This episode kicks off a six-part series in which I take you through six different pathways to happiness, to human flourishing, and with each one I’ll provide you with tools that you can use. This is all based on the current research through a framework called PERMA-V. In today’s episode I’ll teach you all about the P: Positivity, and every other week, when I do a solo episode, I’ll be discussing another one of the 6 pathways. After you listen to each episode, I hope you’ll practice the tools I’m providing so you can apply this to your own life.
I start with a bit of background to help put all of this in context. I discuss a bit of the history of psychology in the twentieth century and the birth of the field of positive psychology, which stemmed from the recognition that we needed to focus on and learn more about wellness, and not just illness. A key idea in positive psychology is that the absence of illness is not wellness. Just because you don’t have diabetes or cancer doesn’t mean you’re healthy, and just because you haven’t been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder doesn’t mean you’re thriving and flourishing. Positive psychology started developing the understanding that, more than the surface happiness, which, while it’s pleasurable, is more fleeting, we should be learning to cultivate a deeper, more fulfilling happiness. I address the concept of the hedonic treadmill as part of the reason why the search for more money and a better job doesn’t lead to true, deep, lasting happiness, and what Aristotle called “eudaimonia,” or wellbeing and flourishing.
The field of positive psychology has been studying what it takes to really cultivate our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others, and a recent theory has laid out 6 pathways to flourishing: PERMA-V.
- Meaning and Purpose
- Accomplishment and Achievement
In today’s episode I discuss Positivity, which does not mean being happy all the time and ignoring one’s grief and challenging emotions, and sweeping difficult experiences under the rug. Positivity is about having more positive emotions than negative emotions, more gratitude than resentment, more joy than grief and rage. We all have negativity bias, we all go more easily towards the negative than the positive, and I offer an activity for you to do that demonstrates this. The pathway of positivity really comes down to understanding how your brain works, and to your mindset, shifting from reacting harshly to stressful triggers to responding to them, so that you can show up in the world as your best self.
Negativity bias served a very important role in our own survival as a species, keeping us on the lookout for threats in our environment. This no longer serves us, though, and in fact it adversely impacts our wellbeing, but it did serve a purpose evolutionarily, and this begs the question: Why do we have positive emotions? Top researcher Barbara Frederickson has shown that positive emotions also played a key role in our survival in that they contributed to building relationships, which helped us fight threats. Positive emotions also facilitate increased creativity and problem solving, helping our brains broaden and build. We need more positive emotions in our day than negative ones, and a major way to do this is through gratitude, gratitude and appreciation for what it, and also holding a vision for a positive future. I discuss the upward spiral generated by regular practices of gratitude, why it’s so important, and how to incorporate gratitude into your daily life.
I talk about the pessimistic thinking style, which is characterized by the belief that challenges tend to be permanent, pervasive, and personal, versus the optimistic thinking style, in which we view challenges as temporary, isolated, and not necessarily personal. Shifting from a pessimistic thinking style to an optimistic thinking style will bring about profound improvements to your wellbeing, and research shows that having a pessimistic thinking style shortens one’s life span by an average of 9 years!
I end with a discussion of the cycle of thoughts leading to feelings leading to behaviors and back to a new thought, and how we can work with this cycle to change our thoughts and therefore change the feelings and behaviors that follow. This comes in part form the work of Byron Katie who teaches us to question our own thoughts.
We can all change our brains, but it takes choice, discipline and practice, and to help with that I end with several Purpose Power Tips for you take action.
And here are links for a few resources I mention in this episode:
Barbara Frederickson’s book, Positivity
Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset
Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology
Women’s Global Happiness Day
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May you live purposefully, may you love yourself, and may you love life.
Bye for now!