Happiness is more than just “thinking positively”
Bringing more happiness and flourishing in your life seems to be a hot topic everywhere on social media pages. You don’t need to look far to find numerous articles claiming: Do this one thing and be happy for life or The 12 factors Happy people do… Creating a life of positivity and flourishing actually require intention and daily practice.
Think about how it feels to be in a negativity vortex – we’re angry and it’s easy to blame others (or the weather, or the government, or our parents) for our situation. We have a narrow view of the world and everyone is against us – and “it’s someone else’s fault that I’m miserable!" We just don’t think of other possibilities.
Positivity opens our hearts and minds and makes us more creative, healthy, and resilient – and is a key factor in living a flourishing life.
What’s fascinating is that Positive Psychology is a science– it’s researched, tested, and validated and not just a “happy-ology”. According to researchers, there are key facts about positivity:
1. Positivity feels good. It brings joy and hope to the forefront and motivates us to strive for greater heights and to share it with our connections.
2. Positivity changes how we think. Positivity opens our minds and broadens the span of possibilities that we see.
3. Positivity builds resilience. Positivity can change our outcomes and bring out the best in us in the face of adversity and helps us deal with the challenges we face.
4. Positivity pulls us out of the negativity vortex. Positivity actually lowers our blood pressure and is the fuel for resilience. By flushing out the negative emotions, positivity slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure back to normal – like a reset button.
5. Positivity has a tipping point. The more micro-moments of positivity you have, the more positive emotion you experience, the more it fosters a flourishing life. The transformation begins to occur at 3:1 ratio. (visit PositivityRatio.com to assess your current measure).
6. You can increase your Ratio. Good news! There are many things that will increase your positivity, and you can do them anytime, anywhere. All it takes is a little intention.
HOW do you raise your positivity ratio? There are many tactics, pick a few to work on. Better yet, consult with a coach to help keep you on track!
Dispute your negative thinking. Challenge your ‘mental models’…try on a new perspective. This is where you get to argue with yourself. If you’re thinking about a situation in a negative way, ask yourself what other alternatives there might be.
Stop the rumination! Be aware of the thoughts that keep running circles in your mind – the ones that keep you up at 3AM. I like to do a progressive relaxation technique when this happens. Starting at your head, think about relaxing into your pillow, unclench your jaw, release tension in your neck, rise then lower your shoulders...work your way down the length of your body to fully relax. This helps to focus on releasing any tension and takes your mind off ruminating thoughts.
Evaluate your online content. There are so many negative stories in the news and on social media platforms. The more we’re exposed to negative content, the more we get sucked into the vortex and lose our sense of empathy.
Avoid gossip. My lovely friend preaches, “honour the absent”. What she means is, would you say that in front of the person you're talking about? Also avoid sarcasm. Sarcasm often has hidden hurtful comments.
Avoid negative people and situations. If you can’t avoid them, then attend to them in a different way. Ask yourself if you contribute in some way, and if so, how can you approach them differently. What can you learn from this person or situation? Do you need to work on your reactions? (assessing and enhancing Emotional Intelligence can help)
Savour the goodness. Relish in the moment of positivity. Turn something good into something even better.
Foster gratitude. What are you grateful for today? Gratitude doesn’t have to be something big or global. It can be the smallest of things, like a smile from a friend, co-worker or even a stranger.
Be kind. Practice kindness. Always.
Identify your strengths and use them. A well-respected and validated source is viacharacter.org Owning your strengths and using them in a different way has been shown to increase happiness levels.
Connect with others. Having positive relationships is another pillar of well-being. Studies show that people who live flourishing lives spend more time with people they’re close to.
Connect with nature. There’s something to be said about forest bathing. Immersing yourself in the beauty and serenity of the trees. Go on a walking meditation among the trees, birds, grass, and wildlife. Soak it in.
Open your mind. We know that positivity opens the mind, it allows us to see possibilities and that openness connects us to each other. Challenge yourself to think of alternatives, be curious.
Open your heart. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson calls it “loving kindness meditation”. Increase the warmth and care for yourself and others. The practice focuses on the warm and compassionate emotions you have of another, then extending those genuine feelings to yourself. There are literally dozens of guided meditation apps that can help us to focus on the present, appreciate what we have, and ground us in the present moment.
Happiness starts with you. What strategy will you begin on your road to flourishing?
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity. Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. New York, N.Y. Three Rivers Press
Seligman, Martin (2011). Flourish. New York, N.Y. Simon & Schuster Inc.