Flourish Part 1: Happiness & Positivity

A Progressive Person's Guide to Creating Joy, Fulfillment & Success in Life

Part 1: Happiness & Positivity

Are you truly happy?
Do you love what you do for a living?
What would your life look like with #NoFilter?


How do you define happiness? Is it a destination or a journey? Are you on your way, there, or lost along the way?

You can decide at any moment that no matter what is going on, no matter what you’ve been through, you’re going to be grateful, happy and hopeful about your future. Do you agree? You can choose to create a positive attitude that allows you to be satisfied with your life and optimistic about your future. But it’s takes work…like more work than finding the light and taking the best selfie everrr.

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When things don’t seem to go our way, we can get stuck in destructive thinking patterns. When our emotions get the best of us, we can get wrapped up in “awfulizing” a situation or a person beyond what is objectively true. Then there’s the downward spiral! The more we interpret someone or something in a negative light, the more negative emotions we have. The more negative emotions we have, the less happy we are. But we want more happy, right?! So how?

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Martin Seligman, a psychologist, researcher and UPENN professor known as one of the fathers of positive psychology, says that the Keys to Happiness are:

  • Being at peace with your past and able to look back at your past with satisfaction and gratitude for what’s made you who you are today

  • Being optimistic and hopeful about your future

  • Being happy about the present, welcoming pleasure and frequent positive emotions

Sounds somewhat simple, but according to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 10 people report depression affecting over 121 million people worldwide. Amongst those most depressed are women, blacks, hispanics and other people of color, and those previously married. Studies show that status anxiety, materialism and social comparison are linked to increased instances of depression. Damn Instagram is NOT helping! Scrolling through a feed of the best moments of the rich and famous and you can leave you feeling the womp womps and “what about me?” blues. Hey love, don’t let the filter fool you!

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Truth is that being either rich, beautiful, healthy, successful and/or all four doesn’t make you happy. You can work your butt off to get that raise, get that weight off, get that man and three months later be back to feeling the way you did before. How is that?! Because happiness can be fleeting. Getting what we want can only give us temporary satisfaction until we cultivate true happiness, fulfillment and life satisfaction.

In the field of psychology, a person’s level of happiness is determined by their well-being. Gallup, one of the world’s leading polling companies, conducted a groundbreaking global study on well-being and concluded that there are 5 essential elements for well-being: career, social, financial, physical, and community well-being. Sixty-six percent of people are doing well in at least one area. If you’re anything like me and many other progressive people reading this, settling for doing well in one area would be like Beyonce saying after she won her middle school talent show, “yeah, I killed it and gave it all I got! I’m done! The end!” But no, no! I want more! I want to flourish in all areas with the top seven percent. Do you?

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If you’ve ready any of my previous blogs, you know by now that I’m getting certified in applied positive psychology. My desire to master the strategies and tools that enable individuals and organizations to thrive is what led me to the courses I’m now taking with Emiliya Zhivotovskaya at The Flourishing Center.

Positive psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It goes beyond the goal of traditional psychology, fixing what’s wrong with people, and focuses on enhancing the positive aspects of peoples lives and well-being so that they can flourish. Flourishing is the ultimate happiness-an enduring happiness rooted in an elevated mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and social existence. That’s the type of happiness I’m aiming for! But that doesn’t just happen, so how does one flourish?!

Change your thoughts. Change your mind.

Change your thoughts. Change your mind.

 

Let’s learn, evolve, and elevate!

Below I’ll share a list of twelve activities that have been found to have the greatest impact on our happiness, fulfillment and success. This list is my breakdown of scientific research, findings and the CAPP curriculum. I invite you to practice each activity and witness the positivity that results.

Seek Ye First
Practicing religion and/or spirituality allows us to feel a strong, intimate and personally valuable connection to a something greater than ourselves. Connecting with a higher power can give us comfort, meaning, a sense of identity and activate our inner power. Seek meaning and purpose. A universal way to practice spirituality is through prayer. Dedicate a period of time each day from 5 minutes to an hour a day for sacred time. Develop an ability to see holiness in everyday things.

Cultivate Optimism
Optimism is a sense of hopefulness about the future. Who is your best future self? What do you expect your life to be like in 3 years? Sit in a quiet place and write. Imagine everyday has gone as well as it possibly could. You worked hard and accomplished all of your goals. What is life like? Start with, “In 3 years, I am…” because the power of affective forecasting has been proven to have powerful consequences. Ever heard of Affirmative Prayer?

Express Gratitude
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Research shows that expressing gratitude enhances our experiences and relationships, decreases stress, and increases positivity. A gratitude list is a great way to savor our blessings and focus on the positivity in our lives and those around us. I’m going to challenge you to express more gratitude. If there’s a particular person who has been kind or influential in your life, let them know! Express your appreciation. What are you waiting for?!

Nurture Social Relationships
…And may I add, #IRL (in real life). I’m not talking about sending friend requests and leaving hearts on posts. I’m talking about making real connections and have a squad of Aristotilian friends. Like what?! Good friends-who have each others’ well-being at heart. Other people matter. Build your tribe. We have a need to belong, connect with each other, and bond. Research consistently shows that having friendships has the highest positive correlation with happiness.

