This thing about #3GoodThings

A while back I wrote a post called 3 Good Things. It was my first step to trying to help spread the message about positive psychology. Since then, I’ve wrote numerous blog posts about the field, and a range of techniques and considerations related to the topic. It’s something I’m actively interested in, and even lead to me delivering a workshop on how it can be applied to daily life.

Give the hashtag #3GoodThings a scan on Twitter and you’ll see just how people interact with the action, and what they write. It’s inspiring stuff and gives you a real sense of what is important to people. As you start to notice it happen on a day to day basis, you start to get a more complete picture of what is it that motivates that person, what is important to them, what they’ve reflected on, and the such like.

A good many more people use it now than I saw in the early days. I’d like to take some credit for that, so I will. But in the main, when I see how others have picked it up and use the action, it’s just bloody excellent to know people are finding ways to make it work for them. I’m not looking for anyone to pat me on the back here, it’s just very encouraging to see.

So where did it come from?

Martin Seligman is the founder of this particular path of psychology. As a psychotherapist, he found that people would often come to him wanting to relieve themselves from depression or feeling down. Therapy for them was useful, but he became frustrated at the limitation of just getting to feeling normal. He wanted people to come to him to feel genuinely positive about their lives. In psychology this is known as instead of moving from -5 to 0, from 0 to +5. He argued getting to this vibrancy state was achievable by everyone.

He set about researching ways to do this, and came up with a list of carefully crafted techniques which when done genuinely help raise the persons mood and feelings to a more positive state. One of these was to document at the end of the day 3 good things which helped them to feel good. He measured the state of a person before asking them, got them to do it over a period of time, and measured them at the end. He noticed significant changes in the persons stated feelings of happiness.

The important thing about this task is that it forces you to consider and reflect on what was important from the day for you. By articulating it, it becomes even more profound for you personally. This is because you have to be able to describe what it is about those things which make you feel positive. This reflection and action can help a person naturally improve their sense of positivity.

There are cynics who will look at this kind of action and say it’s just happy clappy nonsense. There are those who say you could write anything and no-one will know the difference. For those who share it in the social media space, there will be those who say it’s only being done for ‘brand management’. There are cynics in all walks of life who will always have something to say about such activities. I’m not concerned about them.

This type of activity is for those who genuinely want to feel more positive. It’s not restricted to those suffering mental illness, it’s for most normal folk who could do with doing meaningful activities that generate positivity.

I enjoy reading other people’s 3 good things, and am joyed to know in some way I helped to create something that others are engaging in and using purposefully. You may notice I do it few and far between. This is more because I tend to note them privately, and when I feel the need, I share it in the social media space.

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Bad Things Happen

An unusual title from me really isn’t it? I don’t normally call things out like this. You know, I’m meant to be one of those fluffy types. A weakness is meant to be about development opportunities. Problems are meant to be about challenges to overcome. Personality clashes are meant to be about a good chance to give feedback and have a chat. But you know, sometimes life is just a bit shit.

Woah! Hold on there, Sukh! Where am I going with this? Well, let’s back track to Positive Psychology. When Martin Seligman talks about this, he tells us the same. He talks about his own life diffciulties in having depression and suffering a bi-polar condition because of it. He talks about how in his life, as much as he wants everyday to be a good day, sometimes they’re just not.

This is worth understanding better. How can the man who started this field of psychology ask us to accept this? Well, because it’s a fact of life. Life doesn’t always play nice. We can be doing all the right things, and yet things happen to just throw us off track. Sometimes you get beaten down. Your energy, it gets sapped. Your motivation, it goes. Your ambition, it wanes. Le Sigh, right?

So what’s the solution? Well, you just accept it’s a shit occurrence. Oddly massively sense-making isn’t it? I can’t change the fact that right now I feel shit. I can’t change the fact that right now I don’t want to be around others. I can’t change the fact that I feel really bad. I can’t change the fact that right now I wish I was living a different life. I can’t change the fact that right now I just want to cry. Don’t change what’s happening right now. Accept it’s shit. Accept it’s not what you want. And just let it be.

Tomorrow, or at the next best opportunity, something will come along and help you be better. See, life has a funny habit if doing that too. It may pass things your way which make it bad, but at the same time, it will pass things your way which are bloody awesome and good. Often, we need others to help us see that these exist. I’ve talked before about the importance of support networks when you’re feeling down, it’s when you’re ready to come out of it that this network is all important.

That’s one of the other things I’ll be writing about in another post is the importance of a support network in Positive Psychology and how it plays a vital role in building resilience and helping others to live a vibrant life. For today, though, let’s take some heart knowing that every day doesn’t have to be great. Today can be shit. Tomorrow presents a different set of thinking and opportunities.

Bad day? Suck it up.

