Discovering Optimism

sunrise at the end of a dock

For some scientists, happiness is best defined as “subjective well-being”. In other words, it’s relative to the individual and their experience. From this perspective, happiness is different for each of us.  In the Happiness Advantage, author, Shawn Achor, notes that, “happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook on the future.” That’s optimism.

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, identified three components of happiness: pleasure, engagement and meaning. We may tend to favor one or two of these elements over the others. Some of us pursue pleasure at all costs. Others labor over meaning. Some are high on engagement, involvement and immersion in our choices. But Seligman’s work indicates that those people who cultivate all three elements experience the fullest sense of happiness.

Happiness Advantage author, Achor, lists 7 ways to promote optimism and lift your level of happiness. Here are some of the things he suggests:

Meditation
Looking forward to something positive
Committing conscious acts of kindness
Cultivating positivity & gratitude
Enjoying nature
Exercise
Using your signature strengths*

These are activities that can help you discover optimism and lift your immediate sense of happiness. In a matter of minutes, you can shift your outlook. How much depends on many factors.  But research shows that even the smallest, single positive experience prior to a task results in a higher sense of satisfaction and well-being, and often a better performance. So, experiment. Discover your own sense of what works for you.

That being said, these acts are most effective when they are practiced regularly. So, if you are someone who works well with structure and challenge, you may find Erica House’s downloadable pdf, The 30 Day Happiness Challenge, of value. If you are allergic to structures and programs, please follow your own wise nature.

Whatever is best for you, choosing to do something positive and caring for yourself or others can bring meaning, engagement and pleasure into your life. So, next time you are feeling dull or low, try discovering optimism to shift your mood and see what you find.

I would love to hear how you are discovering optimism and where you look for happiness.  Click below on the link that says Leave a Comment in fine gray type.

* In my next blog, I discuss strength-based approaches to life, career and relationship.

About Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D., Dipl. PW

Cindy Trawinski is a licensed clinical psychologist, a Diplomate in Process-oriented Psychology (also known as Process Work) and a certified Imago Relationship Therapist. She is a founding partner of LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center and North Shore Psychotherapy Associates and has offices in Skokie, IL. Cindy is the former CEO of the Process Work Institute, in Portland, OR and a member of the International Association of Process-oriented Psychology (IAPOP), in Zurich, Switzerland. Cindy is a frequent speaker on topics including: Diversity and Multicultural Issues; Sex Positivity; Rank & Power; Therapist Bias; and Polyamory.

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