In this blog post: Positive Psychologist Tutorial on How To Be Happy: Part 1, I bring to you the edited transcript from the podcast I recorded with my good friend and colleague, Verity (Positive Psychologist) way back in 2016. I’ve been through the transcript and I’ve cut out all of the fluff (Verity and I like to chat) and I’m bringing to you all of the juicy bits.
And I mean juicy!
If your happiness is important to you (silly question) then this is the blog post for you.
We talk about:
- What positive psychology is.
- The benefits of positive psychology.
- What affects happiness (40% is mindset btw…………)
- Powerful Powerful POWERFUL psychology exercises to increase to your happiness.
- What went well.
- Your strengths.
Then simply scroll down to the bottom and read my summary.
Are you ready?
In layman’s terms I understand that positive psychology is the proactive management of your mental health as opposed to treating the effects of a mental illness. So positive psychology is basically the study of happiness and well-being. Is that correct?
OK so positive psychology is the study of well-being, happiness being an indicator of well-being and it’s broken down really into five elements:
- Positive emotion.
- Positive relationships.
- Meaning and
t’s all about looking about how people can cultivate all of those elements throughout their life and it’s a fairy new movement. It’s actually only about 15 years old, founded in 1998 by Martin Seligman who is a very respected psychologist.
And it would need to be someone who is really respected to break the tradition of psychology.
So traditionally we’ve looked at psychology as being what’s wrong with people, the symptoms and how we can correct those symptoms.
Positive psychology is taking all that we’ve learnt from traditional psychology and building those foundations and learning to flourish.
So, it’s effectively the proactive management of your mental health to achieve overall wellness.
Absolutely. It’s the proactive management of your mental health.
I mean, we, as a society, are very keen to look after our physical fitness but actually well-being and health overall is two separate halves. It’s your physical fitness and your mental fitness.
Can you take us through the benefits, but also the non-obvious benefits of positive psychology?
Absolutely. So, the not so obvious benefits to positive psychology is that it can be used as a preventative measure to stress and depression as well. It builds your mental stamina and resilience, therefore creating grit, which is a bit of a buzzword at the moment but there is a reason for that. It’s important.
What it also does is help people to maximise their strengths but it also helps them to use their weaknesses to their advantage as well. It’s not just taking what we would normally see as just the positives in life. It’s looking at the reality of life, you know, there’s pros and cons to everything and not everyone’s perfect.
Also, we can use what we’d normally see as a hindrance, to our advantage.
Cultivating happiness really does change your mindset. It turns it into a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset and in a growth mindset you’re more creative, you’re more open to learning and you have better mental resilience.
People who are in a growth mindset, tend to be more successful, wealthier, have better relationships, more fun and more clarity in their life.
So, they really use their full potential.
Wow. So, it’s not just about a coping mechanism, positive psychology, it’s also about attracting an abundant life really, in every single facet of your life?
Absolutely. I mean, it’s really the psychology of thriving.
Wow. I love that. So, what affects happiness and well-being would you say?
Well it’s interesting because research has found that about 50% of our happiness levels, or well-being levels, are actually dictated by what we inherit. So, we actually have a set happiness level which we all, as individuals, operate on. So that will be different for everyone. 10% is the environment, so the environment we are in. So, we can change environments but sometimes it’s not always possible. So, the most important part is that 40% of our happiness levels are actually dictated by mindset and this is where positive psychology really takes a hold and does good things.
Wow. So, 50% of happiness s dictated to by your genetics, which you have no control over at all BUT 40% is determined by your psychology of your mind, how fit your mind is?
Do you think women find it harder than men to be happy?
Women definitely have different pressures in society and what does tend to happen for women is, they are quite often trying to lead the traditional family life where they are looking after home, but also, they are quite often out working as well, possibly having full-on high-flying careers.
They have a responsibility to bring in some of the home income.
But women mentally find it very hard to compartmentalise, so it’s been known or it’s been called The Hob Theory before, where if you imagine an oven top with four hobs and each hob represents an area of your life and women find it very hard to fire up one hob when it’s needed and let the others dull down. Men are very good at that. They find it much easier, mentally, to be able to dull the others down and fire up one area of their life.
Women will try and keep all four hobs blazing all at the same time and if they don’t, they quite often have a sense of guilt. I see with a lot of my clients, female clients, an underlying sense of guilt, which does hold them back in many ways and really does zap their happiness levels.
I can relate to that and, I think you’re right, a lot of my clients, who are female, suffer from that. It’s like they’ve got to keep all the plates spinning or they feel like a failure.
This is a sweeping comment I suppose, it’s not relative to all men, BUT men generally don’t have that guilt about not having all their plates spinning at the same time.
Yeah that’s right Gemma.
So listeners, you should take heart in what Verity’s just said because if you listen very closely and I repeat myself, as you know I do, what she’s actually saying is, in terms of your positive psychology, 50% of your happiness is generally predetermined by genetics, but 40% of your happiness, you can have proactive control over and also the 10% to do with the environment you can have control over. So effectively, 50% of your happiness quota you have control over, which is phenomenal.
