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Posts tagged ‘happiness’

Pursuit of PERMAnent Happiness

Cynthia Sue Larson

Cynthia Sue Larson

I was overjoyed this past month to hear Martin Seligman, “father of positive psychology” speak at a commencement address about a model of happiness consisting of five components that together spell out the acronym, “PERMA.” These are: P for positive emotions, E for engagement, R for relationships, M for meaning, and A for accomplishment. At Martin’s web site,  authentichappiness.org, you can see where your sense of humor fits, and how you and those you care about are doing in terms of happiness. These five components are tremendously important to an overall and lasting sense of flourishing–and are more at the core of what positive psychology is all about than pursuit of (often fleeting) positive emotion happiness. 

I’m glad to see that Martin Seligman is working to educate and train more than one million people serving in the United States Army, helping to improve levels of happiness in the armed forces… as well as assisting service men and women realize that growth is possible after traumatic stress, and that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t the only outcome–most people are able to ‘dust themselves off’ and rise above previous setbacks, even when multiple traumatic events have occurred.

Martin Seligman Flourish

Martin Seligman, “Flourish”

Positive Emotions

Surprisingly, positive emotion is not the true key to PERMAnent happiness, as it’s something having to do with our set ranges of highly heritable general happiness. Positive emotions such as optimism can be taught, and when we learn to raise our levels of positive emotions, we get the benefit of viewing the world as a generally more positive place. Negative emotions such as depression and anxiety are reduced, when people learn to better handle stress in their lives. A simple exercise that has been proven highly effective at improving positive emotions is to every day before going to bed for the night, write down three things that went especially well that day, along with reasons why you believe those things went so well. This idea of “hunting the good stuff,” as one US soldier enrolled in Seligman’s program put it, is acknowledged by many soldiers suffering from long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to make a tremendous positive difference to the point of eventually being able to identify as post-traumatic growth veterans, as mentioned in the New York Times article, Post Traumatic Stress’s Surprisingly Positive Flip Side:

“Seligman’s theory is that if soldiers can be taught to approach a situation as General Cornum did naturally — with gratitude for being alive rather than distress at being taken prisoner — then they might learn to become resilient, too. A core principle of the program is seeing an event as neutral, neither bad nor good, and focusing instead on your reaction to the event.

Engagement

The quality of Engagement is something we have a fair bit of control over, as it’s the degree to which we are fully engaged in activities where we lose track of the world thanks to feeling at one with what we are doing. When we’re using our highest strengths to just match the challenges that come our way, we’re in a state of flow. This kind of engagement gives us a kind of natural high, and a sense of sanity based on feeling good about working with our moral and character strengths such as kindness and fairness (which are different from talents such as having perfect pitch or a high IQ that are means to an end). People who use their strengths more have been scientifically evaluated to feel more in a state of flow… and some strengths, such as self-discipline, have been shown in scholarly studies to be twice as good at indicating subsequent scholastic success in college as IQ scores. You can find your signature strengths at Martin’s website at authentichappiness.org — and Seligman recommends utilizing your highest signature strengths when doing things you might not otherwise enjoy. You can recraft your tasks and activities with your greatest strengths to start better enjoying all parts of life, by being better engaged. I took the (free!) VIA Survey of Character Strengths assessment this past month, and discovered my top five strengths include: Spirituality, Hope, Perspective, Curiosity and Gratitude.

Relationships

The third ingredient in PERMA is relationships, and it’s also something we have the ability to improve. Intriguingly, there is a measurement by which 60 American corporations were evaluated for economic success and the ratio of positive to negative words that are said in those companies, and it’s called the Losada Ratio. It was found that corporations where the ratio of positive single words to negative words is 2.9 and greater are flourishing, whereas those in which the ratio of positive single words to negative single words was between 1 and 2.9 were stagnating, and those with ratios where negative words exceeded positive words were going under. Ratios of positive to negative words need to be substantially higher than just 2.9 to 1 in romantic relationships, with a ratio of 5 positive words to every 1 negative word providing for strong marriages that likely won’t end in divorce. The idea here is that we have to provide some kinds of critical feedback to those closest in our lives, and when the background environment is predominantly positive, our relationships thrive so people really hear us, rather than treat us as the enemy. We can make active constructive remarks when hearing good news from friends and family, by asking questions that help the person relive the experience from the point of view of their highest strengths… asking what the real reasons were that they think these good things happened to them.

