Four actions from positive psychology to jump-start your well-being.
Posted April 4, 2019
Positive Psychology—sometimes called the science of happiness, positivity, or flourishing—is transforming the way we think about life’s possibilities for individuals, organizations, communities, and nations.
Positive psychology is evidence-based with solid scientific research to help us live our best lives. Chris Peterson (2008) one of the leading figures in the movement, explained: “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” The focus is on what’s right with us rather than what’s wrong with us, on realizing our potential and building our strengths.
In the past, psychology primarily studied people’s problems and how to fix them. Positive psychology studies the components of flourishing and well-being—what makes us resilient, able to bounce back from life’s challenges.
4 Practical Actions to Transform Overwhelm into Greater Well-being:
1. Three Good Things Activity – This practice can help you train your brain to notice life’s positives. Each day for one week write down three good things that went well for you. For each item, write about either why you think it happened, what it means to you, or how you could have it happen again in the future (Seligman, 2011; Seligman et al, 2005). If you like the activity, you might continue it.
2. Generate more Kindness -- Set a goal for yourself to do something kind for someone each day – or several days per week. Alternatively, positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson (2009) suggests planning a single day goal to do 5 new kindness acts. By expanding your perspective and connecting with others, kindness can help you feel better and make a difference to the person(s) you are impacting.
3. Best Possible Self Activity – Pause to look toward your future. This activity offers an expansive vision for developing your life, inspiring you to set relevant, meaningful goals (Niemiec, 2018). Take a few moments to imagine yourself in the future -- set a time period (3 months, 1 year, 7 years). Include all the relevant pillars of your life, such as relationships, profession, learning, play, spirituality, finances, home, and physical health (Dean, 1999-2005). Think about engaging your fullest potential in life as you visualize your best possible self. Write down the details. This activity can help you move from vague, fragmented thoughts to real ideas and possibilities.
4. Do you want to learn more about positive psychology, flourishing, and potential? — Here are a few ideas:
Achor, Shawn – The Happy Secret to Better Work.
Duckworth, Angela — Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Seligman, Martin – The New Era of Positive Psychology.
**This post is for educational purposes only and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.
Dean, B. (1999-2005). Pillars of a Balanced Life. Bethesda, MD: MentorCoach, LLC. https://www.coachinganddevelopmentinc.com/userfiles/1818703/file/Pillars%20Exercise%202016.pdf
Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Niemiec, R. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.
Peterson, C. & Seligman, E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Peterson, C. (2008). What is positive psychology, and what is it not? Positive psychology studies what makes life most worth living. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-good-life/200805/what-is-positive-psychology-and-what-is-it-not
Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: NY: Atria Paperback.
Seligman, M.E.P. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.
Seligman, M.E.P., Steen, T.A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.