Avoid Overthinking & Comparing
Don’t get wrapped up “awfulizing.” Overthinking depletes you and again, comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t be jealous, be inspired. Do you do the best you can with what you have? Well keep up the good work! Remember gratitude. Focus your thoughts on attracting what you want more of. Train your brain. Learn to stop and turn your thoughts off. PS. I so want to do a live session webinar on this. Leave a comment and let me know if you’d wanna talk more.

Learn to Forgive
Built up anger and resentment fester and cause all types of illness in our mind and body. Research shows that forgiving people are less likely to be hateful, depressed, hostile, angry, anxious, and neurotic and are more likely to be happier, healthier, and more agreeable. Bottom line is to learn from it and let it go! Even if the person doesn't deserve it. Do it for yourself.  If you have trouble forgiving, think of a time you harmed someone and you were forgiven. What insights do you have? Oh yeah, and be sure to forgive yourself. You did the best you could…and if you didn’t, you will now because you know better :)

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#Goals
Pick one to three significant goals that are meaningful to you and devote time and effort to pursuing them. Setting specific and challenging goals that give you immediate feedback is proven to fuel our desire to achieve more. Put your goals where you can see them and be reminded of them. What do you need? An accountability partner? A mastermind group? A vision board? A reward? You decide. Setting and meeting goals increases a sense of satisfaction, productivity and success.

Flow
Flow is defined as state of intense absorption-like me up in the morning at 6:29am, since last night, determined to finish this blog post. To flow is to get in the zone-a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity of the moment. We flow when we’re doing something we love. The key to flow moments is having the appropriate balance of challenge and skills. Be open to trying something new and having different experiences. Continue learning all the time.

Savor Life
According to psychologists Bryant and Veroff, “Positive events alone are not enough to bring about happiness. People need to attend to and appreciate the positive feelings that emerge from positive events” (2007, p45). Be mindful. Make time to enjoy life and the people you love. Be able to be attentive and appreciative of the moment. Do something you really enjoy and really enjoy it!

Perform Acts of Kindness
Performing acts of kindness increases our happiness level, and the more acts of kindness that are performed in one day, the higher the happiness. Altruism and volunteering tend to benefit the giver and the receiver. Performing acts of kindness gets us into an “other centered” way of being (instead of self-centered), can increase our mood and put us in an upward spiral. Think of a person or organization who can benefit from your help. Reach out and offer your support, time or experience and help them.

Learn to Cope
Develop a “personal why” that gives your life meaning. Shift your lens. Take charge of how you think about adversity. Understand your beliefs about a situation and choose how you respond. Coping builds our self-efficacy, self-regulation and emotional regulation. We become more resilient, more solution focused, and are more likely to thrive despite adversity. Find meaning through expressive writing. Journal! Here’s an entry for you: write about a challenging situation you’ve faced and make a list of how it has helped you grow. Are you dealing with a challenge now? Find comfort and strength in your discomfort. Let your challenge push you forward.

Take Care of Your Mind and Body
Self-awareness enables self-compassion, which enables self-care. That’s the flourishing model. Live well from the inside out. Do you have healthy habits and rituals? Do you exercise? Maintain a moderately healthy diet? Do you get enough sleep? Drink enough water? Life can be depleting. What are you doing to replenish? Both meditation and exercise have proven positive effects on the mind and body. There is a powerful mind-body connection through which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect our health.

Kerry-Ann Flowers at the Glow Up Wellness Retreat co-hosted and produced by Quartz Wellness Collective founder, Amber Lee Forrester

Kerry-Ann Flowers at the Glow Up Wellness Retreat co-hosted and produced by Quartz Wellness Collective founder, Amber Lee Forrester

Don’t we all just want to be happy deep down?

Happy people are more likely to:

  • be healthier

  • live longer

  • find work with more autonomy, meaning and variety

  • be more successful

  • have closer friendships

  • feel better and do better

This is the first part of a 9 part blog series on flourishing focused on creating joy, fulfillment and success in life. After today’s dive into happiness and positivity, we’ll move on to dig deeper into mindset, meaning, purpose, relationships, achievement, gratitude, kindness, prosperity, wealth, flow and vitality. I encourage you to sign up to receive our Thrive Newsletter that will feature an overview of the posts along with links to additional resources, tools and inspiration to support your personal and professional growth.

Ok, so let’s be for real. No one is happy ALL the time! And that’s not what it’s about. We all have positive and negative emotions. Everyone reading this can look at life thus far and identify a pattern of happy periods followed by negative or not-so-happy periods. I believe happiness is a journey and the goal of us seeking happiness is to learn to look at the big picture, metabolize our emotions-both good and bad, and develop the awareness, care and compassion for ourselves and others that allows us to live our best lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this post. I think I’m going to do a live session webinar series to accompany this. Would you be interested? Let me know your thoughts on this and all the yumminess in this post. Share with a friend! Leave a comment!

Love + Light,

Amber Lee Forrester