Positive Psychology: How To Construct a Happier Life – PART 2

For much of the beginning of my adult life I approached life from a logical, problem solving perspective. I set goals. I thought through how I could achieve my goals. When problems occurred I went about trying to solve them. I tried to speak truth and always honestly represent things.

At the end of college, a friend of mine started to change my perspective. He approached life with optimism. An example of this was when I had just completed an interview for my dream job. I wanted the job more than anything, and was going on and on about it. He confidently said to me “You’ll get the job.”. It struck me as odd. He did not know me very well. What did he know whether I would get the job or not. But it made me feel so good…very encouraged. That is what stuck with me. I knew I would have never said that, because it was not a fact. I also knew it was a gift that he had said it.

The second thing that happened that changed my perspective is that I saw a movie called ‘The Secret’. It is a video that spread through emails and eventually was on Oprah. One of the key things that the movie made me realize was that some problems are best resolved by not focusing on them, and instead focusing on what is already successful. This was news to me. I thought if something was not right in my life or in the world that I should work to correct it. When I realized I was better served and the world was better served by me focusing on all the good things in my life and in the world, imaging a wonderful future for myself and in the world, and letting go of the bad things in my life and in the world, it was very freeing. For me, I needed a reason to be justified in letting go of bad things as quickly as possible and embracing good things.

I since have been amazed how approaching life in this way has served me. A loved one says something to me that hurts my feelings, I try not to dwell on it. When a loved one says something that makes me feel good. I savor it and thank them. Maybe bring it up a couple more times. When something good happens in the world I think about how wonderful that is and how good the world is. When something bad happens in the world, I try not to dwell on it. When a someone achieves something or does something nice for me.  I celebrate it. Make sure that they know I think they are great.

I started to see problems that I never directly tried to solve…resolve themselves. I have come to realize that I do not need to force good things to happen.  Good things are already happening, and good things will continue to happen.

If you haven’t seen ‘The Secret’, I highly recommend it. I might help you see the world a little differently and your role in the world a little differently. I could not find the whole video on-line, but here is the first twenty minutes:

The Secret: View first 20 minutes

It is also interesting that Oprah attributes her success to practicing the techniques featured in ‘The Secret’. She of course has been a big positive force in the world:

Larry King Interview Oprah on The Secret

It is not surprising that cultivating optimism is one of the strategies  researchers have found to be effective in increasing happiness. Gratitude helps people recognize and savor the good things that have already occurred. Optimism helps people anticipate a bright future.

One way to cultivate optimism was outlined in The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. It is called an optimism intervention. It is a mental exercise in which you spend twenty minutes visualizing “your best possible self”. In this twenty minutes you fantasize what your life might be like if all of your dreams are realized. This is beyond fanciful daydreaming. It involves considering your most important, deeply held goals, and picturing that they will be achieved.

This Best Possible Self exercise was used to study optimism. Participants were told: “You have been randomly assigned to think about your best possible self now and during the next few weeks. ‘Think about your best possible self’ means you imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all your life goals. Think of this as the realization of your life dreams, and of your own best potential.” Those participants who engaged in the Best Possible Selves exercise caught a significant lift in happiness compared to the control group that wrote simply about the details of their daily lives.[1]

You can also help those in your life celebrate the good things that happen in their life and help them anticipate more good thinks happening in the future by consciously, deliberately responding to them reporting good news.

Everyday Interventions – Actively Responding to Loved ones’ successes

Like cultivating gratitude, I think that it is easy to dismiss the value of working towards becoming a more optimist person. One may even think that becoming more optimistic is foolish or unrealistic…maybe even deceptive. For all those that may have some of those feelings check out this quote[2]:

Optimisms is not about providing a recipe for self-deception. The world can be a horrible, cruel place, and at the same time it can be wonderful and abundant. These are both truths. There is not a halfway point; there is only choosing which truth to put in your personal foreground.

Another strategy that I use to try and cultivate optimism in myself is doing regular affirmations. The following video is a great example of affirmations:

My Optimistic Creed: A Declaration for Daily Happiness

Life is Good. All the Time. If you allow yourself to embrace this and bring this to the foreground of your life experience you will be a lot closer to becoming a happy deviant.


[1] The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, page 104

[2] The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, page 111

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~ by happydeviant on May 22, 2011.

2 Responses to “Positive Psychology: How To Construct a Happier Life – PART 2”

  1. I absolutely love this post 😀 Life is really really good, even when it doesn’t seem like it, and when it all does go well, it’s amazing. I’m feeling inspired to spread some joie de vivre!

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