In simple terms, positive psychology focuses on what’s working rather than on what’s not working; it asks what’s right rather than what’s wrong; the emphasis is on utilising strengths instead of fixing weaknesses (although please note; positive psychology doesn’t ignore faults, weaknesses and limitations. It accepts that we all have these but that as much as possible, our efforts and energies should be mostly, on using what we’re already good at).
We can sum up the core components of positive psychology that contribute to happiness and success in the following acronym. We believe that achieving happiness requires nothing more than practicing a few simple disciplines each and every day and to practice these disciplines we need to constantly make the right choices. So, next time you’re making a choice remember that “choose” is not just a philosophy of taking responsibility but also, a mnemonic that stands for:
C = Clarity
Clarity refers to your goals, direction and purpose in life. Happy people set goals that are much more clearly defined. They more actively and effectively determine clear and specific plans to ensure these goals become reality. So, set aside some time to clarify your life plan as soon as possible because if you don’t do it, no one else will do it for you!
H = Healthy Living
Healthy living is about activity and exercise, diet and nutrition and sleep. Health forms a crucial part of the foundation to happiness. It’s hard to be happy if you’re literally sick and tired all the time. So, although you don’t have to turn vegan and/or run marathons, do whatever you can to be healthy (by eating well, exercising and ensuring you gain adequate sleep and rest) and you’ll also boost your chances of being happy.
O = Optimism
Optimism refers to positive but realistic thinking. There’s no doubt that happy people think about themselves, others and the world around them differently. Among other things, they search for more positives although they also face up to cold, hard realities in a constructive way. The good news is that this is something you can learn to do so start practicing now – look around you for what’s good and look at what you can actively do to fix what’s not so good.
O = Others
When we consider others, we are considering the key relationships in your life. Research strongly indicates that happy people have both more and better quality relationships. Happiness is not a solo sport; it’s a team effort. Make sure you devote time to developing and fostering your key relationships because other people matter and compassion, thoughtfulness, caring and consideration of others are key to real and meaningful happiness.
S = Strengths
The “S” for strengths represents your core qualities and attributes. Rather than spending all their time trying to “fix” their “weaknesses”, happy people spend more time identifying and utilising their strengths. So quite simply, stop asking “what’s wrong and how can I fix it” quite so often and start asking “what’s right and how can I do more of it”. Find out what you’re good at (your inner attributes and positive qualities) and do it as much as possible in as many ways as possible.
E = Enjoy the moment
Finally, enjoying the moment is about living in and appreciating the present. The past is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, and today’s a gift – that’s why they call it “the present”. Live in the moment and enjoy life more; learn from the past but look to the future and ask, “What can I do now?” Practice appreciation and gratitude by focusing more on what you have and less on what you don’t have.
So there it is, a brief overview of positive psychology or what is sometimes referred to as the science of happiness. If there were one message I’d like you to walk away with it would be that happiness is very much achievable! No matter who you are and what you do, no matter what your background or your current context, you can all learn to live lives with more happiness. We can all become happier. We can’t change the past and we can’t control all that happens to us but we can CHOOSE how we respond to what happens and as a result, we can (at least partially) determine our future!