Student Column: Walking on the Bright Side of Life

Harnessing Positive Psychology in Everyday Life

Notice how the Dutch bus driver greets every boarding passenger and bids farewell to every alighting passenger?  How does that make you feel?  For me, it always makes me smile and happy.  This is the power of positive psychology.

Leading a meaningful and fulfilling life is everyone’s aspiration and desire.  Scientists term this as positive psychology.  Positive psychology has been around for quite some time but not many people are aware of what it actually entails.  In a nutshell, positive psychology deals with human thoughts, feelings and behaviour that focus on strengths rather than on the weak points.  It aims to help the individual build a gratifying life instead of complaining about the bad side.  It not only revitalises a struggling person to lead a normal life, but also uplifts the average person to live a great life.  

Positive psychology does not mean the absence of problems in life.  Also, it does not mean that you push away all your negative emotions.  Rather, it is concerned with eudaimonia, which is Aristotle’s concept of flourishing or “the good life”.  This concept focuses on real contentment instead of Hollywood’s view of happiness in the form of ‘pleasant life’.  

Practise Gratitude

The first step towards positive psychology requires you to identify your character strengths.  One way in which you can do that is to engage in small interventions at home.  These interventions can boost your pleasant feelings and uplift your spirits.   One example is the “gratitude exercises”.  

As the name implies, this exercise requires you to write down each day three things for which you are grateful.  To go further, you can then proceed to verbalise your gratitude to the person who has done you a good deed that day, for example, thanking your mother for preparing breakfast, your sister for waking you up, your father for driving you to school, your friend for agreeing to eat lunch with you, or even your lecturer or teacher for teaching you.  Trust me, saying words of appreciation to these people not only makes them smile, but will uplift everybody’s spirit and mood for that day.

Have a Heart

Positive psychology also requires you to think of positive traits, like resilience and compassion.  Try showing compassion on a daily basis to your siblings, grandparents, the homeless person you see on your way to work or school, the waiter/waitress serving you, the janitor, the aged, and even to animals and pets.  Help them, empathise with them, and be nice to them.  All these can help to make you feel important and useful.  When you feel that you are important and useful, you can ward off any kind of depression.  Studies have shown that many people who suffer from depression have a sense of helplessness and feel that they have lost control over what happens to them.  Positive psychology can change that.

In essence, positive psychology requires you to shift your perspective towards positive thinking.  A small change in your positive perspective can lead to amazing shifts in your happiness and quality of life.  Put aside all kinds of pessimisms and have a positive outlook on life.  Yes, some problems are debilitating and can just suck away all your mood for that day, but think on the bright side and be optimistic that something good will come out of it.

Positive psychology also helps you to improve in your working life.  It boosts positive emotions and relations among colleagues, and this will definitely boost job performances.  Small, simple actions in the office can generate a big impact on your happiness.

How to Harness the Power of Positive Psychology

In summary, this is how you can harness the power of positive psychology to inject happiness in your daily life:  

  • Stop thinking that money can bring you happiness.  It does, but only to a certain extent.
  • Gaining knowledge and experiences are better than gaining wealth or material possessions.
  • Do acts of kindness towards others even with just a smile on your face or simple words of thanks.
  • Show empathy and compassion towards others.
  • Be grateful for whatever you have, and work hard for whatever you don’t have.
  • Stop lamenting and complaining.  Start complimenting and congratulating.

WUP 21/10/2019
by Hanna Abdelwahab
©Wittenborg University Press

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