Positive psychology is a field that looks at what gives our lives meaning and purpose, how we can become happier and more fulfilled, and how we can flourish, and not just merely survive. In this newsletter, we’ll look at how positive emotions can foster positive relationships, what it means to flourish, and how according to a study, how happy we are is largely self-determined.
Positive emotions and positive relationships
Emotional intelligence is about being able to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of the people around you, and the good news is, this can be learned, and achieved through living mindfully. Being emotionally intelligent means that you have a better relationship with yourself and with others.
Emotional intelligence has three elements:
- Emotional awareness: Being aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others. If you’re emotionally aware, you accept yourself and others because you understand that every person is different and deals with their emotions in their own way. When you’re emotionally aware, you’re less likely to react emotionally to situations.
- Emotional application: This means that you use the emotions you are feeling for your benefit and to help others. You don’t allow emotions to take over, instead, you acknowledge what you’re feeling and think about where it’s really coming from.
- Emotional management: This means that you are able to check in with yourself every day, and you try to be positive but you also recognise that negative emotions are a part of real life. Being able to manage your emotions gives you a sense of control, especially during stressful times. It also means that you respect other people’s emotions, empathise with them, and support them if they need it.
Why is emotional intelligence linked to positive relationships?
Emotionally intelligent people easily gain the trust of others, because they’re observant, and they listen and speak without judgement. Instead of judging someone’s emotional reactions, they try to understand them and demonstrate empathy. This can apply to any interaction with others, from close relationships to brief daily interactions.
How mindfulness makes us more emotionally intelligent
The 2015 paper Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation on Emotional Intelligence, General Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Stress found that mindfulness helps us increase our emotional intelligence in three key ways:
- It improves our ability to understand our own emotions
- It helps us to recognise the emotions of others
- It improves our ability to manage and control our own emotions
How mindfulness can help you manage your emotions: An example
Mindfulness improves a person’s ability to use their emotions effectively by helping them determine which emotions are beneficial when undertaking certain activities.
Do you feel annoyed or stressed out when you really need to be productive? Well doing a short mindfulness practice can make you aware of the emotions you’re experiencing. You might be aware in that moment that you’re feeling distracted or irritated, and that you are unlikely to be productive if you carry on working. So this is the perfect opportunity to do a short mindfulness practice to acknowledge your emotions and bring you back to the present moment. If you make this a regular habit, you are more likely to learn how to manage your emotions which will help you be more productive, less stressed and in control.
5 Ways to Wellness: How Organisations Can Build Wellness into their Culture
Happy, healthy employees are good for business. They take less time off work, and if they believe that their employer cares about their wellbeing, they’ll be more motivated, engaged, and productive, which is great for the bottom line.
So how can organisations who want to take advantage of this build wellness into their culture? Here are five strategies.
Create well designed workplaces that inspire
How many people would describe their workplace as ‘inspiring?’ Probably not many. Attention should be paid to workplace design and designers should aim to create light and airy spaces which are more conducive to creativity and calm. Furniture and other equipment should be ergonomic so as to increase comfort and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury.
Encourage employees to take regular breaks
Many people eat their lunch at their desk every day so they don’t really get a true break from work and their screen. This is not great for motivation or productivity, and unsurprisingly, surveys have shown that employees feel much more productive after taking a break.
Promote personal and professional development
If employees feel they are being challenged and encouraged to develop, they’ll be more motivated, and more likely to stay.
Introduce flexible working
This may be harder to implement if you’re a small business, but employees who have a better work/life balance are happier, more productive, and more loyal. Allow employees to work flexible hours or to work from home every now and again, and promote a healthier work-life balance throughout your entire organisation.
Introduce fitness opportunities into the workplace
If employees are chained to their desk all day, it’s terrible for their mental and physical health. Offer employees subsidised gym memberships or start walking groups, and make sure that employees have facilities where they can get changed and showered, or store their bike if they want to cycle to work. Employees will feel healthier and more energetic, which equates to less time off sick and more time being productive.
What it means to flourish
What would you say if someone asked you what it means to flourish? Would you say it means being successful and financially well off, or would you say it means being happy and being able to grow and develop as a person? Well, as it happens they’re both right.
To flourish encompasses a lot of things that might make us feel happy and give us a sense of wellbeing.
Dr Martin Seligman is often thought of as the ‘founder’ of flourishing, and he developed a model (the PERMA model) to explain the factors that contribute towards greater feelings of wellbeing. These are:
Increasing positive emotions
- Engaging with the world through work and our hobbies and interests
- Meaningful relationships
- Finding meaning and purpose in our lives
- Achieving our goals by using our strengths and skills
Everyone can flourish, but it can take some work to get there, and to have a healthy balance in the key areas of our lives.
How can you flourish?
- Expand your social network. Try to meet new people often and work on having deeper relationships with your family, friends, and significant other.
- Make sure you experience the good things in life. Regularly plan fun and meaningful things into your life, and simply enjoy your experiences.
