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I recently ran a lunchtime webinar on Positive Psychology. This was a
field that I was introduced to in my coaching training and loved it
straightaway. I researched it a lot for my essays and have used its
principles in my coaching since I started. I'd love to share some of
its approaches with you.
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive Psychology is not what many people think it is. A lot of
people assume it's to do with Positive Mental Attitude or Positive
Thinking. In fact, Positive Psychology is a heavily researched and
Martin Seligman, a key teacher and academic in the field describes it
as: "the scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to
discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities
to thrive...". Whilst that sounds great, it might not bring us very
much further towards understanding what it is so I'm going to share what
I think are the most interesting and useful bits for you to think
The Happiness Equation
Positive Psychology looks at how we can attain an enduring level of
contentment. These are not the momentary highs and lows that we all
experience, but rather a more consistent level of happiness. In order
to do that, it's useful to understand the Happiness Formula:
H = S + C + V
H, of course is happiness.
S is our "set level" of happiness. We all have a set level that we
return to, no matter the highs and lows of day to day live. This is
genetic and constitutes 50% of the happiness equation.
C is our circumstances and this represents a surprisingly low 10% of the
happiness equation. Also, surprising is what the research shows has
little or no effect on our enduring happiness, being things like climate
and wealth. Things that have a positive impact are being in a good
relationship and religion / spirituality.
Now it gets exciting because V represents what is under our voluntary
control and represents a great 40% of the Happiness Equation. I hope
you find this as heartening as I do!
Something that I found interesting about PP (I'm going to call it that
now) is that it distinguishes between emotions in the past, the present
and the future. These can be very distinct from each other. For
example, I could feel very proud and satisfied about my past but
indifferent about the present and worried about the future. It
therefore encourages a focus on all three.
Your emotions about the past can become more positive through exercises
in gratitude and forgiveness. Your emotions about the future can become
more positive through exercises in hope and optimism (subject of last
Whilst these things are useful, I tend to focus my clients mainly on
their present emotions. Here are the three things that I use that can
support contentment in your career and in your life.
So, that is a brief introduction to Positive Psychology. I hope that's
given you some takeaways. Let me know if you do any of the activities
and how you experienced them.
If you'd like to know more, here are a few books you might want to dip into:
Martin Seligman: Authentic Happiness; Learned Optimism; Flourish
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Finding Flow
Tal Ben-Shahar: Happier
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