As humans, we all innately search for happiness, contentment, joy and a purposeful life. But what does it mean to be happy and is it possible to be happy without experiencing sadness and a whole range of other emotions?
This week is National Psychology Week, an APS initiative that aims to improve people’s health and wellbeing. This year’s focus is on improving happiness by promoting ways to thrive.
Research from the field of positive psychology has shown that five key pillars underpin our psychological wellbeing. These pillars are positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment, and by focusing on these aspects of life we can improve our health, happiness and satisfaction with life (Australian Psychological Society website, 2016).
Unfortunately, try as we might, even the most experienced professionals and scientists cannot provide the exact formula for happiness, as we all have different push-buttons and emotional compositions.
“What we do know is consciously promoting positive behaviour in all aspects of life – in relationships, in our workplace and at home – has a profound effect on our level of happiness,” says Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist.
Having a positive outlook is contagious (as is being negative) and can turn daily situations around. And although some of us are naturally more inclined to view life with a “glass half-empty” attitude, research suggests there are ways to turn a pessimist into an optimist.
According to The Pursuit of Happiness organisation (www.thepursuitofhappiness.org), “Optimism has been proven to improve the immune system, prevent chronic disease, and help people cope with unfortunate news.
“Gratitude is associated with optimism and it has been determined that grateful people are happier, receive more social support, are less stressed, and are less depressed.
“Recent research indicates that optimists and pessimists approach problems differently, and their ability to cope successfully with adversity differs as a result.”
If optimism doesn’t come naturally to you, here are five helpful ways to view life’s daily challenges with a more positive attitude:
1. Think about bad situations as temporary.
This is the underpinning nature of an optimist. Example situation: you are rejected in a major work submission to win new business. An optimist would think, “This is just a small setback and there will be more opportunities in the future. Creating this submission has provided great experience.”
2. Put things in perspective.
When you find yourself in a negative headspace, it can be helpful to put the shoe on the other foot, or think about others who might be in a worse situation than you.
3. Consider your own health.
Research suggests that optimists live longer and have better physical and mental health. So looking on the bright side of a situation will not only help others, it will positively impact your own health.
4. Talk it through.
Communication is a large part of positive thinking. Whether it is with a friend or a professional, talking about your situation can help you become more positive and put things in perspective.
5. Be kind to others.
There is nothing more fulfilling than doing something to make another person happy. Whether it’s a random act of kindness, volunteer work or being compassionate to a colleague in distress, being kind is emotionally satisfying and may help you nurture your inner optimist.
For more great articles like this or to view the experienced team of Clinical Psychologists at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au.
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