- Have more fun. Instead of automatically saying ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know,’ plan a short break, have a date night, or try something you’ve always wanted to do. Anything that makes you smile, laugh, and feel good inside counts.
- Live your life according to your true values. Do things that fulfil you. You will never flourish if you’re not living authentically.
Do you want to read more on flourishing? Click here
Positive thinking and gratitude
Positive thinking and gratitude play a big part in a happy life. We all know that sometimes something happens and we might find it hard to see any positives at all. We also know that it’s easier to wallow in self-pity, but it’s definitely not better for us. Focusing on the negatives all of the time can really affect our quality of life and our outlook. So how can you learn to look on the bright side?
One way you can feel more positive is to practice gratitude.
How many things in your life do you take for granted? Our fast-paced modern lives where everything is available on demand has made us forget about the truly important and joyful things we should be thankful for. The simple things that make our lives richer, like a kiss goodbye from your partner in the morning, a hug from your child, or a phone call from a friend.
Many studies have found that practicing gratitude makes us more compassionate towards ourselves and others, it helps us sleep better, and it increases self-esteem and mental strength. This is not surprising. Once you realise how many things in your life you have to be thankful for, it can be hard to complain too much about your life.
An exercise in Gratitude
The gratitude journal
Having a gratitude journal is an easy way to practice gratitude. You can write in it every day or a few times per week. Some people like to do this before bed. Write down three things you’re grateful for and say why. So instead of just saying ‘I’m grateful for my friend,’ say what he or she did that makes you feel so grateful.
Even if you think you’ve had a terrible day, I guarantee you’ll still have things to be thankful for, and you’ll realise that maybe it wasn’t that bad after all.
Optimism and hope
So gratitude and positive thinking can improve your outlook, and make you feel much more optimistic about your life. Optimists generally feel more confident about the future and their lives. Here are 7 benefits of being an optimist:
- Optimists experience less distress than pessimists when they face difficulties in their lives
- Optimists cope better with negative events, like having major surgery or a serious illness
- Optimists are capable of learning lessons from negative situations
- Optimists are not in denial, so they deal with problems before they get serious
- Optimists are less likely to give up because they believe they can achieve a positive outcome
- Optimists enjoy better physical and mental health because they experience less stress and generally eat more healthily and exercise more
- Optimists are more productive and effective in the workplace. One insurance sales industry study found that the most optimistic sales people sold 88% more insurance than pessimistic employees.
Hope and Positive Psychology
Hope is similar to optimism and we tend to feel hopeful if we:
- Know what we want
- Can think of several ways we can get there
- Start working towards what we want and keep on going, even if it gets tough
Like being optimistic, having a sense of hope has many benefits. Hope protects against negative emotions and intrusive thoughts, and it can also even prevent diseases (because hopeful people tend to take action to prevent diseases like eating well and exercising).
Research has shown that athletes with a higher sense of hope perform better and that hopeful students do better academically.
Happiness and Wellbeing
The pursuit of happiness is like the holy grail. Everyone wants to be happy, and everyone defines happiness in their own way.
The psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky talks about the “happiness set point,” in her book, The How of Happiness. She writes that there’s compelling evidence that 50% of happiness is genetically predetermined, 10% is due to life circumstances, and 40% of your happiness is determined by your outlook.
So with that in mind, you have quite a lot of control over how happy you are, or not.
Mastering the happiness habit
Focus on positive thoughts
The more we focus on positive thoughts, the happier we generally are. A study in the journal Science found that many people go through their days on autopilot or daydreaming, and when their minds wander, they generally wander to unhappy thoughts. This is where practicing mindfulness can help. It focuses your mind on the present moment, and gets you to ‘smell the roses’ rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future.
Replay positive memories
Instead of thinking about unhappy times, thinking about good memories makes us feel happier and more positive. There are going to be things that happen in our lives that we can’t control, but we can control what we focus on.
Take action to be happy
Making a commitment to doing things to make you feel happier each day can improve your mental and physical health, and your overall enjoyment of life.
How to build a happiness habit
- Notice the good in every day. Stop rushing through life at 100mph and missing the good things that make life worth living
- If you find you’re caught in a cycle of negative thinking, train your brain to focus on something else, your breathing or an activity like calling a friend
- Carry around positive memories. If you want to feel happier, look at an old photograph or a picture or video on your phone that brings back positive memories
- Think about your strengths, every day. Write down 10 of your best qualities and look at the list each day to make you feel more positive
How can I help you?
I can help you master mindfulness to enhance the wellbeing of individuals at work, and to help organisations build productive, successful teams of individuals who listen to, and support each other. Through face to face mentoring and mindfulness sessions, or via e-learning, we can work together to manage stress, promote workplace wellbeing, deal with anxieties about job insecurity and organisational change, and develop effective leaders who’ll remain calm and make considered decisions even during volatile times. Find out more about what mindfulness can do for you here.
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