Putting Positive Psychology Into Practice

During the first couple of years of my retirement transition I explored Positive Psychology and worked on becoming a more positive, optimistic person.  (Yes, I was a highly critical pessimist!   Yes, optimism can be learned.)  I choose to be more positive because in my retirement life vision I wanted to be happy.  As I explored it further, the tools and practices related to positivity & happiness also correlate to health & longevity. So it became an even bigger impetus to be more optimistic.

Early in the pandemic, I took a wonderful on-line course on the Science of Well-being (highly recommended, here’s my blog post link).  This course supported many of the lifestyle practices I had put into place in my retirement transition.   The course also made me acknowledge that I have always wanted to understand psychology better, so I have continued to take on-line courses in this arena.

I recently completed a Positive Psychology course (Coursera again – link here) led by Martin EP Seligman who is the “father” of Positive Psychology.  It was fascinating to hear about Positive Psychology from the leader in the field.  While there was not a huge amount of new applicable information, there are some nuggets I’d like to share. While taking the course, I also found a website on flourishing, another positive psychology term.  (Synchronicity?  Site link here) Some of these insights have been synthesized into the nuggets I’m sharing, as well.

I have come to realize that my retirement lifestyle choices are all about putting Positive Psychology into practice! I am attempting to infuse Positive Psychology tools into my daily living as well as build a Positive Psychology mind set and skill set.  I’m beginning to believe that by enjoying the journey of living Positive Psychology (putting it into practice, being optimistic), the changes in me will impact the world around me.  (And perhaps this is my purpose?)

While the previous course on the Science of Well-being highlighted a number of tools, this more recent course had 4 Critical Well-Being Interventions:

  1. Daily write down 3 Gratitude/blessings
  2. Use your Strengths – design your life to use your strengths more
  3. Use Active & Constructive Communication (responsive listening)
  4. Have a Life of Meaning/Life Purpose – a purposeful existence via philanthropy/altruism

The new learning here was the idea of responsive listening in building stronger relationships. There are 4 approaches to listening:

  1. Active & Constructive = enthusiastic and supportive (recommended)
  2. Passive & Constructive  = Understated support, low energy (most common)
  3. Active & Destructive = point out negatives, dismissive (second most common)
  4. Passive & Destructive = Ignore, disinterest

While I recognized the most common listening and responding approaches when I’m being listened to (or ignored), I wasn’t sure if my own approach was the recommended Active & Constructive!  Slightly different than active listening, active & constructive has a sense of celebration of the individual. This is something I need to be more aware of (and work on, I am sure).

On the Flourishing site, there was a lot of information about Positive Psychology Skills Development broken down into mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual skills.   Here are some of my insights from there (i.e. skills I will personally be working on):

  • Mental Skills – master your thoughts and shift self-limiting beliefs
    • Shift Judgment: to curiosity or compassion or acceptance
    • Stop Criticism of Self and Others; Stop “Compare & Despair”
    • Face Fear with Action – Shift from worrier to warrior
  • Emotional Skills
    • Emotional Awareness – accept the negative, work towards the positive
    • Daily Gratitude – always one of the top tools for optimism & happiness.
    • Courageousness – risk taking, turn “someday I will “ into action
  • Physical Skills – achieve functional fitness and resilience
    • Strength & Flexibility – continue yoga, strength training
    • Daily Movement & Breath Work – create daily habits
    • Ensure Body Maintenance – nutrition, sleep, checkups in place
  • Spiritual Skills
    • Sense of Belonging – continue intentional connections
    • Quality of Connections – Active & Constructive communication
    • Sense of Purpose – explore philanthropy/altruism

While I would continue to recommend the Science of Well-Being course first if you are interested in this topic, my latest exploration, including The Flourishing Center site, has definitely boosted my sense of how I can actively put Positive Psychology into practice.

Since we all claim to want to be happier, are you building your own Positive Psychology skills?

Photo: me – a sunset this week, from our front yard.

19 thoughts on “Putting Positive Psychology Into Practice

  1. First of all, thanks for sharing that beautiful sunset, Pat. I enjoyed learning about what you’ve been studying. I am always impressed by your continued growth and how you actively pursue that. I have been working to develop mindful and loving kindness. I feel like that qualifies as positive psychology in a sense. It’s certainly helped me to feel more at ease, which is a positive thing. Happy studies!

