I happen to believe that positive psychology can be a force for good - good for one's self, and like the rings in a pond that ripple out, good for others. Whether it's writing down at the end of each day three positive things that happened - many call this keeping a Gratitude Journal - or painting a picture in your mind of yourself at your best, which then generates actions on your part to make that picture real, positivity is a powerful force.
By positivity I don't mean wishy-washy positive thinking, affirmations and telling yourself everything will be O.K. when you don't really think it will. I mean focusing more on positive things that happen around you and to you as well as using more of your positive emotions: kindness, forgiveness, patience, curiosity, wonder.
As social scientist Dr. Barbara Fredrickson's research reveals, the more positives we associate with in our lives the more robust we are: more creative, more open to possibilities, flexible, emotionally strong, physically healthy and socially connected. As Dr. Boyatzis's, organizational psychologist at Case Western Reserve University, research reveals the more positively-focused we are, the more we stimulate neurons in the brain that open us up cognitively, perceptually and emotionally. In other words, it pays to be hopeful, to dream and to look on the bright side.
Yesterday my friend Miriam Tucker was in New York and we had an interesting discussion over lunch about this topic. She had recently written about it. You might like to read her article.
While we tend to shy away from being hopeful and positive for fear it will brand us Pollyanna-ish or we'll end up with egg on our face if we fail, why not conduct an experiment?
It was found that people who kept a Gratitude Journal for 2 months reported feeling happier, with fewer physical problems and increased their physical activity. They also benefited from sleeping longer and feeling more refreshed.
I keep a gratitude tally in my head most days, noting at some point three positive things that have happened. While I can't tell you what it may set off in my brain, I can tell you it rewards me in the moment with a warm glow.
Above a page from my book, "The ABC's Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes."