Archives for October, 2011
There are many factors involved when it comes to suffering from depression or anxiety, and when taking an integrative approach, we would consider such areas as biological, cognitive and social circumstances. In particular, our cognitive domain including our perspectives, interpretations and beliefs related to ourselves, the world around us, and our future holds a great deal of power over our ability to manage stress and experience greater well-being. People with a sense of hopelessness and lack of control are particularly vulnerable to stress and psychopathology. We will go through difficult times in life, so having the ability to bounce back from adversity is crucial for building mental health and having life-satisfaction.
A flourishing person is someone who experiences positive emotions, excels in daily life, and is a contributing and productive member of society. In other words, they consistently feel good and do good. Some people just seem to be full of energy, positivity and have optimal mental health. So, what leads someone to flourish and thrive mentally, emotionally and physically? Is there something fundamentally different about them? According to recent research by Barbara Fredrickson, "flourishers" displayed more positive emotional reactivity to pleasant events compared to non-flourishers or depressed individuals. Fredrickson is known for the broaden-and-build theory, which posits that "recurrent experiences with positive emotions ultimately "build" a variety of beneficial personal resources."
I heard a great quote the other day that goes, "The definition of insanity is thinking you need something you don't already have." It's hard to not want and desire more. We live in a consumer driven society that pushes messages of consumption and materialism. Though, as the quote implies, if we don't have something already and are fine, obviously we don't really need it. In general, it's important to be grateful and thankful for what we have in our life. We may be grateful for our overall life circumstances and general lifestyle, or specifically thankful for a gift or benefit someone else provides us. The catch is that it's not always easy to really appreciate what we have, and it can be easy to lose our appreciation as we get used to our situation or run into difficult situations.
The positive psychology movement has been criticized for being Pollyanna and sugar coating real issues by simply thinking positively. Positive psychology is much more than "positive thinking," and offers a vast array of insight and direction for how people can function more optimally. Positive psychology offers us added insight into how we can embrace change, feel positive about who we are, and enjoy healthy, responsible and fulfilled lives. But, like anything else the application of this knowledge and information is very important. Particularly when it comes to how we apply positive emotions. Recent research presented in the American Psychologist explains how positive emotions are not necessarily direct and distinct in the way they function and affect us. According to these researchers, psychology is not necessarily positive or negative. Ascribing a label such as positive to emotions and states of mind like optimism, forgiveness, and kindness may be a misnomer when considering the bigger picture.
I'm sure there are many things you enjoy doing, such as being outdoors, watching or playing sports, reading books or magazines, playing with pets, or listening to music, just to name a few. Though if you're like me, sometimes these enjoyable activities lose their luster. It's easy to end up seeking more and looking for something new. What used to give us pleasure and enjoyment starts to become mundane and dull. When this happens, much of the positive emotion that was elicited from these experiences tends to diminish and we are left unfulfilled and dissatisfied. So, one way to increase positive emotions and experience more enjoyment is to start savoring the small pleasures in life. And not only savoring them, but planning out in our schedule when we are going to engage in these activities and consciously consuming the positive feelings that come along.
Do you know the story of The Little Engine that Could? “As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, "I--think--I--can, I--think--I--can." It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, "I thought I could, I thought I could." This little engine knew the power of believing in ourselves and how this can push our performance. Self-efficacy and performance Self-efficacy essentially equals self-trust. It is our belief that we are capable of doing what needs to done for the task at hand, and is our belief that we can coordinate our skills in changing or challenging situations.
It is clear that experiencing positive emotions offers many benefits. People who experience frequent positive feelings are healthier and live longer, they are able to think more creatively and problem solve more effectively, they build healthier relationships, and are more resilient and able to bounce back from stress. So why aren't we all more dedicated and focused on enhancing positive emotions? Maybe it's because remembering to focus on the positive isn't always so easy. We may get stuck in a rut, and get overrun with stress, which can taint our outlook and ability to manage our thinking. It's all too easy to fall back into thinking traps and automatic negative thoughts when life circumstances start bringing us down. As we go through our day, having something to help us redirect our focus to those things that enhance psychological well-being can be very helpful.
Most people don't look forward to the changes that come with old age. It's easy to focus on decline in cognitive ability, and the potential health problems and physical limitations. These notions can make old age seem less than satisfactory. However, some research reveals that despite these general deficits, people may actually become happier as they age. Specifically, emotion regulation skills may improve with age, leading to decreasing negative affect, and more stable positive affect. In general, older adults may have an increasing sense of life-satisfaction, and be able to regulate their emotions more effectively than younger adults, allowing them to experience longer-lasting positive emotions and more fleeting negative moods. The way older adults process information has been shown to be different from young adults, as they tend to pay attention to more positive information and tend to recall more positive memories.
I'm sure you're familiar the stories of brilliant artists, poets, or musicians who make their mark in social history through their gifted work only to self-destruct due to some mental breakdown. The myth of the mad-genius is prevalent in movies, books, and popular culture and has been a belief that goes back as far as Aristotle. Is there really any truth to this notion? Is there a significant relationship between creativity and mental illness? Research reveals that the rates of psychological disorder in samples of highly creative people are somewhat higher than in the general population. There are certainly many notable creative figures who suffered from some form of mental instability. Abraham Lincoln has been reported to suffer from depression Vincent Van Gogh was known to be peculiar and suffer from unstable moods.