Happiness - our greatest gift

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By John Woods
on 14 December, 2017

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How can we cultivate happiness in our lives?

The start of a new year makes for the perfect time to focus on how to cultivate happiness into our lives.

Psychology often focuses on people’s problems, but some psychologists like Martin Seligman, have opted to look at what makes life worth living. This area of study is called Positive Psychology. 

A travel mug with a positive quote

Discover your personal strengths

It is believed that you should discover and utilise your personal strengths, which are grouped according to six virtues for “the good life”. 

These are:

  1. Wisdom - curiosity and interest in the world, love of learning, judgement, critical thinking, open mindedness, ingenuity, originality, practical intelligence, street smarts, social intelligence, personal intelligence, emotional intelligence, perspective 
  2. Courage - valour and bravery, perseverance, industry, diligence, flexible, realistic, integrity, genuineness, honesty 
  3. Humanity and love - kindness and generosity, loving and allow yourself to be loved 
  4. Justice - citizenship, duty, teamwork, loyalty, fairness and equity, leadership
  5. Temperance - self-control, prudence, discretion, caution, far sighted and deliberative, humility
  6. Transcendence - appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, optimism, future mindedness. Spirituality, sense of purpose, faith, religiousness, forgiveness and mercy, playfulness and humour, zest, passion, enthusiasm 

What can you do about your happiness?

Think and do things about the past, present and future!

  • The past: Work at being satisfied, content, fulfilled, proud and serene 
  • The present: Do things that give you joy, ecstasy, calm, zest, ebullience, pleasure and flow (being totally absorbed) 
  • The future: Work at optimism, faith, hope and trust 

"Choose Joy" painting on desk

Make peace with the past 

Express gratitude: 

  • Write a letter to someone important to you, visit them and read it to them
  • Write down three good things that you are grateful for before bed each night and include what it is about you that made them possible
  • Keep a journal of the things and people you are grateful for

Learn to forgive those who hurt you in the past using the REACH approach:

  • Recall the hurt in an objective way
  • Empathise – try to understand those who hurt you from their perspective
  • Altruistic gift of forgiveness – try to recall when you transgressed, felt guilty and were forgiven
  • Commit yourself to forgive publicly
  • Hold on to your forgiveness, remind yourself that you’ve forgiven

Focus on the present

Seek things to do that are gratifications rather than pleasures. Pleasures are quick, easy ways to bring happiness but are short lived, for example shopping and chocolate. 

Friends sat on mountainside

Gratifications are things we do which: 

  • Are challenging and require skill
  • We need to concentrate for
  • Have clear goals
  • Give us immediate feedback
  • Encourage deep involvement
  • Allow us a sense of control

And where:

  • Our sense of self vanishes
  • Time stops

Look to the future 

Increase optimism and hope by recognising and disputing negative thoughts – argue with yourself! 

Use the ABCDE model to do this:

  • ADVERSITY: Think about the problem, event or circumstances - “My friend didn’t speak to me today.” 
  • BELIEFS: Identify the beliefs you have when the problem occurs - “My friend doesn’t like me anymore.” 
  • CONSEQUENCE: How does the belief affect you - I feel rejected, sad and lonely. 
  • DISPUTATION: Challenge your belief - “Maybe something has happened that has upset them and that they are not able to tell me.” 
  • ENERGISATION: Focus on how this may lead you to feel better - “I could ask my friend if everything is ok and let them know I’ll support them if needed.” 

The One Education Psychology team can offer a range of mental health and wellbeing training for staff. If you feel this would benefit you, get in touch by calling 0844 967 1111 or fill in our contact form

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