Archives for April, 2011


5 Character Traits to Increase Life-satisfaction

One of my favorite contributions of positive psychology is the classification system to help people uncover their strengths as human beings.

Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman are the two researchers whom created the 'Values in Action Inventory of Strengths' (VIA-IS), which consists of 6 virtues and 24 character strengths.

If you take the survey it will provide you with your top 5 signature strengths, along with other strengths in order from strongest to weakest. The more you are able to use your strengths in daily life the more fulfilled and happy you will be.

The 5 strengths below are adapted from the survey and may not be your most valued characteristics, but I wanted to offer a general group that provides a good overall approach to thriving and flourishing in life.

Work to enhance these 5 traits and you will find more life-satisfaction.

Gratitude - Making it a habit to appreciate what you have has been shown to be a very effect way to increase life-satisfaction. One infamous exercise is to write a letter of gratitude to someone, and then deliver and read it to them personally.

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Manage Stress by Making Room For Peace and Tranquility

Are you always on the go and trying to balance more plates that you can handle?

Often, if we're not being mindful, we don't realize how always being busy and rushed can impact our physical and emotional health.

If we keep adding more to our already full plate, it can cause chronic stress, which will inevitably lead to exhaustion and burnout. Before these plates come crashing down, make room for peace and tranquility in your life.

Here are a few suggestions to help bring awareness to the level of stress you may be dealing with, and to develop a plan to manage it.

Be aware of energy drains and stress symptoms

Do you know what leads to stress in your life? Maybe it's your work, family, or financial issues? Often, any uncertainty or change can lead to a stress response.

The important thing is to be aware of what's causing stress in your life. Whether it's an expected activity or situations you can prepare for and manage, or an unexpected life event, it's important to know where stress comes from and how to handle it.

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Begin to Flourish By Living More Intentionally

It's easy to go through life never finding true significance, and not thinking twice about what we're meant to do. Sometimes we must play the hand we're dealt, but others times it's in our best interest to trust the inner source of guidance we have and live by intentions.

Living intentionally is about expanding our awareness of what is possible and learning to organize life from this perspective.

This involves knowing what we truly desire, and being open to the opportunities and inspiration all around us, in order to obtain it.

By living more intentionally, we deliberately take back control in those troubling areas of our life and have the courage to decisively achieve anything.

Instead of being consumed with fears and doubts we can choose what we wish to bring into our life, and can experience more gratifying, proud, and inspiring moments.

It doesn't help to be consumed by worry and frustration over the tentative circumstances and uncertainties in life.

We can establish greater control and feel empowered in how we respond and what we do by directing ourselves toward the people, places, and situations that will provide us joy, fulfillment, and meaning.

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How to Help Kids Deal with Emotions

Everyone is raised in a unique family culture. Some kids' home life models emotions as easily expressed and understood and others have a situation where emotions are inconsistent or even prohibited.

We experience a vast range of emotions through the family dynamic. All families have moments of joy, amusement, and love, though families also experience more unpleasant emotions such as anger, frustration, and worry.

These are all a normal part of a family’s journey, and it’s important that parents provide children guidance to navigate their emotional experiences. We learn by modeling how others behave but also by explanation and Socratic teaching.

An important role for parents is to walking through the process of understanding and dealing with emotions.

If your child is angry and isn’t behaving appropriately, it may be because they just don’t understand how they feel.

Coaching children on emotions

Emotion coaching involves walking through an emotional experience with a child, and it can be an effective way for children to develop greater emotion regulation.

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Social Media, the Internet, and Human Connections

People have a natural inclination to communicate, connect, and share their experiences with others, and with the rise of social media and other digital channels of communication our definition of relationships is shifting.

It’s very rare to find someone who doesn’t use some form of mobile device or PC. The internet and social media have become a normal part of our everyday interactions.

Consider the fact that Facebook has more than 500 million active users, which is about 2 million more than the entire population of the United States.

The staggering amount of online interactions is even more astonishing when including the many other sites like Twitter, Linkedin, and Myspace, which account for millions of users between them.

So, what’s the quality of these social interactions? Is this digital communication a positive transition or a detriment to the overall human connection?

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7 Factors that Predict Positive Aging

The increasing number of older adults will be staggering over the next two decades. In order to have positive well-being, it is paramount that "baby-boomers," as well as future generations, consider the consequences of their lifestyle on mental and physical health.

