Advice for getting happier: Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with people, try focusing on what’s right with people -what makes people happy, successful and more productive. This is what the positive psychologists do.
Senia Maymin (pronounced Sen-ya) has a master’s degree in applied positive psychology. What this means is that she uses the science of happiness to help people make their lives better. She divides what we know about happiness into five categories, and she explains how we can make headway in each one of them in order to improve our lives.
1. Increase our positive thinking.
The key to thinking positively is being optimistic. The way you determine if you are optimistic or pessimistic is how you explain things. When the copy machine doesn’t work, is the world out to get you? Do all copy machines never work ever? Or is this something that sometimes happens and you can deal with it by calling a repair person?
You can teach yourself to be more optimistic by teaching yourself to reframe situations by telling different stories. The stories we tell shape how we see the world. If you tell stories about your ability to get what you want then you are more likely to believe you can do it. As super-optimist (and radio host) Karen Salmansohn says, “You can take your story of woe and turn it into a story of wow.”
2. Increase your positive emotions.
When you are feeling good, you can come up with more solutions to your problems. So the world looks more like something you can affect to get what you want. The less positive you are feeling, the fewer possibilities you see for creating success.
Also, if you have practice feeling positive, then when bad things happen you are accustomed to going to a wide solution space, so you will go there reflexively. This means you’ll get out of a bad spot faster and more effectively.
One way to increase positive feelings is to write a list of things you’re grateful for every night before you go to bed. Doing this actually changes how you think.
3. Increase your authenticity and your strength.
It’s very hard to figure out what you’re really good at. And by the time most of us figure out what we are good at we think it’s too late to change what we’re doing. So we just sort of pretend that we are doing what we are really good at.
Don’t do that. You’ll be happier if you are true to your strengths. To figure out what you are best at try taking the strengths assessment at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center or try taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator.
And then believe the results. Act on them. Don’t make excuses for why you can continue doing something you’re not great at.
4. Increase your positive choices and decisions
First of all, having more choices does not make us happier. In fact it makes the decision making process less positive because we spend too much time obsessing over what we should do. An example of this is that you don’t need 15 Chinese restaurants to choose from in order to have a nice night out eating Chinese food.
Another way to think about choices is that if you train yourself how to be at decision points, then you can simplify your life in a way that makes you choose better. Take going to the gym. If you tell yourself there is no choice but go to the gym then there is not a huge process of deciding what is most important each evening after work.
Telling stories helps here, too. If you remind yourself of all the bad things that happened with a bad decision then you will less likely to feel that that is a decision point going forward. Example of what works: The French government puts gruesome photos of car accidents on billboards to get people to wear seatbelts.
5. Increase positive habits.
If you do one positive thing in your life, there is spillover into other aspects of your life. In the big picture, this can explain why if you are living in poverty and you enter into a loving relationship you are likely to get out of poverty.
In a study by Roy Baumeister, college students who were asked to take better care of their finances for a few weeks found that they unexpectedly also found themselves going to the gym more often, eating better, and getting better grades.
But you should remove temptation, because you can only withstand it so many times before it wears you down. This means you should get the m&m’s off your desk.
Creating one positive habit encourages you to live your life more consciously and more positively all around.
I loved talking with Senia about this. At the end of a half-hour conversation, I swear I am living my life more positively because of the tools she was able to give me in so short a time. Fortunately, Senia is doing Coachology this week, so someone is going to get to work with her for free, for 90 minutes.
Here is the best candidate to work with Senia; she focuses on entrepreneurs and career changers: You should be a high-achiever, because the person who is most successful in self-discipline and self-control is the person who is in the best position to apply positive psychology research on their life. You should also be ready to make a big change in your work life in order to increase your happiness. Senia can help you do this.
Send three sentences to me about why you want to work with Senia, and she’ll pick someone. Please send the email by Monday, May 28.