Updated: May 18
Generally speaking, human beings tend to focus their attention on the negative aspects of their daily life or a situation. When we go home in the evening, we tend to take stock of the unpleasant moments of the day; the meeting that didn’t go well, or the problems that had to be dealt with and will have to be dealt with again tomorrow, that urgent task that is unfinished… What if we took the time to focus on all the positive things around us? What if we took the time to stop and contemplate a beautiful landscape or to listen to music that we like? What if we tried to re-educate our brain to see the glass as half full and not half empty?
What if we simply practiced positive psychology on a daily basis?
Positive psychology, what is it?
It is very important to clarify that positive psychology is a science. It should therefore not be confused with “positive thinking”. Positive psychology is a real science built on rigorous scientific research following well-defined experimental protocols.
This field of research and intervention developed in the 2000s following a simple observation made by Martin Seligman: psychological research made it possible to support people in coping with neuroses and psychopathological disorders, but few studies had been developed on what enables people to flourish, to be resilient, and to promote their daily well-being.
Positive psychology is defined as “the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions”. (Gable & Haidt, 2005, p. 104). This positive psychology does not mean that there is a “negative” one, but it seeks to highlight all the positive elements of human functioning and human experiences. Of course, we must not have an idealised and utopian vision of reality or ignore our negative feelings and enter into a form of denial. The aim here is to draw attention to the positive elements of our daily lives. For example, taking the time to watch a beautiful sunset, smelling the flowers in summer, hearing music that we like. All these little pleasures in life are unique to each of us, Proust had his madeleine sponge cakes, it is up to you to find yours. We must therefore concentrate on the positive elements of our life, the encounters we have, the pleasant exchanges, the moments of sharing.
More concretely, how is this done?
The 5 golden rules:
Martin Seligman uses the acronym PERMA to illustrate the fundamental principles of positive psychology:
- P for positive emotions: we focus on positive emotions. Joy, gratitude, curiosity, hope are all positive emotions to cultivate in our daily lives.
- E for engagement: let’s live in the moment, completely! Pay attention specifically to the present moment, without judgment. This mindfulness is a source of creativity, empathy, and peace. Let’s observe, listen, laugh… without thinking about tomorrow or yesterday, let’s live in the moment.
- R for relationships: accept others as they are without judgment and with kindness.
- M for meaning in life: Let us ask ourselves about the meaning of our life. What do we want to do with it? What are our priorities? What gives meaning to our life?
- A for accomplishment: What would we like to achieve in our lives? What are the great achievements that really count for us? The challenges we would like to face?
Here are some small exercises that you can practice regularly. They will help you to adopt positive psychology in your daily life.
1 – Meditate without restriction!
Of all the methods of stress management, mindfulness meditation is the most widely published. This method consists of concentrating on one’s sensations, breathing, emotions and thoughts, without making any value judgements. It was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts, and is to be practiced without moderation! Its effects are numerous: its relaxing virtue can help to manage stress and anxiety, promotes attention and memory, and makes us more resistant to pain. Finally, meditation also promotes cardiovascular health and immunity.
2 – The Losada ratio
At the end of the day, take stock and count the ratio of positive words you said to negative ones. Try to remember the words spoken during your various social interactions. The aim is that you say three times as many positive words as negative words in a group. In general, try to use as many positive turns of phrase as possible. We talk about “areas of improvement” rather than “shortcomings”, “it’s good” rather than “it’s not bad”, etc.
3 – Cultivate your kindness
Being helpful, generous, and altruistic makes you happier. It has many benefits, such as easing tensions, creating a positive climate, and reinforcing trust in interpersonal relationships… Every day, do something for others, even a small thing, offer your help, compliment one of your colleagues, be a good listener…
4 – Express your gratitude
Saying thank you, expressing gratitude and saying what we are grateful for is very beneficial. This can be towards a person or a situation. For example, I am very grateful that I can eat at every meal, that I am healthy, that I have a place to sleep, etc. Write all this down in a notebook and review it as soon as you need to. Showing a little gratitude for life’s blessings never hurts.
5 – And finally, smile!
The simple fact of smiling (voluntary facial movement maintained for at least one minute) makes us happier. In fact, we trick our brain! The latter interprets it as a physical sign of joy and releases the molecules that make us feel good. “Magic” you might ask? No, just a physical reaction, scientifically proven. Sceptical? Test yourself and smile!