This means having a healthy dose of positive emotions, the absence of physical disability, and general life-satisfaction as the people reach the second half of their life.

What can people do then to support their positive aging?

There are large individual differences in physical and cognitive functioning of older adults. Negative stereotypes about aging may lead older adults to negatively interpret the natural changes that accompany aging and develop limiting expectations.

Though, older adults who engage in regular physical and mental activity, as well as having a positive attitude, improve the odds of successful aging. They tend to be healthier and live longer than adults who are sedentary and don’t stimulate themselves intellectually.

Research has also revealed seven factors that predict positive aging.

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The Intersection of Emotion and Creativity

There are numerous outlets to release creative expression, such as a beautiful painting, an innovative invention, or a scientific discovery. Overall, in most cultures, creativity is considered to be a valuable trait to possess. It is considered to be a highly advanced form of thinking, and offers us adaptability to difficult situations and helps us create something new and progressive to advance society.

When we consider how emotions play a role in this process there is interesting and contradictory findings.

Emotions, unlike creativity are primitive in nature. Though, one similarity between the two is the natural and innate capacity of both. Human beings are emotional creatures and natural creators. Understanding how to manage emotions in a way to develop creativity is a powerful realization.

Some research contends that emotions impact creativity and similarly emotions can be a product of creative change. We experience a wide range of emotional states, and when it comes down to it, creativity is interrelated with our affect, mood, and state of mind.

To enhance creativity, we just need to put ourselves in appropriate frame of mind.

Consider when you're upset and very angry. How does your ability to think change? Most often when we lack emotional clarity and balance, we are not able to utilize our full mental capacity.

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Social Issues

Can We Enhance Mental Health Through Positive Institutions?

The absence of mental illness does not mean someone has flourishing mental health. This has been a common theme I have encountered lately, and is also one of the major focal points of positive psychology.

The idea of optimal functioning involves more than the absence of illness, and extends to our experience of positive emotions, using positive character traits, and developing positive institutions.

The development of positive institutions is a major factor in a community’s level of mental health.

Often we view psychological well-being at the individual level, without considering the impact of the community we live in. Though we don't live in a vacuum separated from the surrounding environment. Our environment has a major impact on our development.

This is similar to Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory, which explains how our development and overall functioning comes from many levels of socialization, such as direct parents and family to our overall culture.

In this sense the policies and institutions in a given community have a major impact on the well-being of the individuals and the development of future generations.

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Emotional Awareness

Using Emotional Intelligence as a Means to Thrive

Emotional intelligence (EI) is continually becoming a more recognized and integral source of effective human development. Schools and corporations provide programs and workshops in order to educate children and adults about self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal relationships in order to achieve better performance and greater productivity.

This ability of self-regulation and effective relationships also has a direct connection with people living more effective and satisfying lives.

According to an article by Dr. Reuven Bar-On titled, Emotional Intelligence: an integral part of positive psychology, EI is clearly an integral component of positive psychology, and provides a route where EI can be more clearly understood as a source of greater well-being and happiness.

The article points out numerous factors that overlap between positive psychology and EI. These include:

self-regard and self-acceptance based on self-awareness
the capacity for positive social interactions based on social-awareness
realistic problem solving and decision making
self-determination and optimism

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Emotional Awareness

How to Be Mindful and Have More Positivity

Most of the time we lack awareness of the assumptions and evaluations we constantly make about ourselves, others, and the world at large. We go through life being mindless and unaware of our thinking patterns, feelings, and motivations.

In mindless states our emotions are driven by our unconscious beliefs and interpretations of the world, which in turn impacts our behavior. We encounter a new situation or new person and immediately begin to evaluate in terms of "good" and "bad" or "right" and "wrong."

This dichotomous thinking provides a critical and judgmental view of ourselves and the world around us, and ultimately leads to destructive emotions, such as envy, resentment, shame, and greed.

Learning to be mindful or our assumptions, beliefs, and evaluations can lead to a more positive state of mind by disciplining the mind and gaining awareness.

How, specifically does mindfulness lead to more positivity?

Mindfulness leads to less worry. When we are mindful we are able to be in the present moment, and are more focused on what we’re doing, instead of being incessantly worrying about future plans and desires. Mindfulness is a process of developing the cognitive capacity to regulate what we're attending to, which can help to cope with stress and manage turbulent situations where there is significant change and uncertainty.

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