Tag Archives: happiness

Can I be Positive?

All you need is by Ari Hahn
All you need is, a photo by Ari Hahn on Flickr.

People who live with mental illness, whether it is themselves or a loved one, love with too much stress and negative emotions. Much has been written about stress and certainly everybody has heard of the dangers of being over stressed.

Most medical professionals and psychotherapists work under the assumption that of you get rid of the negative in your life you will fill up your life with positive. People want to be happy and to flourish so if we remove the obstacles you will seek, find and fill your life with good healthy emotions and activities. Unfortunately, we see that it doesn’t work that way. It would if, for instance, love and fear were opposite ends of a real continuum. But if they were, you couldn’t both love and fear the same person at the same time. I sure you know of that possibility.

Science tells us that negative emotions help us focus on protection. If you are walking down a dark city street and a bunch of rowdy teenage boys come up behind you, you might get anxious or afraid. Your muscles tense, your heart beats harder, you listen more carefully, etc. Your only thought is how to stay safe.

If your kid is beginning to act out, your whole being focuses on what needs to be done to get through this episode. Hypervigilance reigns as you watch for signs that hospitalization might be needed. You ignore other tasks that seemed important just a short while ago. You feel all sorts of negative emotions and they actually can help you (in some ways) keep you and your family safe.

But what about positive emotions? How do they work? How do they effect our thinking and actions?

Positive emotions and positive interactions tend to move us in an opposite direction. When we engage in positivity our minds and hearts open up to new possibilities. Emotions like joy, gratitude, hope, pride and love help us feel expansive and we are able to be more creative. We build stronger relationships and live healthier lives. Not because of the lack of stress but because the positive emotions actually enhance these processes in our brains.

However, people do not automatically move into the positivity mode. If you have been overwhelmed with problems you might be stuck in a negativity rut. The real good news is that we all can train ourselves to cultivate feelings of joy, gratitude, awe, serenity, hope and love. If you can find even a few moments of these feelings then those moments are the seeds of a flourishing life. And there is research to show that for many people nurturing those seeds can be just as effective as antidepressants. With no side effects.

Some people need a personal coach. A positivity trainer. A professional who can teach you to refocus and cherish the good feelings through overwhelming times. I cannot think of a better investment.

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Filed under Coaching, Love, Positive Psychology, PTSD

A Start on the Path to Positivity

In my last post I proposed that people suffering from complex PTSD can improve their lives by increasing positivity. Although many people see this possibility, others feel so overwhelmed that they feel it impossible. While that is the nature of C-PTSD, I have worked with these people to overcome the obstacles and progress on the strive to thrive highway.

There are many tools and techniques that have been developed by positive psychologists in the past ten years. Although I have found them to parallel techniques that have been around for thousands of years, these new formulations are based on research and fit well into our modern perspectives. One powerful and simple exercise is the “Gratitude Journal.”

The Gratitude Journal is really a very simple exercise. You set aside ten minutes at the end of the day to write in a journal three things that occurred that day that engendered some level of gratitude. Then add on to that some reason for why it happened. The events can big big or small, significant or humble, it makes no difference. Anything from, “my daughter gave birth to a healthy child,” to “a lady was nice to me while in line at the supermarket.” When citing a reason, it needs to be anything that makes sense to you. If you do this for three weeks you will almost certainly see a positive change in your life.

Some people claim it is difficult to find things to be grateful for. Of course, that’s true. But not because there aren’t reasons to be grateful. It is because you are not practiced at thinking positive. And while there are really good reasons for that, it is the lack of practice that keeps your mood negative. The purpose of keeping a Gratitude Journal is to train your mind and heart to be more open to positivity. As you struggle to find events to be thankful for you are creating neural paths of positivity in your brain. The more of positivity paths up there, the better you feel.

I have done this myself and with dozens of other people. A few people need help to begin the habit of finding and expressing gratitude. With even slight help everybody can find positive points to be thankful for. And every person who I know that has completed even a few weeks of this journal has sung the benefits.

Some people ask: how long do I have to keep this journal? Remember that the goal is to train your mind in the positive direction. So the schedule would be similar to other training endeavors. At first it is important to work on it on a daily basis. But once you’ve gained the skill, only maintenance is needed. That means only two or three times a week. On the other hand, you will find that it will become an enjoyable activity.

Hey, a healthful activity that’s enjoyable. We can all use that!

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Filed under Coaching, Positive Psychology, PTSD

Tapping into the Daydreaming Scene

Do you day dream too much? Or maybe even not enough? How much do people daydream anyway?

Daydreaming has been terribly maligned. In grade school the teachers would call my best friend “the wonder boy” meaning he always seems to wondering about things and not paying attention. If we are caught daydreaming often at work we can get into deep ____.

But daydreaming is actually very helpful. Some research has noted that we should be daydreaming up to 30% of our waking hours. That seems like quite a lot. I suppose it is more important when and where you do it. We do spend a lot of time in places and situations that we are not in close communications with others. So why not? Go for it.

Day dreaming serves a number of purposes. First, as a pleasant “mini-vacation.” We can place ourselves in any situation and in any location. As you probably know, that not only sounds like fun, but it can really be fun.  But fun is not necessarily the only benefit. Actually there are some real value we can reap from our daydreaming. If we keep it realistic we can develop tentative plans that are slightly beyond creative. It can enable us to achieve way more than our rational minds would ever let us. For some of us that idea of staying somewhat realistic can take practice, but it is still fun. And for some of us that pushing the envelope is very entertaining.

We often daydream about our own character. We think of who we are and who we would really like to be. This is like a wonderful positive psychology exercise.  This is actually a way of constructively tapping into your daydreaming skills.

Let you mind wander to focus on who you could really be if you had the power to change yourself over the next 5 or 10 years. Don’t think about what you Momma told you, but focus on who you can become and be closer to your real self. As you think about it, start to imagine real life situations and how you would want to deal with them if you only could do it in your best way possible. You can convince yourself in these daydreams that you have the power to become your ideal self.

But the fact is that you do have the power to change yourself. It takes a bit of concentrated thought of how you can be the best person you are inside. After the daydreaming, if you can write down as much as possible of that possible, ideal self it will become an actual living work in progress.  – No. You will become that actual living work in progress.

If you are a coach you can do this with your clients and help them focus on their positive and ideal selves. Help them write down as much details of their ideal lives and to judge how much of that ideal life is influenced by internal values or something they are picking up from someone else’s values. Discuss it. I’m sure you can do the job well.

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Filed under Coaching, Positive Psychology