• Kim F Vaughan

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive!

Putting positive psychology (or the science of happiness) into practice is harder - but more rewarding - than you think! Just try one or two of these tips and see what happens ....

I acknowledge that there is a small streak of gloom in me that relishes the worst-case scenario. Expect the worst and you can only be pleasantly surprised. Be prepared for failure then you won't be disappointed. Negativity, blah, blah, blah!

And yet, most of the time, I consider myself to be a positive person who says 'thank you' to people, tips well in restaurants (unless there is a good reason not to), and with a 'can-do, why-not' approach to life, finding out that I am not putting enough conscious focus on the good things in life was a bit of an eye-opener.

This week, I volunteered myself as a case study for a colleague who is doing a course on Positive Psychology. Keen to pay forward the commitment I had received from those who were my guinea-pigs during qualification as an executive coach and mentor, and interested in finding out more about Seligman's model of Positive Psychology, I faced my first set of homework tasks. Easy peasy! Or so I thought.

  1. Here is a list of 26 positive emotions*. Rank them in order of how you engage with them, from 1 (most prominent) to 26 (least prominent).

  2. For the top five emotions, say why these are important to you.

Well, overthinking stepped in, arguing the meaning of prominent, the scope (personal or professional?), what do you mean by 'engage'? Then I calmed down, read through the list again (properly this time, in full 'listening' mode). I landed on the top ten and the bottom few, but totally failed to distinguish between the ones in the middle. Already 30 minutes into what I had thought would be a five minute task, I hadn't even touched on question 2, the why!

By the end of this bit, I understood much more clearly how important it is to me to feel, amongst other things, awestruck every now and again. These days this comes mostly from the technology we use - the power of my smart phone, the ability to have video calls, even without 5G. We are all James Bond now.

Travel also fills this need - here am I flying over Botany Bay into Sydney, Australia. Here I am looking at the Taj Mahal. Look, there's the Grand Canyon!

So much of life these days is so 'Meh!', I vowed to make sure that I look out for these moments and not take them for granted - though it's quite hard to do the travel bit at the moment!

3. Make a list of things you are grateful for and say why.

Where to start? Health? My cat? I started scribbling a list, which eventually ran to three pages of A4. By the end of this exercise I was much more conscious of some of the things I take for granted, though ranking them caused the same trouble for me as the first exercise. It felt good to surface some of these things and I enjoyed having completed the task in a mindful way. Try it!

4. Make a full list of your "positivity boosters" – what makes you feel good?

So many comfort blankets to list here! When feeling low, my default setting in the past has been to eat and drink (chocolate, wine, cheese and biscuits), though the last few years I have been diverting this to nil-by-mouth activities like going for a walk, doing my nails or buying a new lipstick, soaking in a bath or reading a good book, or just curling up with the cat in front of a fire.

Making another long list (and struggling to rank it) started off hard but, once the ideas tap started running, the list flowed. Armed with all these now-conscious tools, I was feeling great about my ability to improve my mood when I need to.

5. Pay it forward with random acts of kindness

We are encouraged to share our positivity with others, giving unexpected parcels of surprise to people to improve their day. You can probably think of thousands of ways to do this yourself ..... take your neighbour's bins in for them, send a text to a friend to say hello, or thank you, recommend someone on LinkedIn, write to an elderly relative, leave a generous tip in a café or restaurant (if only!!), or simply compliment someone on how well they look.

I thought I did those things already but the evidence proved me wrong! I couldn't remember the last time I had done this kind of thing. What about you? What do you do to pay it forward?

This is only the beginning of the course and I have learned a lot already. Try some of these things yourself and watch how it makes you feel. We are living through difficult times and it's important to help each other through. Remember, that old song is right:

You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative. Don't mess with Mr In-Between!
You've got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum, have faith, or pandemonium's liable to walk upon the scene.

Find out more about Positive Psychology.

* Joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, elevation, altruism, satisfaction, relief, affection, cheerfulness, surprise (the good sort!), confidence, admiration, enthusiasm, eagerness, euphoria, contentment, enjoyment, optimism, happiness, love.

How positive are you? Do you need help with being conscious and intentional about how you focus on the good things in life and banish negativity and gloom?

I am not a psychologist, but I work with my clients to define their goals, refine their thinking, shine in their careers, and design plans that improve their future performance. Contact me if you want to find out how I can help you.

Thank you to Psychologie positive for the illustration.

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