For the past two months, I have been exploring the field and tenets of positive psychology through coursework via UPenn and Coursera. I’m about halfway through Foundations of Positive Psychology Specialization, which includes four courses.
I was initially interested in this field as more of a curiosity. I had heard of positive psychology but really didn’t know what about it other than it focused on positive methodology. Now that I have a basic understanding of what positive psychology actually is (the study of what makes life most worth living) I’m basically obsessed and have been doing additional research and reading outside of the course requirements. (Had I known about this field 15 years ago, I think my career path may have taken a different route.)
I hope to share more about my experiences with positive psychology in future posts (and, if we talk in real life, I’m sure I’ll bring it up a billion times) but, for this post, I want to focus on one area of field: positive interventions. And, more specifically, gratitude. Positive interventions are defined as “evidence-based, intentional act or series of actions (behavioral strategy) meant to increase (away from zero) that which causes or constitutes well-being and flourishing in non-clinical populations.” Essentially, instead of focusing on the negative and decreasing it, the aim of positive interventions is to increase the positive. Furthermore, positive psychology interventions, or PPIS,
“Studies have suggested that happiness can be achieved and enhanced through various channels, including sensory awareness, social communication, gratitude practices, and cognitive reformations. As such, all these factors were clustered together in practical techniques called the positive psychology interventions (Parks and Schueller, 2014).”
While all of the channels mentioned above are important, one of them — gratitude — is consistently associated with increased happiness. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways.”(Source: Harvard Health Publishing)
The coursework I’ve completed so far has included identifying each day three things for which you’re grateful and why. And, while I’ve often taken time to be grateful throughout my life, I have never put thought to the why. I’ve found that missing piece has made a significant impact in connecting the dots and providing more meaning for that which I’m grateful.
This week, as part of one of those course assignments, I brought this practice into my workday. To close out each day, I took a few minutes to reflect and identify one thing for which I was grateful and why. And, while it’s still early, I have found small benefits. I’ve been struggling a bit at work the last few months and I hope by continuing this exercise I can put more focus on finding the bright spots in each day instead of wallowing in what went wrong.
And, finally, after that very long intro, I’m getting to the purpose of this post. As a believer that gratitude is truly the path to a happy life, I’m focusing on continuing to find ways to bring gratitude to the forefront of my days, weeks, months and years. As such, I’ll be identifying three things for which I’m grateful (aka, three good things) each week and posting here. By doing so, I hope to not only invite more happiness into my life but also encourage others who might come across these posts to do the same.
So, without further ado, my three good things:
Good thing number one: Successfully finding bar shampoo and conditioner that actually works and I love. This helps me get closer to my goal of living a lifestyle that does not rely on single-use containers. (Find out more info Ethique and their products.)
Good thing number two: The opportunity to spend a Sunday evening relaxing with a good book and warm tea while watching the rain fall outside. Bonus points because this activity preceded a lovely warm agave pedicure. I am grateful for this because it supports my focus on self-care for September, which is important not just during one month out of the year, but always. (To experience the delightful experience for yourself, see my friends at Woodhouse Day Spa in uptown Denver.)
Good thing number three: Since we’re on the topic of self-care and it’s my focus for the month, I have to also include my float in my three good things. While I find many benefits to regular floating, sometimes I can’t get into it or just have too much on my mind to really be able to let go. This week, however, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Time melted away and I was in the zone. I haven’t felt that relaxed in a long time and the effects are still with me as I write this today, four days later. (See more on sensory deprivation tanks and their benefits. And, if you’re in Denver, check out A New Spirit, which is one of my favorite spaces.)
When we take time to notice the things that go right – it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day. ~ Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology
If you want to learn more about positive psychology, start here.