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Posts Tagged ‘positive psychology’

four women standing on mountain
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In “How We Choose to be Happy,” authors Rick Foster and Greg Hicks identify Nine choices that extremely happy people make. What are those choices? According to Foster and Hicks the happiest people:

1. Consciously choose happiness over unhappiness
2. Choose to accept full responsibility for their thoughts, actions, and feelings
3. Choose to look deeply inside of themselves to determine what makes them uniquely happy vs. looking to others to learn what should make them happy
4. Choose to keep what makes them happy central in their lives
5. Choose to convert problems into opportunities and find meaning in even the most painful times
6. Choose to be open to new opportunities and remain flexible and ready to adapt when the unexpected occurs
7. Choose to possess a deep and ongoing appreciation for all that is good in their lives and to stay present focussed
8. Choose to give of themselves generously and without expectation of being rewarded
9. Choose to be honest with themselves and others

How many of these choices do you regularly make?  If you were to commit to making these nine choices every day, how might your life be different?  What might you be doing differently?  How might you be thinking and feeling differently?  I think I’ll make this my journal assignment for tonight.  Join me?

 

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In a short TED talk, Nancy Etcoff, evolutionary psychologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical school, discusses (among other things) what cognitive science can tell us about the ways in which we attempt to achieve and increase our happiness, how surprisingly little it has to do with our circumstances, and its effects on our bodies. Some of what she shares may very well surprise you.

Here’s one brief quote from her talk, “…people are happiest when in flow, when they’re absorbed in something out in the world, when they’re with other people, when they’re active, engaged in sports, focusing on a loved one, learning, having sex, whatever. They’re not sitting in front of the mirror trying to figure themselves out, or thinking about themselves. These are not the periods when you feel happiest…”

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“There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.”
Author Unknown

Being a proponent for strength based therapies for the past twenty years, I was extremely receptive when positive psychology was first introduced to the world. Like so many therapists, I’d experienced that terrible sense of hopelessness that periodically emerged during my early years as a therapist as I and my client become entrenched in the muck of pain and pathology. There in my light filled office, muscles tensed and heart heavy, gazing into the eyes of someone whom I had come to care deeply about, I all too often came perilously close to developing tunnel vision. I had witnessed the pain, listened compassionately, and carefully gathered up the shattered pieces of a broken story, while failing to truly see the
epic tale before me

I had come close enough to not only touch the wounds, but to hold them closely, and yet I had allowed precious and essential aspects of my client to move beyond my immediate reach – all of those experiences, lessons, wisdom, and unique strengths and gifts that my client possessed which absolutely guaranteed a successful (though never without risk or pain)passage.

When I learned to adapt my lens so that I could readily shift my focus back and forth between pain and possibility, pathology and promise, I not only improved my effectiveness and enhanced my vision – I discovered an inner voice. This voice has sustained me through many difficult, frightening and even heart breaking journeys with clients, and while this voice still expresses self-doubt and even despair, it is never without hope. And with hope in tact, we can go on. I can go on.

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During this journey through my mother’s lung cancer I am relying heavily on the concepts of positive psychology to help us get through. In “Happiness: Lessons From a New Science,” Richard Layard wrote, “cultivate the sense of awe and wonder, savour the things of today; and look about you with the same interest as if you were watching a movie or taking a photo. Engage with the world and with the people around you. In one sense, as Leo Tolstoy said, the most important person in the world is the one in front of you now.”
We leave before sunrise each week day morning to make it for mom’s radiation treatment on time. Yesterday, while pulling out of the drive way I noticed how incredibly beautiful the full moon looked hanging in the pre dawn sky. I pointed it out to my mother and we stopped the car and savoured it. Within a few moments I began to feel my breathing deepen and my body relax as I allowed myself to drift toward the pull of the moon. We hadn’t needed to venture into the wilderness, or even stroll through a park, all we had to do was to simply pause and look up to be connected with something vast and beautiful and transcendent. I reached out and took my mother’s hand and allowed myself to fully take in the blessing of it all….

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