Are you positive enough?

anna.serlachius, Comments: 7
What would you do if you were told that your quality of life could be improved by following three concrete steps? Several years ago I was involved in a study looking at the impact of positive psychology techniques on improving quality of life in cancer patients. Since being involved in this trial, I have been fascinated by the ability of such relatively ‘simple’ techniques in improving people’s quality of life, mood and overall well-being.

Positive Psychology is a relatively new field of psychology which studies the positive side of human functioning and performance. Instead of focusing on psychological problems, positive psychologists try to understand what makes people thrive and flourish. Positive psychologists are interested in aspects like character strengths or traits, positive social relationships, positive experiences and other factors which contribute to positive functioning. This growing field of research has also led to many techniques and interventions that aim to improve all aspects of positive functioning, such as mood, health and even work performance.

Let me introduce you to my top three Positive Psychology techniques for improving overall well-being:

1.       The gratitude journal. This is one of my favourite Positive Psychology techniques, and perhaps one of the easiest one to adopt as part of your daily routine. Every night before going to bed write down at least three things you are grateful for. This simple daily habit helps you reflect on all the things that you are grateful for (therefore training your brain to think more positively) and can do wonders for your mood as well as your sleep.

2.       Experience ‘flow’ on a daily basis. The notion of ‘flow’ is when you are totally immersed in what you are doing, to the extent that time seems to stand still. You are so ‘in the zone’ that you may even forget to have lunch. Routinely experiencing flow can improve our creativity as well as our well-being at work. So allow yourself the space and time needed to work on a single challenging task (no multitasking allowed!) and let the flow begin…

3.       Practice mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness has stemmed from Eastern traditions and is about learning to focus our minds on the present moment. The idea behind mindfulness is to acknowledge each sensation, thought, and emotion without analyzing or judging it in any way. Mindfulness-based techniques take a lot of practice, but they can do wonders for decreasing stress. Try to find moments every day where you can practice mindfulness, whether it is when you are eating breakfast or taking the bus to work. Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis can decrease stress, increase positive emotions, and improve overall well-being.

Positive psychology interventions are cropping up everywhere. They are being used in schools, in health-care, and also in organizations. Organizations are starting to realize that attributes that are linked to good performance, good leadership, and success (attributes such as optimism and resilience) can in fact be learned. For example, even if you think you are not a natural optimist, you can in fact train your brain to start thinking more positively.

If you would like to know more about Positive Psychology, contact us to learn how Positive Psychology techniques can be applied to your organization.

Comments: 7

A year ago I read a book by M. Seligman called Learned Optimism and it really opened up my eyes to the wonders that optimism can do to you. (He did however, also give some interesting examples why we need 'less optimistic' people in this world as well... but that does not mean that naturally less optimistic people shouldn't learn the skills of optimism) My question to you Anna is about the concept of flow that you mentioned. What can we do to increase our chances of reaching that state more often everyday? Regards from Paris, Eva
Eva, 12. Dec. 12

Great question. Flow is something which is really hard to control, and cannot be forced. Studies have shown that certain types of people tend to experience flow more frequently (e.g. people who rate high in personality characteristics such as persistence and curiosity). There are however certain things that you can do to help enable flow. These things include having clear goals of what you are trying to achieve in your task and being confident you have the skills needed to complete the task. So in other words, it will be easier to achieve flow if you have a good 'fit' between the difficulty of the task and your own skills and level of confidence in achieving that task.
Anna Serlachius, 13. Dec. 12

To follow up on Eva's comment & question, I think that getting into the flow mind-set is most challenging, especially in a work environment where you have so many stimuli around you.
Jenni Ahtola, 19. Dec. 12

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