28 Apr Why and how Positive Therapy is, well, a positive thing!
by Dr. Paula Watkins (more on Dr. Paula HERE)
Happiness is not the absence of suffering. Happiness is a big concept to define and I won’t even attempt a thorough exploration here (there are entire – and really big – books on that topic for the interested reader) but thanks to positive psychology research in recent decades we can determine some key factors that foster freakishly high levels of happiness, vitality and wellbeing. They include:
– realisation and cultivation of character strength
– insight and self-awareness
– purpose, passion and meaning
– mindfulness of moments
Knowledge of these facts and virtues is one thing but in many ways happiness is a swim upstream against some pretty engrained biological and cultural patterns that take us in the opposite direction.
Optimism is great but the human brain has a negativity bias. Thankfully optimism can be learned because brains can be (re)trained.
Cultivating personal strengths is awesome but modern culture tends to celebrate (and push us all toward) a concentrated few that fit with current concepts of efficiency, productivity and practicality. Thankfully we can make bold (and beautiful) moves to better bring our strengths within our current contexts or mindfully move into new spaces where our innate offerings are valued, enhanced and activated.
We humans are meaning-makers. We are happiest when we have a sense of purpose and passion in relation to how we spend the moments of our lives and yet many of us experience sense of emptiness and diffuse dissatisfaction with ways we spend our days. The problem here is two-fold. Firstly, many of us haven’t established clarity around what it is we truly value. Secondly – and due to culture, context and habit patterns – we often live and act in ways that are incongruent with our deepest values and visions for ourselves and others. Too many of us linger in relationships and work environments that are incongruent with our individual ideology because we don’t know what our ideology is and we not sure about how to go about making change. But we needn’t fret! Psychology has dedicated decades to understanding how we can cultivate self-awareness, insight and, yes, behaviour change.
Life is comprised of moments and these moments are the only possible source for the materialization of our happiness. If we’re mindful, we can enjoy them. If we’re on autopilot then they often pass us by. The obvious issue here is our societies epidemic-like obsession with distraction, newness and constant stimulation. Less obvious is the evolutionary roots of these tendencies in the human brain. I teach people basic neuropsychology because this knowledge is power – we need it to activate the necessary motivation and develop the ability to make conscious choices about what we give our attention and energy to. Mindfulness is a skill. Meditation is mind training. We can learn simple strategies to cultivate mind, mindfulness and moment-to-moment awareness. And, as neuroscience has shown us, these techniques change the brain. We can, in short: train our minds to shape our brains and shift our life experience in the direction of happiness.
Positive therapy isn’t about blaming, berating or beating-up on our parents or society. It isn’t necessarily about addressing some super serious crisis.
Positive therapy isn’t even really about moving from unhappiness to happiness. It’s about shifting from today’s accepted standard of “doing okay” into the fullness of our human potential and flourishing. To many this sounds a little selfish and grandiose? It’s not.
Positive therapy isn’t a self-indulgent first-world pastime. It’s quite the opposite in fact. I’ve come to believe that positive therapy is about human potential not just “individual” potential. No one truly wins when anyone is losing. Peace within promotes peace without. We do ourselves, our families, our workplaces and our communities a disservice when we don’t bring our best (and I mean our very best).
Nelson Mandela knew it and he held this principle as foremost in his vision. That’s why in his 1994 Inauguration Speech he quoted from Marianne Williamson’s most moving and meaningful works:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…
Your playing small does not serve the world…
As we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
Happy people breed happiness. I’ve never seen a truly happy person intentionally harm themselves or others. They just don’t do it because the interconnected nature of happiness seems to resonate in their happy bones.
Positive therapy promotes happiness and I have to say it’s an utter privilege and joy to help people create shift in that direction. So… if you feel an inner fire burning, if you’re aware that you’ve got more to give and if you’re ready for positive change then I’d encourage you to not hold back any longer. Bring your light, know yourself and be the change you wish to see.
Positive therapy is, in many ways, common sense. But don’t be misled – it ain’t new-agey, life coaching-esque cheer-leading. It’s science. It works. And it’s more affordable that you might think. Check out our website or contact our office to find out more.
Check out some of our coaching and therapy options HERE