Yes, it’s fantastic and actually there are so many people who are struggling with their environment and they quite often allow their environment to take over their happiness levels and not really seeking a solution to where they are, if they’re not happy.
So generally, we have a very big influence over our happiness levels, which is positive. This means we can all do something right now to increase our wellness and our happiness. So, how do we do that? How do we go about increasing our positive psychology, our wellness, our happiness? How do we do it?
So, one of the things, one of the exercises anyway, that I quite often give my clients at the very start of their coaching journey is to write a letter of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to harness happiness and to feel good. So, I would ask a client to write a letter to someone that they really want to thank. They may have had a positive influence in their life. They may have given them something. They might just appreciate the fact that that person was always there for them. I’d ask them to write that letter and then actually post it, but even better, if they’re able to go and visit that person and read the letter to them. That’s quite a powerful one actually.
And do people tend to post the letter or visit?
Well, sometimes people, if they’re not used to giving such a high level of gratitude to someone, they will post it. They feel a little easier with that and that’s still good. They will get most benefit though from actually going to see that person and seeing that person’s reaction. And it’s been shown that by doing that exercise, the level of happiness can increase by about 20% and it lasts as well. It lasts for about a month.
Wow. And what’s the feedback been from your clients on doing that?
They love it. They absolutely love it. They always look at me a bit strange when I first ask them to do it and especially if I ask them to go and read it to that person. There’s usually an eyebrow raised, but the response when they’ve come back to me and said oh my god that was just amazing and it was so good to see that person, you know, react so well and they were so grateful and there’s usually tears.
Wow. OK. So, number one is gratitude and you’re saying a letter of gratitude.
A letter of gratitude.
So, another exercise, which is really great, is looking at what went well and this is where you would look back at the end of the day or maybe you’ve been doing something and you’re reflecting on it and I’d ask you to write out three things that went well that day or during that event and then asking yourself why. Why did that go well? And it starts to help you to really see the positive influences that other people give you.
So, it might be something like, your husband bought you an ice-cream after work, And you might then ask yourself why? And then you can say well actually it’s because my husband is very thoughtful and also my little girl, for instance, might have decided that she wanted an ice-cream and Dad was doing the right thing and wanting to treat her. So, it then starts to bring in family values and working as a family and how everything connects.
Another really powerful thing is to actually start listing your strengths and recognising when you use them through the day. We quite often go through life blinkered, not actually realising the strengths that we use from day to day and so, along with looking at what went well, looking at the strengths that you used.
And that’s a really good one. And that’s one that I use with my clients a lot because you’re exactly right, we don’t appreciate what we’re good at. You’ve probably never given it any thought because people don’t and it’s when you actually stop and pause and think about what your strengths are, because you’re probably doing something every day that you don’t realise is a skill, is a talent and it’s only when you stop and think about it that it does make you feel really good.
Obviously everyone has natural talents but you can cultivate more strengths. So, you might find, over time, you start to recognise them and you might then start to use a particular strength more. So, you actually increase it and quite often people who have talent or natural talent don’t always use it because they don’t realise they have it.
That’s it. 100% agree. Right so we’ve got gratitude. We’ve got what went well and then you’ve said strengths. What’s next?
Tune in next month for Part 2 of this blog where Verity highlights more Happy inducing exercises………..
In the meantime read the summary below.
Summary of Positive Psychologist Tutorial on Being Happy: Part 1
- Positive psychology is the study of well-being, happiness being one indicator of well-being.
- Positive Psychology is only about 15 years old and founded in 1998 by Martin Seligman who is a very respected psychologist.
- The not so obvious benefits to positive psychology is that it can be used as a preventative measure to beat tress and depression.
- Positive Psychology builds your mental stamina and resilience.
- 50% of our happiness levels, or well-being levels, are actually dictated by what we inherit.
- 10% of our happiness levels are dictated by the environment we are in.
- 40% of our happiness levels are actually dictated by mindset.
- Gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to harness happiness and to feel good.
- Writing a letter of gratitude is a powerful way to harness gratitude.
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Gemma is a leading Life Coach & Business Coach, Award Winning Podcaster and the owner of Prosperity Kitchen. Regularly featured in the national press, Gemma is one of the “go to” people on Life Coaching & Business Coaching. Gemma counts VIPs, High Net Worth Individuals, Entrepreneurs, Career Professionals, Stay at Home Parents and all manner of other amazing people as her clients. She specialises in Personal Development, Career Coaching, Employee Coaching, Executive Coaching, Confidence, Motivation, Health and Small Business Coaching.
Verity Smith. Verity is a Psychologist (BSc) and an Accredited International Coach with the IIC&M. Verity specialises in blending positive psychology and coaching skills to give a unique and powerful service to her clients. Since as long as Verity can remember she has been intrigued by human behaviour and finding one’s potential in life, which has led her to a lifelong study of human flourishing and how to apply theory to the real lives of individuals. She has a passion for helping people create for themselves a higher level of mental fitness and well-being in their lives. Verity works with people from al over the world and specialises in working with business owners, professionals and sports professionals. Her mission over the next 5 years is to inspire and educate 1 million people around the globe on how to work with their minds to create positivity and success in both their personal and professional lives. Website: https://simplyselfinnovation.com/