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    1. Christie, Oh yes, kindness is one of the positivity practices! In fact, my next blog is going to summarize many of the practices with ideas of how to truly activate them. Kindness is not one that I’m very good at….I feel right now it’s also a challenge to take on that skill development as I interface with so few people right now. But I’m keeping it on my list. You’ll see there are quite a few practices that are part of Positive Psychology. Gratitude is another one you regularly practice… I think you might be surprised how much you are practicing Positive Psychology everyday yourself.

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  2. Hi Pat – I think my optimism is gradually returning. It took a real hit with all the stuff that happened last year (and in the years leading up to that point), but once I recovered my resilience and started to truly appreciate this life I now have, I can’t help but be positive. I listen to the moaning and groaning of others and want to shake them (is that constructive listening??) because life is so short and if we’re not embracing each stage, then we’re wasting so much time and missing out on the joy that gratitude and self-acceptance bring with them.

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    1. Leanne, I’m not sure if wanting to shake them is constructive…..maybe if you’re only thinking it but saying something else. Hee-hee. I’m not sure how you get someone to choose optimism… and it does need to be a choice because it takes work. As I continue to study this topic, I’ve learned that the negative is actually more ‘natural’. We are more likely to focus on the negative, we feel more negative emotions than positive ones, and optimism takes practice. There are tools and skills to build and maintain. But the science continues to show that optimism is healthier. So I will continue to choose to work on optimism… happy and healthy is a much better life.

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  3. I really liked the information about responsive listening, especially how it relates to close, personal relationships. I think it’s easy to become passive and constructive in our day-to-day listening interactions. Hopefully, we don’t become destructive, but certainly active and constructive is the most loving and supportive style of listening. Thanks for the heads up to recognize our style and, if need be, to change it.

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    1. Janis, my biggest challenge right now after identifying this is… what do you do when you’re being communicated to active & destructively? I am personally trying to be more active and constructive… but find it is often quite hard to move from passive and constructive.

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  4. Pat, I’m glad to hear optimism can be learned. Your insights and list of actions from them are very good. I see myself as a positive optimistic person. However, I don’t take it for granted and continue to practice the skills to stay positive and optimistic.

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    1. Natalie, It was nice to be reminded that it can be learned. I intentionally started on the optimism path and it is an on-going learning process. It’s good to know that even a more naturally optimistic person continues to practice the skills!

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    1. Donna, thank you for sharing it on you SM! I am happy I choose this more optimistic path, but it is definitely an on-going learning process. I am sure I’ll be posting more on it.

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  5. I can be somewhat optimistic about others’ lives and the situations they face, but have had a pretty ridiculously crazy adult life and it is often hard to be optimistic about the issues in my own life. Everyone tells me I should write a book about the crazy. But I think that time has come and gone because the details of the car catching fire, falling through the roof, multiple unbelievable car wrecks, Lyme disease in the desert, have escaped me.
    I still struggle to find a friend with whom I can enjoy coffee, a walk, lunch, a hike now and then. Struggle, some days to figure out my ‘purpose’ in this chapter, aside from helping with my granddaughters. Do you have family near?
    Writing in a gratitude journal has helped me realize there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. On bad days, I would rather sulk or pine or complain but deep down inside, I know there is always something good to be thankful for.

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    1. Leslie, You are so inspirational with your crafting, your own journal & blogging approaches, your love of fashion… not to mention all the things you do with your hubby, your family, and your home. I am often blown away on how you do it all! Please do not take for granted all the things you do… you are so creative! (Yes, you are.)
      But I can relate to not knowing your purpose… I don’t even have granddaughters I can point to and say … here’s my legacy! No, I don’t have family near (in either location). I also don’t have that BFF that I do things with. BUT, I do have a range of women that I can call to take a walk, have a coffee, or a glass of wine (a lot of that is virtual right now). I can tell you that close to 75% of the time, I am the one initiating that connection. And it took time to find that group of women…and yes, some are closer confidents than others.
      What I have found is that optimism is learned. It is not my natural state and I continually work at it. (Some days more successfully than others!). Affirmations help. Gratitude journaling does as well (as you have found). Getting outside, exercising, having a checklist of things I can check off – that helps me too! I’ve heard that if you make your bed every morning, you can always say you had one accomplishment. Recently, some days my big accomplishment is getting out of my PJs!
      I’m in the process of writing my next post about 11 Positive Psychology Practices. Keep tuned. But please know, you are an inspiration to me!

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