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Positive Psychology and Ways to Live a Happier Life!

I am a huge fan of Positive Psychology and the study of happiness, something you'll will be hearing about more and more in the news. The reason I want to share this with you is because there's some really great information you can use in your life to positively impact you and your family. The European Network for Positive Psychology describes Positive Psychology as researching optional functioning, moving towards what is right, rather than traditional pathology orientation of what is wrong (Pointon, 2006). The emphasis of Positive Psychology is to move towards happiness, affecting physical well-being, decreasing symptoms, increasing coping skills and adding to a longer, quality filled life.

American Psychologist, Martin Seligman, and his fellow researchers (Park et al., 2005) emphasize three routes to happiness: pleasure (enjoyment), engagement (active pursuit of hobbies, work, family), and meaning (using strengths for larger good). Their research suggests that individuals who purse a life of all three, with emphasis on engagement and meaning are those that claim to be most happy.

It's interesting to note that we have a bit more control over our happiness than we might imagine. The research suggests that 50% of our happiness is biological, that means 50% can be changed by our behaviors and thoughts. Interestingly enough it's NOT the external things like money and a nice car that make us happier. In fact research by Edward Diener, suggests that wealth, education, age, marital status, and weather had little influence on overall happiness. Those who reported increased levels of happiness were those with social and relationship ties, including religious community and personal relationships.

So what's the take away? We have much more control over our happiness than we could ever imagine and after getting our basic needs met, STUFF really doesn't make us much happier.

Here are 4 things you can do to live a happier life:

1. Form Relationships:
Spend time with people you care about, connect with community programs, volunteer, get involved with a religious community, visit with others, plan family nights. It is so simple, yet many of the children and adults I see feel isolated and alone. If you get involved with others and are willing to be open and receptive to have a positive relationship, you will feel happier!

2. Gratitude Visit:
Write a letter to someone you are thankful for expressing how they have contributed positively to your life. Go and deliver this letter in person. The research by Park et al., 2005 suggests you will feel happier for a month upon doing this.

3. Three Good Things in Life:
Write down three things you are grateful for each day. I know it sounds trite, but the research suggests that this intervention reduced depressive symptoms and increased happiness for six months (Park et al., 2005). How simple!

4. Using Signature Strengths in a New Way:
Signature Strengths are the things that you like doing and you are good at doing. Seligman suggests there are 24 Character Strengths. You can visit University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center's website to measure your signature Strengths. When you find out your strengths, if you use them in a new and novel way you'll likely yield long-term change in affect (you'll be happier) for up to six-months (Park et al., 2005).

Now that's something to happy about!

More about Positive Psychology:

Park, N., Peterson, C., Seligman, M. E., & Steen, T.A. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of intervention. American Psychologist, 60,

Pointon, C. (2006). Positive Psychology. Therapy Today, 17, 4-7.

Wallis, C. (2005). The New Science of Happiness. Time Magazine.