Practicing Positivity

“Happiness” is much deeper than simply having pleasant feelings. Research by positive psychologists has identified exercises that increase positivity / happiness. Increased positivity, measured by subjective well-being, leads to flourishing, and a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.

Dark Cloud Or Sunshine?

Negative Nellie and Positive Pollie (not their real names) are colleagues at a local business. Both are married. Each is raising a family. But there the similarities end.

Nellie’s daily commute is, as she describes it, “the drive from hell”. She is constantly getting cut off in traffic or stuck behind some moron who refuses to speed through a yellow light. Her horn and one specific finger get a workout every morning. By the time she gets to work, late as usual thanks to all those idiots out there, she is fuming.

At work, she carries a black cloud with her everywhere she goes. Co-workers avoid her; customers complain about her treatment of them. Nellie has been passed over twice for promotions and she is sure it’s because her boss has it out for her and besides, she works with a bunch of suck-ups who the boss is partial to.

At home, Nellis is furious about something a co-worker said. She yells at her kids for leaving a mess in the kitchen after school. Her husband helps with dinner then retreats to the TV. The kids rush up to their rooms to play video games and escape their mother’s wrath.

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Build Your Positivity

Positive emotions have a long-lasting effect on your psychological well-being and lead to flourishing – the ability to thrive and grow. Not only do they feel good in the moment, but they are worth cultivating as a way toward improved well-being.

“Positivity opens us. The first core truth about positive emotions is that they open our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and more creative.

“Positivity transforms us for the better. This is the second core truth about positive emotions. By opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge, and new ways of being.” [Fredrickson 2009]

Broaden and Build

Barbara Fredrickson was one of the first Positive Psychologists I encountered. Martin Seligman referenced her work a number of times in Authentic Happiness and described the profound impact she had on his thinking about positive emotion. She was the first recipient of the $100,000 Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, awarded for the best work in Positive Psychology by a scientist under 40. [Seligman] Based on Seligman’s reference, I immediately purchased and read Barbara Fredrickson’s book, Positivity. It was an excellent introduction for me to the concept of building the skills that help you flourish.

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Giving Thanks


“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Have An Attitude Of Gratitude

At this time of year, our thoughts naturally turn to Thanksgiving and thanks giving. That is good. However, the act of being grateful, of giving thanks, is too important to relegate to only one day each year. Indeed, gratitude – being thankful – is one of the keys to the Excelerated Life.

The importance of being grateful has been recognized and taught by many people, from the apostle Paul to New Thought teachers to positive psychologists. Continue reading “Giving Thanks”

“Live For Holiness”

“We don’t live for happiness, we live for holiness. Day to day we seek out pleasure, but deep down, human beings are endowed with moral imagination. All human beings seek to lead lives not just of pleasure, but of purpose, righteousness, and virtue.” ~ David Brooks

What is the purpose of life? What are we living for?

These are deep and important questions. Many books have been written about these very questions and we certainly are not going to answer them in a short essay. Continue reading ““Live For Holiness””

The Self Actualized Life

“What human beings can be, they must be.” ~ Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow has been called one of the most famous psychologists of the 20th Century.  His research into what makes successful and high-achieving people do what they do and be what they are is the precursor of the Positive Psychology movement.

The Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow is known for his “hierarchy of needs” – a ranking or scale of human needs. At the bottom are physical or physiological needs – air, food, water, sleep. Next are needs for safety and security – good health, secure employment, social and family stability. These two categories comprise our basic needs. Going up the hierarchy, next come needs for love and belonging – intimate relationships, friends, a sense of connectedness. Then, the need for self- esteem – achievement, respect of others, prestige. These two categories define our psychological needs. Finally, at the top of the pyramid, we reach self-actualization – what Maslow considered as achieving one’s full potential, that is “what one can be, one must be.”

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Why Be Happy?

Research in the field of positive psychology has shown that we have a “happiness setpoint”, a level of happiness around which each of us tends to hover. We may have intervals of bliss and intervals of deep sadness, but in general, we tend to move back to our happiness level. Research also shows that we have the ability to influence our happiness up to approximately 40%. That is, we can increase our levels of happiness to a sizable extent.

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Life Cycles

“All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown.
The moon rolls through the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around.
All my life’s a circle but I can’t tell you why.
The season’s spinnin’ round again, the years keep rollin’ by.”
~ Harry Chapin “Circles”

All Our Life’s A Circle

We don’t live life in a straight line. Life is a series of cycles through which we are going and, hopefully, growing.

In LifeLaunch: A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life, Frederic M. Hudson and Pamela D. McLean provide a plan and a model for moving through the varied chapters of adult life, redesigning one’s life at each juncture as we step into the next chapter.

They do this, in part, by providing a series of “maps” to lead the reader through the preparations. I’d like to share my thoughts on the 1st “map”, which Hudson and McLean call “The Renewal Cycle”.

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