Have you heard of positive psychology? A friend of mine forwarded me an article to read about it and it struck a major chord with me. According to the website: psychologytoday.com, “Positive psychology is the study of happiness. Psychology traditionally focused on dysfunction: people with mental illness or other psychological problems and how to treat them. Positive psychology, in contrast, is a relatively new field that examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.”
If you are like me, you may browse the positive posts and images on Facebook or Pinterest to lift your spirits when you’re feeling down or stressed. You may even like or share one or two with your friends in hopes you can pass on the good mojo. There are times; you may even curse one of those uplifting memes or say out loud to yourself, “oh sure.” Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually put all those wonderful sayings and positive thoughts into action? You may put one or two in action on occasion, but is it possible to immolate all those positive thoughts when real life intervenes? If it is possible, I bet that you will live a pretty happy and peaceful life. I would love to put all those positive epitaphs in motion and live by at least one of them each day. I do try to think positively and live a positive life, but now and then stress, disappointment, frustration, and loneliness creep in there. Applying some of those positive, deep thoughts, is a step in the right direction even if they feel just out of your reach or too far fetched. They really or not. Yes, sometimes reality makes it difficult to rise above but it is doable. It’s all in how you broach those hard times. I have a feeling that is common for most people at least from time to time.
Just like your body needs a workout, your psyche does too. There are exercises you can do to find you’re happy and ward off those negative thoughts. The article “7 New Exercises to Boost Happiness” gives you seven techniques to help you get past the stress and find your happy place. There is a lot of research out there that backs up these theories so don’t just take my word for it. Wherever your stress stems from, finding ways to tackle it head on will not only make you feel better mentally and physically, it will help you live a stronger, healthier life. The trick is putting something in motion to get there. It’s not going to happen if you are resistant to it.
The author, Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D., recommends that you try at least one of the seven exercises for one week. Here are the seven and my first attempt at responding to each one:
“One door closes, another door opens: Consider a moment in your life when a negative event led to positive consequences that you were not expecting. Write about this each day.”
I was off to SF to a friend’s birthday party and my flight was canceled. I was fearful I was going to miss the party and my weekend, that I had planned for months, was a bust. As I sat in the airport terminal I started up a conversation with a bubbly woman. We ended up on the same flight, sat next to each other and chatted the whole way. That was over 10 years ago and she is one of my best friends.
“Gift of time: Offer the “gift” of your time to three different people this week. This might be in the form of time spent, helping someone around their house, or sharing a meal with someone who is lonely. These “gifts” should be in addition to your planned activities.”
I do believe giving your time to a friend in need or family member is a great gift. Surprising someone with a good deed is timeless. Giving yourself without expecting anything back is priceless.
“Counting kindness: Keep a log of all the kind acts that you do in a particular day. Jot them down by the end of each day.”
Call it your kindness log if you want. I like the idea of keeping track. Often, in our busy lives, we forget that a simple act of kindness goes a log way. Simple gestures carry a lot of weight: opening the door for someone, paying a compliment just because, a simple smile, making someone laugh, a positive gesture, a picked flower, a kind word, or a surprise sentiment. I’m going to make an effort to do this and be more conscious of being kinder.
“Three funny things: Write down the three funniest things that you experienced or participated in each day; also write about why the funny thing happened (e.g., was it something you created, something you observed, something spontaneous?)”
- This morning, steam from the shower set off my fire alarm. As soon as it went off, I heard a loud thud from my upstairs neighbor. I thought to myself; well one of them fell out of bed thanks to me. Then I heard laughter, and it made me laugh.
- On my way to work, I hit some traffic; the guy next to me was rocking out. I mean really into his music either on the radio or in his head. I glanced over, okay I may have stared. He saw me looking at him and sheepishly shrugged. We shared a smile.
- I sometimes listen to a morning radio program where one of the hosts shares a humorous clip after their sports segment. It’s a silly thing, but it makes me smile.
“Gratitude letter/visit: Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has had a positive impact on you. If feasible, you might consider delivering the letter to the person. [It is important to first weigh the pros and cons of delivering such a letter.]”
I love this idea and have a few people in mind. It’s a sweet gesture to tell someone you appreciate them in a handwritten letter. Often we take those close to us for granted. Technology rules our worlds these days, sitting down and handwriting a letter or note is so much more personal, heartfelt and rare.
“Three good things: Jot down three things that went well for you each day and give an explanation as to why these good things occurred.”
- I had a great client meeting today with a new client. It was a great call. I was able to provide them good news right out of the gate. We were in synch, and I appreciate that they are positive, understanding, knowledgeable, and friendly. I was thoroughly prepared, I felt confident in my ability, and didn’t question myself.
- I went to Starbucks on my lunch break and wrote this post. I started four other posts, but none of them felt right. This one flowed quickly, so I felt like this one was the one. That is usually the way it works with me. Either what I decide to write flows out of me and just feels right, or it sits as a draft for weeks and ends up in the trash or takes a completely different turn. Writing relaxes me. Plus, it was lovely outside, and I got some time to myself to focus and relax.
- I heard from a very dear friend today that I haven’t heard from in two years. I responded to her, and she wrote back that it was a great start to 2015 reconnecting with me. She and I were great friends when I lived in L.A. but distance got in the way. We both lost a dear friend too, almost three years ago now. So I think this occurrence is somewhat bigger than me. The three of us were like the three musketeers. Maybe this is a way to bring the pack back together.
“Use your signature strengths in a new way: This is the most popular of all positive psychology exercises. Take the VIA Survey that asks you about your character strengths. Choose one of your highest strengths (your signature strengths) and use it in a new way each day.”
I took the VIA Survey, and here are my top five that pertain to me based on the survey.
- Perseverance – You work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you “get it out the door” in a timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.
- Perspective – Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.
- Appreciation Of Beauty & Excellence – You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.
- Humor – You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.
- Teamwork – You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, you always do your share, and you work hard for the success of your group.”
At first glance, it doesn’t appear too hard to tackle one of these seven exercises per week. If they help you be a happier person and see the good in your life, it’s more than worth it.
I know it may seem difficult at times but it’s important to work at seeing the positive in each and every situation. When you are at your lowest point, try to apply the positive even when your life seems to be falling apart around you. Stepping out of yourself and your comfort zone from time to time are also beneficial so that you can truly appreciate the good things in your life. Only you have the power to turn things around. Know things will get better in time. Finding ways to live a happier life is the ideal.
By| Gina L. Cafasso