Practice happiness to change your mindset in 2019
THE GRATITUDE HABIT
One of the best things about positive psychology practices is they are natural antidepressants. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology confirmed that they do significantly enhance wellbeing and decrease depressive symptoms.
They are part of a new ‘positive psychotherapy’, the theory behind which is that if you enhance wellbeing it will make someone less vulnerable to distress, relieve their suffering and alleviate many of the factors that keep mental health problems going, such as pessimism, low self-confidence and social isolation.
Prof Neil Frude, the clinical psychologist who founded Books on Prescription, uses positive psychology in simple ways by encouraging his clients to find a) something to do, b) something to love, and c) something to look forward to.
The main thing to bear in mind is that happiness is a practice, not a spectator sport. You can’t just read about the science, it’s the action that really matters.
Neuroscience has shown that it is the repetition that forms the neural connections that make a habit out of happiness.
Practising mindfulness, for example, leads to greater activation of the left pre-frontal cortex, the seat of positive emotions in the brain.
I know it can feel like a major challenge when you’re weighed down with negative thoughts and emotions but by developing the practice, the benefits will accumulate. You’ll gradually experience more positive emotion and open up a chink of light in the darkness.
WAYS TO CHANGE MINDSET
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS: Your strengths make up the Positive You. Play to your positive characteristics and your natural talents to increase your wellbeing.
GRATITUDE: The mind has an implicit negativity bias; we notice what’s wrong before what’s right. Gratitude is about training yourself to savour the good stuff.
CHALLENGE THE 3 P’S OF PESSIMISM: Next time a negative event makes you pessimistic, ask yourself how the cause might not be personal (what other factors were involved?), not permanent (what can you change?) and not pervasive (what else is still working well?)
NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: You can sum up positive psychology in three words – other people matter. The happiest people have good close relationships and active social lives so prioritise relationships.
GREEN EXERCISE: It only takes a few minutes of walking or forest bathing to start generating positive emotions. Doing it by water is especially calming.
FIND MEANING: Remind yourself of the deeper purpose of life’s mundane activities e.g. how food shopping is ultimately about caring for your body so that it is healthy and strong.