[This article was previously published on Happy + Well.]
The science of positive psychology contributes new insights and proven strategies to increase wellbeing in individuals, workplaces and communities. Given the focus on positive psychology occurring in the media and society more broadly, you may sometimes get the impression that this requires you to be happy and smiling 24/7! The result of this can, of course, be a level of pressure to achieve the impossible and an increase in stress and negative emotions and moods when the impossible is not achieved.
Positive psychology does not prescribe specific levels of happiness. What it does do is provide meaningful insight, analysis and strategies to help people benefit from positive emotions.
To give ourselves the best chance of success we need tools at our disposal to increase the duration and intensity of our positive emotions and decrease the intensity and duration of our negative emotions. We also need tactics to build overall wellbeing into our lives through relationships, community, strengths, engagement and meaning.
These bolster our resilience and psychological resources, making us feel more fulfilled and more able to perform at our best – in the moment and overall.
The wonderful thing positive psychology research provides is clear indications about the most effective methods both personally and professionally to create more flourishing in individuals, teams and organisations.
For example, positive emotions are one of the hallmarks of happiness and wellbeing. When we feel good, we are more able to perform at our best. High-energy emotions like excitement, zest and enthusiasm shift our mood and our physiology fast. Positive emotions allow us to think more flexibly and creatively, and we come up with more ideas and they tend to be better quality.
They also make us more willing to try new strategies and reach out to others, according to Professor Barbara Fredrickson, who developed the Broaden and Build Theory, and is presenting at Happiness & Its Causes Conference in June. The psychological and social resources we build when we experience positive emotions buffer life’s challenges, keep us optimistic and curious about the future, and propel us in an upward spiral of happiness and wellbeing.
Did you know that just a few minutes of laughter every day can reduce stress and improve your heart rate, muscle activity, digestion and immune system? Maximise fun moments to feel happier and healthier and better still, share them with others.
Research in the positive psychology space incorporates study of a wide range of areas of wellbeing: levels of happiness and in-the-moment positive emotion, overall flourishing in life and health. From this, it suggests a simple yet fundamental equation:
Positive emotion + engagement + meaning + relationships + accomplishment = life/job satisfaction and effectiveness.
Positive emotions act as a reset to negative emotions. So, focus on increasing the duration and intensity of your emotional peaks and shortening the duration and intensity of your lows. Bringing more positive emotions into your day – and sharing them with others – will help you develop the resources and skills to be more successful and resilient.
I’ll be exploring the link between happiness and creativity and how to boost your creative potential at this year’s Happiness & Its Causes Conference in Sydney on 10-11 June.