Meaning

Meaning is the act of belonging to and serving something that we feel is larger than we are… and having a sense of purpose in the world by serving something larger. When we are altruistic, and do something for others, we live according to the extremely social side of human nature. Doing something helpful for someone else is empirically the most effective way to boost our mood. Finding ways to make best use of doing what we love to do, or utilizing some of our unique strengths while being of service to something bigger than ourselves is especially rewarding and uplifting.

Accomplishment

Having a sense of accomplishment, mastery and achievement is another area we can influence. All five of these elements are measurable. The ability to set and achieve goals provides us with the ability to see measurable results in our lives, and recognize that we’re able to do what we set out to do, when our goals are measurable and realistic.

I hope you’ll enjoy watching and sharing my YouTube video summary of Pursuit of PERMAnent Happiness–and please feel free to leave comments either on this blog or on my YouTube video page!

I hope you’ll ask “How good can it get?!” while contemplating ways you can increase happiness in your life… envisioning more and better positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments to come!

Love always,

Cynthia Sue Larson
email Cynthia at cynthia@realityshifters.com

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Smile More Intensely for a Healthier, Happier Life

Cynthia Sue Larson

I’ve been feeling inspired this month after reading about a psychology study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, showing that the more widely a person smiles on their facebook profile photo, the better the chances are that their next several years will be satisfying to them. If it’s true that Facebook Profile Pics Predict Future Happiness, and that fate smiles on those who smile most, it seems only prudent to find ways to feel happier now, so the next several years will be be good ones!

Not only does this smile intensity / life satisfaction research confirm the results of an earlier study from 2001, which found a link between smile intensity of a group of female college students in 1958 and 1960 and their self-reported life satisfaction three decades later… it also lends a fresh perspective on a research study from last year of baseball players that found those who smiled intensely in early-career headshots lived seven years longer on average than those with small or nonexistent smiles.

Wow! Who would have guessed that increasing the intensity of one’s smile could have such far-reaching effects on one’s life satisfaction and longevity? This news encourages me to keep on smiling intensely, even though sometimes I’ll see a picture of myself smiling so much I think I look slightly crazed… apparently, such smiling zeal is good for me in many ways!

I sometimes have smiled so much that people have asked me, “Why are you so happy?” and “What are you smiling about?” The truth is that I’m often feeling a great deal of bliss from my awareness of just how fortunate I am to be here right now, on such a wonderful planet in such an amazing universe. I frequently feel a nearly overwhelming sense of reverence for the great mystery that is life, and for a sense of eternal love I feel around me every day.

You can watch this video to join me in a meditation to feel eternal love, which I find to be the key to inspire me to feel happiest and smile most intensely:

I hope reading about smile intensity research encourages you to smile more, which in turn will likely encourage others to smile more… which can have a wonderful domino effect and help make the world a friendlier, happier, healthier place for us all.

As I love to ask… just how good can it get?!

Love always,
Cynthia Sue Larson
email Cynthia at cynthia@realityshifters.com

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A Secret to Happiness

Cynthia Sue Larson
Cynthia Sue Larson

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

When I spent one delightful childhood summer with my grandmother, she offered to make an angel food cake for my sister and me. We loved most any kind of cake, and were delighted to see such a marvelous project underway, as our grandmother whipped up some egg whites, added flour, eggs, vanilla, and a dash of salt. I gazed with wonder as she poured the heavenly smelling batter into a very special cake pan with raised sides… and gasped as she picked the pan up by its breakaway bottom… allowing all the batter to gush down her arm.

I’ll never forget what happened next, as it was most remarkable to me… in this moment of cake disaster, my grandmother laughed and said, “Oh, Fiddlesticks!” I gawked in astonishment at her remarkably laid-back response to a serious culinary setback… wondering how she could find or feel any happiness in such a terrible moment.

Cynthia with her grandmother

My grandmother was a marvelous spiritual life coach long before life coaches were popular, and she showed me an amazing secret to happiness… something so simple almost anyone can learn to do it! Please watch this short video to find out how you can make use of this simple concept, finding happiness almost any time, anywhere:

My grandmother often talked with me about God, angels, and paying attention to signs, symbols and dreams, so I knew she was a very spiritual person… but until the moment of the angel food cake disaster, I had not known just how thoroughly she could personify such spiritual qualities as acceptance, forgiveness, love, and joy.

At a time when we hear more and more about things like the Happiness Index and Gross National Happiness, it’s not necessary to pack up and move to whatever place is supposedly the happiest on Earth. We can make a positive difference in the world when we start making changes in every aspect of our lives right here, right now.

Remember to ask “How good can it get… when I choose happiness?” in every situation, especially ones where you can benefit from seeing a bigger picture.

Love always,
Cynthia Sue Larson
email Cynthia at cynthia@realityshifters.com

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