The days are growing shorter, and the holidays are coming. When you are feeling low or when you are missing someone very much, it can be extra difficult during the holiday period. We would like to feel happy, satisfied and good and some of us could use some extra help at this time. With the help of positive psychology, we focus more on strengthening things that are going well (strengthening the positives) instead of reducing complaints (reducing the negatives). How can you stay positive, especially in these difficult times?
Important aspects of positivity
Martin Seligman is a renowned psychologist and supporter of positive psychology. He has developed a model with 5 important aspects of well-being. These 5 aspects are equally important for every person. It is good to take a moment to consider what is important to you. What is going well? What could be even better? If you know how the following 5 aspects are important to you and you act accordingly, it will contribute to your mental well-being and your happiness!
A pleasurable life
In a pleasurable life there is room for fun, enjoyment and the experience of positive feelings. When we feel negative emotions, our perception becomes smaller; you can end up in a downward spiral. However, when we focus on positive emotions, we get a wider perspective; we feel more positive emotions and also attract more positive experiences. This makes us more flexible, healthy and creative. To what extent do you feel happy and satisfied? For example, what do you enjoy intensely? Having an enjoyable life is the icing on the cake: it is often a byproduct of achieving important things. If you want to spice up your enjoyable life, scroll down for some helpful assignments.
The good life
You feel involved in your work, hobbies and relationships. The involved life is about what you are committed to. In the good life you use your strongest characteristics, this allows you to experience flow: you are absorbed in challenging tasks. The good life does not always go together with happiness because it is about strengthening your character (self) and qualities. You may feel growing pains, but you will eventually feel at one with your “task”. To what extent do you feel fulfilled in your work, hobbies and relationships? What are you really good at? Do you want to strengthen your good life? Then scroll down for a number of assignments.
Having positive relationships
This is about having meaningful relationships with others. In positive relationships, you invest time and energy in establishing and strengthening relationships: happy people often have good relationships. To what extent do you feel a warm and trusted bond with others? For example, can your friends trust you? Do you take the time to pay attention to your friends? Would you like to grow in positive relationships? Scroll down for a number of assignments that can help you do this.
The meaningful life
This is not only about yourself, but also about something greater. Think of a good cause or an altruism that contributes to a greater cause, for example caring for others. The following points contribute immensely to the sense of “the meaningful life”: appreciation for beautiful things in life, gratitude, hope, humor and playfulness, religion or spirituality. Giving meaning takes away some boredom, it protects us against depressive symptoms and therefore ensures a better quality of life. Do you want to focus more on a meaningful existence? See below for a number of assignments that might help.
Achieve something in your life
It is often said that you learn the most from your mistakes, but research has shown that you learn even more from your successes! If you want to achieve something and, for example, if you are being supervised, it is also important to reflect on what is going well and how you can continue to build on it. Achieving something also involves paying attention to what is going well. In addition, it is about pursuing short and long term goals. It is about having passion and dedication to stay focused and gain knowledge. We see that dedication and persistence is more important than talent. To what extent and how often do you have the feeling that you have achieved something? And do you pay attention to what is going well? Do you want to strengthen this? Below you will find relevant assignments.
To feel satisfied and happy, it is therefore important to focus on what is going well. Because by becoming aware of what is going well (with the help of assignments), you can force yourself to think positively, feel positive and behave positively. If you practice with it often enough, you will subconsciously be more positive in life. And that’s what you want: to become positive unconsciously!
Assignments from positive psychology
Have you read the above blog about ‘’How you can stay positive” and would you like to get started? Below you will find you some assignments!
Assignment 1: A pleasurable life
To work towards a pleasurable life, you can try the following assignments:
- Positive Imagery: This involves thinking back to positive events. For example, reflect on three things you did today that are good for you. For example: “I had a healthy breakfast this morning, it felt good for my body.” And for example, instead of: “The sun was shining and it made me happy.” You can think, “Because the sun was shining, I went for a long walk.”
- A positive diary: write down three things every day that you are grateful for despite what is happening or has happened? For example, “Even though I feel a little uncomfortable now, I am proud that I honestly told my friend what was bothering me.”
- Approach your time the same way you would a bank account: the time you have can be seen like a bank account. Every morning there are 86,400 seconds on your account. If you haven’t used it up at the end of the day, the seconds will expire. If you took this perspective, what would you do? Most likely you would try to spend every second as best you can.
Assignment 2: A good life
To work on a good life, you can try the following assignments:
- Ask questions about a troubled childhood: Reflecting on the ways you survived your childhood struggles can help you feel more self-respect and pride. Think about: what helped me survive? What have I learned from it? How do I manage to have in my adult life what I missed as a child?
- Positive imagery: write a letter from the future. A letter in which you write that things are going well, and what you did to get there. You can write about: what has changed? Who else is in your life? Which people have left?
Assignment 3: Positive relationships
To work towards having positive relationships, try the following assignments:
- Spend quality time with you friends: When was the last time you actually interacted with your friends? When did you do something together? How can you give your friends more attention? Or what can you do to make new friends?
- Try not to worry about yourself: those who pay too much attention to themselves are unhealthier, feel more lonely and less happy than someone who thinks about others. Be there for someone else, it makes the other person and you happy!
- Forgive someone else: if you are angry with someone it can give you a lot of stress (more cortisol production) and this can deteriorate your immune system. Anger is a normal emotion and it is sometimes necessary. However, try to control your anger, because anger often causes you more stress.
Assignment 4: A meaningful life
To work on a meaningful life, try the following assignments:
- Find meaning in your day-to-day: Think of something simple and positive like complimenting someone close to you or doing a good deed like sending someone a card. You can also find meaning in the best, worst, and most common things. For example, during a crisis (such as Covid-19) people feel more connected to each other.
- Expand and experiment with hope: discuss a problem that annoys you: how often does this happen? What exactly is going on? Why does it bother you? After you have this clear in your head, think about questions such as: what would be the most ideal situation? What are you hoping for? Will there come a time when the situation will be different? Have you felt hopeful before? Try to look at the situation in a humorous way: laughter reduces tension.
- Take care of your body: watch what you eat, drink, exercise enough and get enough sleep. Take care of yourself!
Assignment 5: Achieving something in your life
To work on achieving something in your life, try the following assignments:
- Name your successes, talents and ambitions: sometimes people say positive things about you, but you are not there to hear it. For example when you have passed away, or when a former colleague leaves your company. Together with your friends and family, investigate where your qualities lie and what they think is positive about you, to build a positive self-image.
- Build a growth mindset: When you face challenges, making mistakes is inevitable. Nobody is too old to learn. What can you learn from someone else? This is a difficult topic, but it feels satisfying to talk about it.
- Go for better instead of good: ask about what is going better instead of what is going well. For example: when your colleagues notice that you have better planning than you did before, see this as a nice compliment: you are growing!
These assignments come from the book Positive Psychology by Fredrike Bannink. This describes Seligman’s well-being theory in detail.