I recently wrote about the importance of personal wellbeing in sustainable peak performance. We need to take care of ourselves first before we can fully succeed and take care of other areas of our lives. When it comes to happiness and wellbeing the notion exists that we are happy if negative emotions are absent from our lives. And the other way round. If you’re stressed or anxious, you won’t be feeling happy.
This is where many of us go wrong according to Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania. In our pursuit of happiness, he says, we should stop focusing so much on negative emotions and spending time to eliminate those. Instead it’s more important to actively cultivate wellbeing. I like it.
Seligman suggests four exercises that can help us to readjust our focus when it comes to happiness.
1) Identify your Strengths: When were you at your best? Write it down and think about the strengths you showed in that situation.
2) Find the Good: Each night write down three things that went well that day.
3) Make a Gratitude Visit: Have you thanked people who showed kindness towards you in the past? Think of someone you haven’t thanked, write a letter. If you’re feeling brave, meet that person and tell them.
4) Respond Constructively: That’s a good one. Instead of saying ‘that’s great’ next time somebody shares good news with you, show more enthusiasm. Celebrate others accomplishments. There’s nothing better than sharing a celebration with somebody and some red wine.
I’m a radical optimist – shifting focus towards the positive rather than dwelling on the bad just makes sense. Being an optimist might mean slightly different things to everybody. To me it means to continuously put oneself into a good space, avoiding negative actions, and making happy choices.