe and excitement are trademarks of positive and fulfilled people. Open your mind to new ideas and embrace learning — that doesn’t have to be traditional classroom learning either. We can learn by attending lectures, taking an art class, reading new books, learning a second language, talking to new people — there’s no limit to how you go about gaining new knowledge, so make it an adventure.
“Follow your dreams. Figure out where you’d like to be, what you would like to be doing, and then figure out what you need to do to get there.” – Kennon M. Sheldon
5. Have self-compassion.”Self love” has become a hot-button topic, but personally, I don’t care for that term.Having compassion for the self is more appropriate, so cut yourself some slack. We tend to be hard on ourselves and we have to remember that none of us are perfect, so don’t worry about trying to be. When we dwell on our mistakes and flaws, we condition ourselves to focus on the negatives, so it’s important to forgive yourself and move on from the past.
And perhaps one of the most important aspects of positive psychology are our personal relationships.
Have strong relationships
This isn’t a thought process or an emotion, but rather, is a key ingredient to long-term happiness because it does better equip us to be fortified against the effects of negativity.
For the past 75 years, Harvard University has been conducting the Grant and Glueck study. The study has been tracking the emotional and physical well-being of two distinct populations: The Grant Study, which is composed of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of 1939-1944 and the Glueck Study, comprised of a group that is made up of 456 men who grew up in the inner-city neighborhoods of Boston.
This is a multi-generational, detailed and scientific study and the major conclusions may surprise you. So what is the conclusion of the Grant and Glueck study? According to The study’s current director, Robert Waldinger, one thing surpasses all the rest in terms of importance:
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
“Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains. And those good relationships, they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”
– Study Director, Robert Waldinger
In order to have a positive mental attitude, strong and close relationships are absolutely vital to our well-being — and, it’s not the number of relationships, but the quality of those relationships that matter most.
If we want to be happy, we have to stop the chase and simply embrace — being happy is all about just deciding to be so.
“Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.” – Ralph Harslon