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know I’m a fan of positive psychology and that I’m a fan of Martin Seligman. His work has been central in building positive psychology as a distinct discipline. I heard him give a talk about his work in positive psychology and I was very inspired by him and the work he presented. This produced two posts I wrote about: 3 Good Things and Can I Rule the World Now

So where does this field of psychology take me today? Seligman’s work has been mainly with people who suffer depression in its many forms. And one of the key insights he offered to us (his audience) was this. Sometimes you have bad days, and that’s just life. Now that’s hardly profound, but it is important not to overlook it. We can get so caught up with positive attitudes, constructive conversations, collaboration, engagement activities, and generally making life an enjoyable experience.

But sometimes it’s just shit. And there’s not a lot you can do about it. Just accept that you’re having a bad day. It will pass. You know it will. But whilst it’s happening just get on and do your thing. Don’t wallow in it. Moan to your friends if you have to. But ultimately just do what you’re here to do. You know, work. You’re still capable of doing that. You’re still capable of fulfilling your day to day job details. You’re still capable of interacting with other people.

And that’s it. That’s your bag. Most days we have are good days. And those shit days, are just shit.

>Can I rule the world now?

>What does the new year beckon for a lot of people? Hopes and dreams. At best achievable hopes and dreams. Realistically for a lot of people, badly conceived hopes and dreams. At worst, false hopes and dreams. Why though? Why is it that people are not better at achieving their ambitions? Simply because not enough thought goes into the How. The What is ever present. The How, though, is ever elusive.

A world of thought I am enthusiastic about is positive psychology. One of the notable professors in this discipline is Martin Seligman. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him talk and he is a wonderful human being. He has learned through no hard pain of his own how to live a positive life. His research into this field shows that if you want to succeed in any respect, being positive and surrounding yourself with positive environments is key. He describes several pillars that you need to establish.

The first is positive emotions. Here you have to learn to accept the past, be happy in the present, hope for the future. These are no small things. In order for each to happen you have to spend energy allowing yourself to dwell and decide. There are key actions you have to take, and with the help of either self-learning or professional advice, you can take decisive action to allow your emotions to remain positive. An important aspect is to not dismiss unhappy/bad events but to accept them and learn from them.

You must then look at positive individual traits. Through careful feedback and focused development you can learn to understand what positive traits you already possess. This is of crucial importance. Too many people dismiss their strengths. From here you can then look to identify what other positive traits you want to either learn or develop. This is truly difficult. You need a mentor or trusted guide to help with this. Or the wisdom of Nelson Mandela.

Last you need to surround yourself with positive institutions. This is the ability to recognise what environments you operate in and the effect they have on your life. This isn’t simply the place of work or study or family life. This includes things like who you keep company with, what free time activities do you engage in, how do you commute, how do you like to travel, where do you shop, where do you eat, what’s your neighbourhood like, and the list goes on. This is probably the one we least consider. The other two are normally self-evident enough. But thinking about the institutions we surround ourselves with? Who cares about that? Not enough of us do.

So what does this tell us about anything? Does it mean simply being more positive? Not at all. It means if you want to succeed you have to make concerted efforts. There’s plenty of advice to say make plans and stick to them and make them achievable and make them clear and make sure you follow the SMART format and make more plans if you fail. Blah blah blah.

The insightful piece about positive psychology (there are many) tells us that you can take very practical steps to improve how you live your life. For example try the following. Think about yesterday. Think about it carefully. What did you do in the morning? Lunch? Teatime? Evening? Before bed? Now think about 3 things you did yesterday that made you feel good. Think of something which actually helped you feel good – no matter how fleeting. Now think about describing those 3 very exact positive experiences to someone you know. Could you do this? Could you actually articulate it? Now think about if you genuinely did this on a daily basis. Not necessarily telling someone daily, but either keeping a log or diary or even a blog! It would start to determine how you live your life as you find a way to complete each day thinking about positive events. By thinking about ending a day positively you will direct your energies at engaging in positive actions/language/behaviours.

I’ve been working at this ever since I’ve learned about it. It’s a struggle I’ll freely admit to. I’ve always been a fairly positive person. Actually for many years my language and actions have been about being positive. Only in the last couple of years though have I considered that maybe that’s not enough. I need to consider all aspects of my life and how they all lead me to being a positive influence on those I meet.

If you want to get all zen about this, then you can only truly rule the world if you first rule yourself. That’s a discussion point for another blog. So if you have set yourself new year resolutions then follow the advice that is currently floating around every publication in the next month. Positive psychology is about incorporating many facets of your life and finding a thread that links them all together. You won’t find out about that in most articles. You need to find where that motivation comes from and then start the journey. Oh yes. It’s another bloody journey. Done half-heartedly this will be another failed attempt at doing something different. Done right though and it’s a journey which will yield insight and discovery. I’m still on that journey. I’m enjoying it too.