Often, at this time of year, I ? and others I know ? feel a little ?blue?. It?s cold outside (at least it is here in many parts of Canada), the holiday madness is over, and another year of goal setting and action planning is upon us. This ?blue? feeling is what has inspired me to write this post.
I am, overall, a very happy person. I have realized that, while that is the case most of the time, there are other times where my happiness wanes. During those times, I am aware that my thoughts are different ? they are less positive and they are quite clearly impacting my emotion (I feel ?blue?) and my behaviour.
I speak to audiences every day and share the latest research on happiness and well-being. In fact, the new term in Positive Psychology is ?flourishing??isn?t that a wonderful word! So what, I wonder, does a flourishing human being think, feel and do?
I am attracted to, and my audiences appreciate, quick little strategies and tools to shift energy when the ?blues? arrive. I?d like to share a few of them with you today.
One great resource I discovered (actually, a wonderful colleague introduced me to this; thank you, Jennifer) is
The Happiness Institute?s Daily Happiness Checklist. You can print this off and keep it close to your desk and quickly review it each day. You?ll definitely notice a shift in your energy.
Another quick resource is to begin a gratitude journal. Each day ? record two or three things for which you are grateful. At first, you might find that the items you record are huge, significant items?like the love of your children, your mothers wise words, etc. After awhile you will find yourself including other things ?like fresh, crisp air and dental floss. The idea is ? and it seems to have sort of magical results ? when you focus on what you are grateful for, you magnify the positivity of that item (and you engage the positive emotion of gratitude). Another strategy that I use regularly with groups is to shift negative, unhelpful thoughts to more positive, helpful ones. It sound so simple, and yet results in a shift in energy (from the blues to something warmer?maybe orange!) that can propel you to make different, more productive choices.
Recently, Barbara Ehrenreich has received a lot of press around her book ?Bright-Sided? which seems to blame positive thinking for enabling people to avoid confronting serious problems in the workplace, the economy, or in their lives. Ms. Ehrenreich certainly has a point in that none of us is served well if we stick our head in the sand, sing ?Kum Ba Ya?, and wish that all bad things disappear. We need to be cognizant of what is really happening around us. However, too much focus on problems ? in my experience ? just creates more (magnifies) problems.
Consider my friend Jane who is dying of cancer. Jane knows the reality ? she is dying ? and she knows that she has a choice around how she will spend her remaining days with her family. It can only serve Jane well to decide ? to choose ? to be positive. To think positively about what is possible during her shortened life and to send that energy out to everyone else around her. I mean, what are her options?to spend the short time she has with her loved ones consumed with negativity and sorrow? I cannot fathom any purpose served by Jane staying engaged in negative emotion ? no purpose for her and certainly none for her loved ones. Jane is not in denial ? she is in choice.
One last strategy I would like to share is one that I use regularly?I love it?s simplicity and effectiveness. Whenever you find yourself in a situation that is not ideal, decide to A.C.T.: Accept your current reality (for Jane, she would say ?I accept that I am dying?), then Choose a vision of what you would like in this situation (Jane might say ?I choose to enjoy every moment with my family and to create more lasting, fond memories?), then Take action to achieve the vision. Jane can:
– think positive thoughts about herself
– think positive thoughts about the people around her
– decide to connect with her family whenever she can
– ask lots of questions of others to shift focus away from her illness and toward the myriad of activities that others are involved with
– end each day with a gratitude journal
Each of these actions will help move Jane TOWARD her vision (what she wants) so she is not using her energy moving AWAY from what she does not want (the reality of her situation).
I believe you can be both realistic AND hopeful! As I left my visit with Jane a few days ago, she smiled to me at the door and said ?you never know, Deri?I might just be a medical miracle?. And, I agree, you never know ? so why not think (feel and do) like it?s possible. I?d call that flourishing!
What do you think?