Typically, the goal of Psychology has been to relieve human suffering. However, the work of Dr. Martin Seligman has been changing the face of psychology by focusing on Prevention; on how people can learn the skill sets that prevent psychological suffering in the first place. Therefore, rather than trying to help you feel better after you feel bad, the goal is to develop the skills needed to feel good most, if not all, of the time.
The Shift: from Relieving suffering.... to.... Preventing suffering
In his latest book 'Flourish', Seligman - the undisputed father of Positive Psychology - builds upon his earlier work on Authentic Happiness to teach us not only how to be happy, but how to truly Flourish and Thrive.
Positive Psychology is the study of Well-being, the systematic practice of kindness, gratitude, of counting your blessings, exploring your strengths, etc. It teaches resilience and optimism, two key skills that are supposed to be better predictors of your achievement than is IQ. According to Seligman, well-being can be learned and is a skill critical for us to go beyond 'okay' with our lives and learn to 'thrive'.
Well-being is comprised of 5 elements, following the Acronym PERMA...
P - Positive Emotions
E - Engagement
R - Relationships
M - Meaning (Purpose)
A - Achievement
We know from research that those who experience a stronger overall sense of well-being on a consistent basis also experience increases in; productivity, satisfaction, physical health, confidence, motivation, achievement, creativity... Who wouldn't want more of this? In order to help you to increase your level of well-being, your overall feelings of happiness, consider implementing some of the following suggestions...
Let's face it, we've all got problems. We all face challenges, and we sometimes don't seem to have much going on to smile about. However, Positive Emotions can serve to help us move up and out of the morass of negativity faster and easier. If we focus on the past with feelings of pain and regret, or look upon the future with fear and trepidation then we are fostering negative emotions. Instead, we need to shift our mental focus. When thinking of the past seek out memories that were positive for you, that make you smile even while thinking of them. Learn to be thankful the negative times of the past are, in fact, past. The more that we strengthen our positivity 'muscles', the easier it is to feel the emotions naturally, more strongly and for longer periods of time.
When we are disengaged we are listless, bored and distracted. Engagement is 'secret sauce' to motivation, enabling us to focus, produce and achieve. When we are engaged in an activity we enter a state of 'flow', what athletes refer to as being 'in the zone'. We are absorbed in the activity, time seems to fly by and we experience a sense of accomplishment and achievement in the end. Typically the more we are engage in work and activities that utilize our unique personal strengths and talents, the more engaged we will be. Identify yours and seek out ways to utilize them more fully in your work and your life.
We are, by nature, social creatures, wanting a sense of connection to others. Establishing strong relationships with others helps us to develop our sense of well-being. Knowing that we have others around us that we can depend upon, to help us to maintain balance in our lives. Positive relationships involve a positive and equal exchange, whether it be of emotion, energy, support or time. Any relationship though that is one-sided or that creates a negative energy or emotion diminishes our sense of well-being. Seek out the relationships in your life and work that build you up, not tear you down. Create a list of people that are in your life, whether personally or professionally, and determine whether their influence on you is predominantly positive or negative in nature and impact. The next step? Spend more time with those whose influence is positive and less with those that are negative.
We all want, and need, to feel part of something larger than just ourselves. Feeling like we make a 'difference', even in some small way provides us with a sense of purpose to our actions and our lives. Being part of something beyond ourselves provides us with a sense of community, giving us a feeling of belonging. It is far easier to be engaged in our work if we believe that it is benefiting someone, somewhere, somehow, that our work counts in some small way toward that bigger picture. Often we get so caught up in just 'doing' that we lose sight of the larger impact of the work we do, the value it has to others around us. Spend time reflecting on just how your role and actions, personally and professionally, contribute to the bigger picture or greater good. Making these connections for yourself can go a long way to recognising the value and worth of the contributions you make each day.
Working toward and achieving goals helps us to feel that we are moving forward with our lives. Establishing a sense of accomplishment builds our confidence in our ability to handle more in the future, which further strengthens our coping mechanisms. If we fail to recognise just how much we have achieved and overcome in the past then we likely will fail to fully take advantage of all we are capable of achieving in the future. Most of us get so caught up in the 'doing' of things though that we often fail to even give ourselves credit for everything we have done. To help with this, it makes sense to maintain an ongoing log of your accomplishments and achievements. Start out by listing everything you have achieved thus far in your life, but continue adding to it as you remember more and achieve more. This listing will also serve as a motivator for you whenever you are feeling a little down or are lacking a little confidence. This file with all of your achievements, awards, kudos and successes should serve to highlight for you not just how amazing you have been, but how many more amazing things you have yet to achieve.
Want to check out Dr. Seligman's book for yourself? Use the following link to get going...