7 Ways to apply Positive Psychology

Posted on December 1, 2014

Positive psychology has changed the course of mainstream psychology. After years classifying and repairing the worst of human experience, positive psychology emerged to build on the best. Spearheaded by Martin Seligman and MihalyCsikszentmihalyi in 1998, positive psychology focused attention on exploring and expanding what makes life worthwhile, productive and fulfilling, in all its complexity.

A meta-study by leading positive psychologists Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King and Ed Diener brought together over 200 studies conducted on 275,000 people worldwide. They found that happiness leads to success in nearly every life domain, from health and longevity to workplace performance, creativity and relationships

1. Positive Emotion

Positive emotions are one of the hallmarks of happiness and wellbeing. When we feel good, we are more able to perform at our best. Positive psychology researcher and emotional intelligence expert Sue Langley explains that positive emotions allow us to think more flexibly and creatively. "We come up with more ideas and they tend to be better quality," she says.

High-energy emotions like excitement, zest and enthusiasm shift our mood and our physiology fast. Laughter is one of the quickest ways you can activate the healing effect of positive emotion. Just a few minutes of laughter a day can reduce stress and improve your heart rate, muscle activity, digestion and immune system.

2. Mindset

Our attitude influences the way we respond, our impact on others and our happiness level. The more we recognise our power to make conscious positive choices, the more difference we can make to our own and other people's wellbeing.

So how much potential do we have to change if we set our minds to it? Research by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues and their concept of a Happiness Pie gives us a clue.

They discovered that about 50% of the differences between people's happiness levels can be explained by genetically determined set points. Just like genes for intelligence and cholesterol, the set point you inherit has a big influence on how happy you will be. A further 10% is linked to your circumstances. Whether you are rich or poor, married or divorced, healthy or unhealthy, environmental factors account for an additional portion of your happiness overall.

The remaining 40% is influenced by intentional activities. Some of these activities can also improve your circumstances. This means we can increase or decrease almost half of our happiness level through our choices and mindset.

3. Mindfulness

Ellen Langer, a mindfulness expert and early researcher in positive psychology, defines mindfulness as "the process of actively noticing new things." She believes it's the opposite of mindlessness, drawing us into the present. "It's the essence of engagement. And it's energy-begetting, not energy-consuming."

It is possible to train the mind to become more still and focused. It’s a skill that takes time to learn and discipline to practice, yet it does not take long to make significant progress and the benefits are immediate. While there are many mindfulness practices we can learn and master, such as meditation and yoga, its not that hard to include mindfulness in our own day-to-day, routine-filled lifestyles.

We just need to notice what's going on and savour our experiences with attention and awareness.

4. Resilience

Resilience is the capacity to withstand and adapt to the challenges life throws us. It is a skill anyone can learn, to survive and to thrive. Resilient people fulfill their potential despite, even because of, adversity, and tend to see challenges as opportunities for growth and renewal.

"Brain science shows us that our emotions, brain and body are intricately linked. We can change the way we feel by adjusting how we think or hold our body."

For example, exercise or deep breathing techniques will help you get oxygen to your body and brain and shift your emotional state. Get out into nature or change your environment when you are feeling stressed. Even a simple action like tidying your desk can create enough space to adjust and choose the best way to respond to situations rather than letting our emotional reactions dictate our behaviour.

5. Optimisim

If we are optimistic we tend to see more solutions. We tend to be more successful as we believe they will work. We stay motivated.

Martin Seligman, one of the fathers of positive psychology, explains that we see the world through three lenses: personal (about me-not me); permanent (always-not always), and pervasive (everything-not everything).

When a problem occurs, an optimistic thinker believes they are not completely at fault and circumstances may have played a part; the situation is fleeting and changeable, and the problem will not affect their whole life. This enables them to focus on solving the problem step by step with resources within their control.

6. Gratitude

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and return kindness. It makes us aware of the good things that happen and connects us to a sense of life's wonder.

There is no diminishing return for gratitude. Thanking others makes us more tolerant of differences, creating a sense of camaraderie and belonging.

Start a weekly gratitude journal. You can also keep a checklist in your mind–as long as you do it mindfully.

The most important thing is to make this activity meaningful, not something you do because you have to.

7. Strengths

When we use our strengths, we enjoy what we are doing, do it better, and feel we are working toward our potential.

Research shows that when people use their strengths they feel happier and more confident, are less stressed, more resilient, and more engaged in their self-development. When combining our strengths with others and assisting them to use theirs, we build stronger and more co-operative relationships, enabling greater collaboration and teamwork.

Category(s):Positive Psychology

Source material from Happiness