Posts Tagged ‘Positive Psychology’

I am coming to the end of a NeuroPositivity course. This is taught by the Applied Neuroscience Institute (http://gotoani.com) and has been an affirmation of many things and an education on how the brain works. What I like about it is there is no need for a guru, or a personality, or a new belief system. It is more of technical teaching than a faith system. I have learned how the brain works, what neuroplasticity is, how to set goals, and what strengths I have.

Once put in motion though, it has some really great supernatural cosmic qualities. I look at it as the machine behind faith, grace and prayer.

I’ve learned that in times of trouble, leaning on strengths is the way through the hard part. I had the chance to help my kids with this recently. Over Christmas, I asked them to take the VIA Character Strengths inventory on the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology site which is: http://authentichappiness.org  . We all have many ideas about who we are, but sometimes we don’t know that the thing we take for granted can be the key to the treasure we have been looking for.

For example, I have always known that I was a creative person, yet during my school years, I was usually “caught” being creative and it didn’t have a place in the curriculum. I never thought that it was this strength and others would be the very things that define me. The strengths are, to me, God given bonus aspects to my personality and when used, fill life with joy and meaning, and get me through tough times.

For instance, months ago I was cast aside by someone I was close to, and subjected to a barrage of negativity. Instead of using my usual coping mechanism or talking to someone about it, I decided to lean on strength. Since my top strength is Creativity, I knew that afternoon I had to immerse myself in a creative endeavor.

One of my favorite things is to walk through an old house and dream. I love nothing better than going into an old house and getting hit with the atmosphere. It is lovely to turn a corner, smell the old wood and think what can be done to a room. That afternoon I walked through a house I had never seen before, and imagined all it would take to turn it into an eccentric and lovely family home. The sense of possibility and the feeling of wonder, listening to the back story of the house, was like swimming in an ocean of creative possibility. It was splendid fun, and by the time I got home, the previous unpleasantness was gone.

If we were put into a functional MRI machine in the state of happiness and bliss, certain parts of our brain would light up. These same parts of the brain do light up when we summon positive feelings of joy, hope, gratitude, peace and love. In my course, I learned to summon these emotions on command, rather than wait for them to occur. It was far easier than I thought. I have endless memories and photos of my kids and certain key memories of sheer happiness. It is easy to go there, and it has become easier.

So, when a child came to me feeling sad recently, I was so happy to be able to offer more than commiseration and sympathy. I reminded my child of the strengths, and I thought of activities that would use her main strength of “Appreciation of Beauty”.  (Really, you have to go to the Authentic Happiness website listed above and take the inventory. It’s free.) I also told my dear child not to go over and over the sad thing. I said, “Feel your feelings, then shut the door. Accept that it happened. Now it is time to move past.” I said, “No rumination. Think of happy things.”

It worked.

I was so pleased to have the tool kit and to see it work on someone else.

More tomorrow, I hope. (Life is busy).

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This is the week after graduation, and I have to admit reality is slightly less extraordinary than it was last week. On graduation day, the sun shone, the flags flew, I walked down my beloved Cambridge streets feeling full of love and wonder and gratitude. In the afternoon during the diploma ceremony I saw my mother, husband and six children clap for me. At 55, I truly feel that life is full of exciting possibilities.

I have been very blessed to have a close and loving family, a happy marriage and in spite of difficult hands dealt by fate, a positive outlook and resilient spirit.

When I went back to the Philippines after an absence of thirty-four years earlier this year, I found my missing piece. Everything I really love has flourished. There were no burned bridges, no goodbyes unsaid. I have been blessed.

Today I was thinking about the various courses I took and thought of this one, Positive Psychology. Shawn Achor was my TA. This meant that every week he spoke to us on the telephone about the things we learned. The course had a profound effect on me. Happiness is easier to achieve for most people than they know.

However, there has to be a willingness to give up negative thought patterns and habits.

Since being Shawn’s student, he has gone on to launch his consulting firm Good Think Inc. and he has written a book, “The Happiness Advantage”. If you listen to this TED talk, you will see the magic formula which will work for most people (people who are basically mentally sound). Most people I know struggle with something in their lives. I often think that a tweak would help. Here is Shawn’s tweak.

You will see it in the TED talk, but if you need it now, here it is!

Small Changes Ripple Outwards

1. Three Gratitudes

2. Journaling



5. Random Acts of Kindness

Two minutes a day, for twenty-one days. Rewire your brain.

OK! I hope you are intrigued. Watch the video. It only takes twelve minutes!

I pray as well. Enjoy my teacher. His class was a favorite part of my Harvard experience.

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