Archives for December, 2011
Have you ever noticed how two people in the same situation can respond totally differently? How can one person be so cheerful and positive, while the other person is so negative and downtrodden? Are some people simply destined to be unhappy? We all have a happiness set point. A baseline level of well-being that we return to after our emotional highs and lows subside. There is a level of heritability that is reflected in our personality, temperament, and overall affect. Fortunately for the sake of happiness, biology is not destiny, and we can take efforts to increase our level of well-being by creating environments and experiences that are conducive to our happiness. This idea of changing our life-circumstances is related to the bottom-up theory of well-being.
An often highly contentious topic of conversation is religion. Religious beliefs are deeply rooted and hard held convictions for many people. Because these beliefs can be so firm, it may lead to strong animosity and conflict when opposing extremes meet. Many people are skeptical and question whether religion does more harm than good because of this acrimony. Despite the controversy, religion and its benefits aren't something to be mocked or disparaged. In the bigger picture, religious teachings lead to tremendous value, and promote positive concepts, such as generosity, love, forgiveness, and hope. In fact, studies have found some very important benefits of religion to well-being. When you explore your overall health, do you consider spirituality as a core aspect? If this is something you have been overlooking, this may be a valuable area of growth for emotional, physical, and relational health.
As you consider any habits or unhealthy behavior you want to work on this New Year, there are two questions to ask yourself before making any resolutions: First, why do you want to reach your resolution? What's the purpose you want to lose weight, quite smoking, or give up caffeine? I imagine you believe it will make you happier and more fulfilled. For many people, enhancing our well-being is a major reason we make lifestyle changes. Secondly, what's going to help you follow through and achieve your goals? Positive psychology can offer us some insight and a potential solution to both of these questions. Pleasure, engagement, and meaning have been show to be unique predictors of well-being.
Over the year stress can add up at work, and that once far off holiday vacation starts to look really appealing. For most professionals the end of the year is an ideal time to take a vacation and get away from the responsibilities and demands that have consumed most of the past 11 months. Holidays can be stressful in themselves, however, if we don't organize some free time and plan how we're going to manage all of the holiday expectations. If you find yourself overwhelmed during the holiday, a vacation may be just what you need. An essential part of the vitality, energy, and engagement people have in their work comes from the refreshment of a vacation, and research in Work and Stress (2010) reveals that vacations can boost employee's overall well-being and health.
Every relationship has its high and low points; people change, we experience unexpected misfortune, and sometimes we simply forget the effort required to make relationships work. It's during these times that the durability and fortitude of a relationship can be seen. Conflict is going to happen but it doesn't have to last and turn into bitterness and resentment. As we learn to find and accentuate the positive in our relationships they become more satisfying and when conflict emerges it's easier to work through. According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (2009), "a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments predicts long-term marriage stability, while a ratio of 0.8:1 or lower predicts divorce."
As the holiday season closes in, it leads me to sympathize with the many communities that lack caring, kindness and unity. It's easy to go through life with our own personal priorities and forget about everyone else. We can have so many things to do with so little time to do them, that we forget to look at the bigger picture beyond ourselves. Though more than ever, our society is in need of caring and responsible citizens willing to help others and give back to the greater good. I don't believe the holiday season has to be stressful and commercialized. The purpose of the holiday season is to really embrace the joy, hope, and generosity that surround us.
We all have strengths and weaknesses of character. For some people it's natural and fulfilling to learn, be curious, and use creativity. For others, they are prone to serving, being kind, and developing spiritually. Positive psychologists call these attributes signature strengths, and they are what lead people to optimal functioning and performance. Using our strengths energizes us, and generates enthusiasm and excitement. We will also be more alert and engaged in what we do. Unfortunately many people aren't prone to focus on and utilize their strengths. People are taught to improve at areas of weakness. We may be encouraged to work harder at things that are difficult, or feel that our weakness are where we need growth We may not even be aware of our strengths.
Life is full of transition and change. It is full of many moments where we learn about who we really are and what life really means to us. Much of the growth we experience is when we are able to overcome challenges, move beyond our comfort zone, and become a more virtuous and refined person. Positive psychology offers a few considerations that can help us be stronger in difficult times and begin to look for opportunities amongst challenges. Here are three ways that we can seek growth and expand as a person. Growth by adversity Think back on a time when you experienced adversity. How did you handle this? Did you shrivel up and wilt away, or did you persevere and come away an even stronger person than before?
Everyone goes through life in search of happiness. We work to relieve pain, experience pleasure, and reach our goals to be satisfied with our life. But what if we are already pretty happy? Does it serve a purpose to work to find ultra-happiness? Many believe that success leads to happiness. This sends us on a mission to achieve more, be more, and do more in the name of happiness and living life to the fullest. If I can only have this job, make this much money, and live in this house, then I'll finally be satisfied with my life. Research has shown that satisfaction with life is a major indicator of success, or in other words, happier people tend to be more successful in certain life domains. Though on closer observation, very high levels of satisfaction can actually limit the achievement of our full potential in certain domains. If I'm satisfied with the life I have, what's the point of striving for more?