Positive Psychology: A Vital Approach for Coping
It’s the end of my first week at home juggling changes in work and kids. It’s been a real roller coaster of emotions. Hopefully many of us will get the weekend to take a step back from work and home schooling and do something completely different that provides a break from the coronavirus.
I’d like to invite you today to ‘take 5’ over a coffee at some point and reflect on where you are at personally. I know some sceptics (I can name a few!) will shrug this off as ‘pointless’ or they’ll simply decide they don’t have time. However, evidence clearly shows that positive psychology, focusing on what works, makes a significant difference to how we feel. It’s not simply positive thinking and it doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of the problems we face. But, it does increase our ability to cope in times of adversity with greater optimism, wellbeing and gratitude.
We know that focusing on our strengths is advantageous as we tend to feel happier, more confident, have more energy, are more resilient and less stressed and are likely to be more engaged and achieve more. When we become completely engaged in something we enjoy and are good at, we’re more likely to experience wellbeing.
Think about what motivates you and what enables you to feel most like you. These opportunities could be in the form of your work, volunteering, personal hobbies, leisure activities, or acting as a mentor for others.
People with the highest degree of happiness have stronger and more positive relationships. How you communicate with others is important and this is becoming so apparent right now. With everything going on it is normal for us to experience ‘negative’ emotions such as feelings of anger and resentment towards others and this impacts on how we communicate. Social media is full of posts suggesting one thing and frustrated comments claiming the author ‘doesn’t understand’.
Consider how you communicate empathy to others who are struggling, whether that is practically or emotionally? And how do you communicate pleasure for others who appear to be doing well right now, in terms of their work or emotional ability to cope?
“If a community experiences a tragedy, all its members are affected. How each member reacts to the tragedy can determine whether the community will thrive or not.“Vantage Point, Behavioural Health & Trauma Healing
Positive psychology does not mean everything is perfect but it allows us to think differently about events.
The greatest potential benefit of positive psychology is that it teaches us the power of shifting one’s perspective.Positivepsychology.com
I wrote about resilience-enhancing thinking yesterday which is the ability to reframe attributions and assumptions. When we are conscious of our beliefs and thinking style, we can choose to experience events differently. For example, the initial perception of ‘failure’ of our business could be reframed as part of our identity, our journey. We can take from it a way of learning about how to move forwards with increased knowledge, awareness and resilience to future challenges that you are now able to anticipate. You can set new goals.
Shifting to positive emotions increases our resourcefulness, which is critical right now and an essential part of resilience. Becoming aware of what you’re grateful for enhances this emotional state. Engaging in activities that give us a sense of meaning and achievement are also key to stimulating authentic wellbeing.
As Kjerulf (2016) identifies, small, simple actions can have a big impact on our happiness, meaning that it doesn’t take much to encourage your workplace to become a happier and more positive place. This can be applied to our home-working context too.
So, grab a coffee and ‘take 5’ minutes to consider your week in relation to the following:
1. What’s the most positive thing you can take from this week? What are you grateful for?
2. What have you done to consciously bring about feelings of happiness and enjoyment into your daily routine?
3. Which activities have you engaged in that really interest you, develop your skills and use your strengths?
4. When have you connected with others and communicated empathy for their struggles and happiness for their successes?
5. What choices have you consciously made to plan positively for the future – your next steps to keep going and succeed?
To find out more about how to apply positive psychology to make a difference to you, get in touch. If, like most, you’re grappling with how to keep yourself and your team well in these uncertain times, I’m happy to help, so do drop me a line.