Archives for Positive Psychology
It’s so easy to take things for granted. We almost seem built to do it – wired to see the danger over the delight. To spot the problem floating on a sea of stuff that’s working. When this happens, all the enriching, joyful, sustaining things in your life – however fleeting they may be just now – get backgrounded. Lost. Instead, your foreground is filled with the close-up perspective of the things that bring pain and difficulties. And you get to feel all the anxiety and worry attached to them. Can you relate to that? What would happen if you could reverse the flow for a moment? Move the foreground into the background, and the background forward? What if you could deliberately set the inspiring and rejuvenating stuff up front for a moment? Let your mind and body remember them, and feel the relief they bring? Well, you can… And one of the simplest ways to do it is to harness the power of gratitude.
I was sipping tea at a café, when this rusted, busted air vent on the wall across the street caught my eye. Or rather, its shadow did. Somehow, with the sun at that angle, it was like the brokenness had wings. “Divinity is in everything,” my companion said. The rust. The edges. The hard places and the soft. The small things in life that hold the bigness of it all… Yet how easy it is to gloss over them and simply not see. To turn away. To try ‘not to sweat the small stuff’ and so to miss it altogether. And what are you missing when you do that? A lot, if Dr Martin Seligman and his positive psychology are right.
Hidden down a back alley, somewhere along an expanse of a grey wall, I stumbled unexpectedly upon this mysterious little red door. Colour in the midst of drabness. Mystery in the mundane. And a way through the grey. It seemed slightly Alice-in-wonderland-ish. A portal leading from this place to some other. Maybe happiness is a little like this in some ways? Vibrant. Transporting. And ultimately somewhat mysterious. For though so many of us search for it, and so much therapy revolves around it (or its absence), what actually is it? What is this stuff whose lack we feel so keenly? How would you define it? Or is it too slippery for that? Perhaps there’s something indefinable about it (that might actually be an important part of it).
When was the last time you were thankful? Just think back for a second. Maybe it was only earlier today. Or maybe it’s been a while… maybe it’s hard to actually remember. And where do you feel it when it’s there? How does your body hold it? What happens inside you when gratitude turns up? Maybe there’s a kind of glow or a warmth or a lifting of sorts. However you experience it, this very feeling is thought to be directly linked to happiness and wellbeing. Thought to buoy our spirits, help stave off depression, and even strengthen our sense of meaning and purpose in life. It’s considered so potent that positive psychology puts it at the heart of its theories, and has created exercises to increase gratitude (and all its knock-on effects). So how can you awaken more of this stuff in your own life?
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to facilitate an 'in conversation' event with Rev Dr Stephanie Dowrick, as we explored the idea of seeking the sacred in life, and what that might look like. On the way there, I spotted these words on a menu board in a restaurant garden: “Enjoy the Beauty Inside” I’m sure it meant the beauty inside the restaurant, but it seemed a really apt thing to see just before talking about the concept of sacredness… During that conversation, Stephanie lamented that therapy often required so much “work” and that it often seems so negatively framed. That therapy seems to need us to unravel our lives right back to the beginning and re-live all the painful bits. To dredge up the ugly past and stain the present with it somehow. And maybe this is true, sometimes. For in therapy’s earlier days, it started out as just such a thing. But, thankfully, it’s grown since then. Many therapies now also look to our future and ask us to imagine what we’d like to bring about there, and how we might do that...