Positive Psychology: do you have to practice Happiness?

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Yes. Like any state of being, the more you do it, the more your mind is wired for it.

Do any of these describe you?  Flourishing, struggling, floundering, languishing. I think I’ve been all of them, depending on life circumstances. Those words are taken from a cool article by Positive Psychology guru, Martin Seligman. In it, his research points to THE BIG FIVE FACTORS that are strong determinants of Happiness. Take stock, do these 5 make it into your daily vitamin of life?

Here’s the acronym: PERMA

1. Positive Emotion (P)~For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion like peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category – and the message is that it’s really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now (just as long as the other elements of PERMA are in place).

2. Engagement (E)~When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.

This feels really good! According to FLOW master Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, there is a perfect match to be captured between your abilities + your task = awesome flow state where you lose sense of time, are completely engaged, and feel at peace afterwards. Crafts and building stuff takes me there (and my dog, lol)!

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3. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS (R)~As humans, we are “social beings,” and good relationships are core to our well-being. Time-and-again, we see that people who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships really do matter!

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4. MEANING (M)~Meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves. Whether this is a specific deity or spirituality, or a cause that helps humanity in some way, we all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of well-being.

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5. ACCOMPLISHMENT/ACHIEVEMENT (A)~Many of us strive to better ourselves in some way, whether we’re seeking to master a skill, achieve a valuable goal, or win in some competitive event. As such, accomplishment is another important thing that contributes to our ability to flourish.

Okay to sum up, remember the more you practice certain states of being, the more your brain will be wired for them. Anxiety begets anxiety, creativity begets creativity. And remember to increase your daily doses of PERMA (positive emotion, engagement, close relationships, Meaning, & Accomplishment (like creating things, building things, a bike jump, a fort, a vegetable garden, designing stuff, helping others).

And finally: from Martin Seligman’s book on Positive Psychology: Happiness is a scientifically unwieldy notion, but there are three different forms of it if you can pursue:

“‘Pleasant Life’ =you aim to have as much positive emotion as possible and learn the skills to amplify positive emotion.

‘Engaged Life’= you identify your highest strengths and talents and recraft your life to use them as much as you can in work, love, friendship, parenting, and leisure.

‘Meaningful Life’= you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”

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I’m always working on the Engaged Life set of skills these days….but Meaningful Life is a close second. I’ll be 50 in October and know this is spurring me to take stock. More on that later.

What area of Happiness do you struggle with, or which area comes easy?

(That’s my son and me during a very happy day 2009).

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