Would you like to boost your happiness? Studies show that it’s possible to learn how to intentionally increase your level of life satisfaction.
Positive psychology coaching offers a significantly different approach to traditional psychotherapy. While some people need to alleviate suffering by focusing on what’s wrong with their thoughts and behaviors, many individuals are simply languishing because they’ve never learned how to become happier.
Increasing happiness takes more than conjuring up happy thoughts of playing with puppies or consuming a bit of chocolate. Although those moments certainly bring us joy, the feelings are too fleeting to produce a deep sense of satisfaction with our life. As soon as the dopamine burst in our brain diminishes, we quickly revert back to our happiness set point.
We all inherit physical characteristics that exert an influence on our personality. But research by Sonia Lyubomirsky reveals that our DNA only contributes about 50 percent to our level of happiness. The other half, positive psychologists have discovered, involves how we explain and respond to challenges.
Everyone faces problems. There are a few individuals who seem to be extraordinarily good at stepping up and overcoming challenges. Positive psychology is the study of people who have been able to achieve and maintain an optimal level of functioning:
- Marital partners who maintain love and passion
- Professionals who are consistently high performers
- Leaders whose teams routinely produce remarkable results
- Patients whose positive attitude helps them successfully fight through an illness
- Divorced parents who enable themselves and their children to build better lives
Based on these studies, positive psychology counselors are able to teach specific strategies that enable people to achieve the highest levels of personal satisfaction and professional success. Here’s three examples:
Quick tip #1: Make curiosity your ally. When problems occur, anxiety will arise. Rather than ruminating on who to blame or how to avoid impending catastrophe, become curious. Convert your stress into energy by stepping into the uncertainty of the moment.
Curiosity is about exploring rather than jumping to conclusions. High-functioning individuals embrace not knowing by seeking to understand. They accept that they are going to feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. However, by asking questions they convert their anxiety into action.
The path to becoming stronger and wiser is to learn from other people’s perspectives. The springboard to higher functioning is adopting an attitude of “no mistakes, only lessons.”
Quick tip #2: Be happy when others share good news. The biggest boost to happiness in relationships comes when someone responds enthusiastically to our good news. If a romantic partner routinely fails to make a big deal over their loved one’s accomplishments, the relationship will probably fail. On the other hand, Shelly Gable’s studies show that when partners celebrate each other’s success stories they’re likely to enjoy greater love, commitment and satisfaction.
Even in our work relationships, an active and concerted effort to share positive moments is essential. All relationships require a minimum of three positive interactions for every negative encounter, and optimal functioning is around five to one. Work has many built-in negative situations that naturally occur, so satisfaction on the job requires generating numerous positive moments. Work groups that celebrate small victories and highlight each other’s success are the most productive and profitable.
Quick tip #3: Help other people. We’ve always heard that a good friend is someone whose there in good times and bad. Gallup Surveys show that the best predictor of happiness on the job is having someone to turn to for support. The most productive days at work, Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile has found, occur when a coworker helps you accomplish your goal.
Reminding yourself to regularly commit acts of kindness or to go out of your way to make a loved one happy have proven to be powerful methods for intentionally increasing happiness. Looking for opportunities to help other people focuses your mind on positive possibilities, distracting you from other’s faults and foibles.
Committing kind acts makes you feel good about yourself. And it triggers an upward spiral of positivity when the person you helped expresses appreciation and reciprocates when you’re needing help.
These are a few of the strategies that a positive psychologist can teach you. There are many more, of course. Reading about these interventions is helpful, but most people have difficulty applying the suggestions.
A good counselor will be able to tailor a specific set of strategies that are uniquely suited to your personality and situation. They will be able to coach you through the stages of change to maximize your chances of success.