It has been common since the 60s that people visit a counsellor or therapist to talk about the problems and difficulties that trouble their lives. Beliefs like "…It has to get harder before it gets better" reflect commonly accepted wisdom and experiences people had for a very, very long time. These beliefs are now challenged by discoveries made by researchers that focus on what is known as 'positive psychology'. Without discounting the usefulness of traditional therapy that explores the problems people have and assists in finding new understandings or new behaviours, they suggest that a more effective approach would be to ALSO focus on people's strength and virtues.
Seligman proposes on his website Authentic Happiness that people will be happier and have an increasing sense of a good life when they focus on the three components of happiness he identified: 1. enjoy life and savor everyday experiences with all your senses (for example: let your eyes fully take in the beauty of nature, savor a good meal, delight in a wonderful piece of music, feel the warm sand under your feet when you walk along the beach). 2. become more engaged with friends and family and 3. find ways that make your life more meaningful (for example giving love, care, support to others he reckons makes you feel good about yourself and give meaning to your life.
Of course, the views of positive psychologists are contested by many who have a different opinion. It flies in the face of traditional ways of doing therapy to suggest you just have to think some happy thoughts and things will get better. Who's right? For those who would like to be more happy, this is a pretty futile question. Everyone can test the hypotheses by doing a wee research for themselves. There is no harm in putting 4 or 6 weeks aside to get through some exercises in building happiness. Spending this time focusing on the pleasurable things in life, practicing gratitude and kindness, and being more involved with people one cares about can do no harm, can they? It's not hard to imagine that there would be a positive echo.
Happiness might be just one of the things that not all people are genetically programmed for. Most of us might have to work on putting efforts and strategies in place that, over time, become habitual. The increased feeling of happiness might create a self-reinforcing feedback loop and might make people want to be kind, enjoying things, and put more meaning in one's actions.
Often people say after an unpleasant experience "…in 5 years, when I look back to today, I will be able to laugh about that". The idea of NLP practitioners (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is that, if your brain has the capacity to change something unpleasant into something pleasant over time, why wait 5 years, why not have it now?
Stay tuned for the next post that shows "10 steps to Boosting your Happiness".