“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
Today’s world is facing extremely tough challenges at all levels from natural disasters, economic recessions, to homelessness, academic difficulties, anxiety and a whole variety of aches and pains. The traditional psychology played an important role to understand the behavior of people in an attempt to remedy on their psychological difficulties. Many other disciplines, including positive psychology, neuroscience and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), came after as a supplement to focus more on the positive part of the human behavior like happiness, optimism, personal growth and well being.
Many studies and researches based on these approaches proved that we are all able to recover from adversity, thrive and live a happy life. Positive emotions are the only emotions that can help us thrive and succeed. It can be banked to provide us with a protective reservoir of hope, wisdom, well being, creativity and imagination. It remains a personal choice.
You may be wondering the difference between all of them. Positive psychology, officially founded in 1998, is defined by its founder, Martin Seligman, as the “scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive” The traditional Psychology has always focused on pathologies but very little on human potentialities, strengths and aspirations. As the traditional psychology is focused on how to transform someone from -8 to -2, positive psychology is concerned by how to bring someone from +2 to +8 in regards to human performance and well being. It is not only about positive thinking but it uses the same scientific protocols as the traditional one with a focus on the positive aspects of life with a purpose to sustain and promote a feeling of self-fulfillment.
We cannot talk about positive psychology without mentioning the role of the brain and its major effects on our behaviors. Neuroscience, the study of the brain, liaises closely with these disciplines. It proved that our well being and happiness have also to do with our way of thinking and attitude. We all have the capacities to change the brain circuits to improve our well-being and live a happy life. You may be asking how that is possible. When we practice gratitude, meditation, exercise and optimism, the brain neurons transmit relaxation hormones that help the brain grows and becomes stronger. This can have obviously considerable implications on our well-being and happiness. The opposite is true when it involves negative emotions like stress, fear, anger, and frustration. This time, the brain triggers this as a threat and will produce stress hormones.
Mastering our thoughts and emotions can have tremendous effects on our health and well-being. The best example is the power of the placebo effect. Placebos are fake pills or medicines that contain free substances with no medical effect on the body and are used in many treatments of cancer, diabetes and others. Countless cases and studies proved that a placebo can be as effective as a traditional treatment. The power of the placebo is not about the constituents of the placebo itself but the belief that things will go well which will increase good feeling neuron-transmitters and then healing. It proved that 80% of these cases get better.
This example is just a proof that whatever nurtured in our mind can affect positively or negatively our results and health. It also implies that our beliefs can also affect our well being and then our state of mind. In many cases, the doctor himself can be a placebo or a nocebo. How many of you felt 50% better even before going through a medical treatment based on the attitude and charisma of the doctor. The opposite is true as you may have minor issues, but the reaction of the doctor or the surgeon may be exaggerated. If you are a doctor or a surgeon, make sure to adopt the right attitude. You may prefer to be perceived as a placebo and not a nocebo. I experienced both of them and I know exactly how it can affect our well-being.
However, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has been initiated since 1976 by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. It encompasses partly these two disciplines, and adds to them observation and behavior modeling of successful people to help others get delightful and successful results in their lives. NLP is the set of processes and techniques that resulted from modeling that can transform our entire life simply by changing how we perceive the world and how we react to it. Its role is to identify these limited beliefs which are nothing but the result of our perception, education, and environment. By changing them, we can change our reality and future. Taking control of our mind is the main concept behind the NLP practices. We may not control our life circumstances, but we will always have the capacity to control our minds and then our reactions.
To develop and nurture our well-being and happiness, seven aspects to consider in line with all these disciplines:
Resilience is the ability to recover from our adversity, crisis and difficulties. It is not only about bouncing back, but mainly about shifting our responses to not let adversity defines us. We cannot escape from life challenges, but we can use stress or pain to our advantage. Resilience is a skill that we all can develop to turn our trauma, crisis into triumphs and gains. Our beliefs and thoughts play tremendous role in this regard. If we believe that something will go right or wrong, then it becomes our truth. Make sure to believe positive things about yourself as sometimes it has to do more with a self-sabotage than with external factors. Resilience may involve a great effort from us, but the impact on our health and well-being is even bigger.
Positive attitude does not imply that everything should be perfect in your life. It is more about your capacity to step forward even in the hardest situations. It is also about your attitude when things go wrong in your life. It is true that it takes courage to be positive when everything is negative but being negative will change nothing except that it will attract more negative situations. Being positive will relieve your stress, anger, and make you more optimistic to handle life situations. It will empower you, and create a great positive energy that can turn your worries into wonderful life stories. Richard Bandler in his book “the secret of being happy” explains scientifically the impacts of happiness on our health and well-being. The list is very long but the procedure is simple as you simply need to have a clear purpose in life that is achievable. Then, you need to lay out your purpose into small steps; the more you get closer to it, the happier you become.
You may be wondering if generosity is a skill or an inner quality, either you have it or not. The issue to me is not your ability to develop generosity or not as I strongly believe that everything can be acquired, but the main issue is with your intention. You may develop the skill, but the question to be asked: will you be generous because it is an inner need for self-satisfaction or will you embrace it in return of a service back. Personally, I have never provided help or a free service for a return of something, and the result was amazing as I always had more than expected even when I don’t ask for it. I believe when it is sincere, it will make all the difference. Practicing generosity or kindness to others activate circuits in the brain and generate positive neuro-transmitters and this is what creates this great feeling of well-being and happiness. I wonder if this aspect of intention is taken into consideration by the brain.
A wandering mind is an unhappy mind as you will have to handle a dispersed energy and unclear goals in life. The result, you may be moving forward but it may not be in the right direction. Focus is the key as it can bring your attention to the present moment and focus on the things that matter most. It is a skill that can be learned and nurtured. Mindfulness is my best discovery that helped me develop more attention to the present moment. To read more about it, I suggest my article Mindful Leadership, which tackles Mindfulness in relation to leadership.
Gratitude enables us to focus more on what we already have rather than on the missing part. Gratitude can help the brain generate positive hormones that will create a great sense of well-being. Gratitude should be a daily exercise to reset the mind and refocus again on the positive aspects of our life.
Forgiveness may seem difficult for many people but it remains one of the most important attributes we may have to nurture nowadays. Forgiveness can release you from stress, doubt, and depression. It will make you free from fear, anger, and grudge. Forgiveness has never been a sign of weakness, but a gentle way to let things go. Forgiveness can enable you to go beyond the present moment to focus on the future to achieve a peaceful, fulfilling life. When you forgive, it’s not for the others, but for your inner peace and happiness.
The benefits of volunteering are enormous; it offers vital help to people in need, but the gains can be even greater from personal perspective. It allows us to reduce stress, overcome depression, learn new skills, and meet new people. Giving to others can be a wonderful experience that can empower you and give you a new sense of purpose in life. The more you give, the more benefits you’ll experience; and the happier you will be as many studies have demonstrated.
Volunteering is a fun and exciting as we tend to help others achieve their goals or simply spend wonderful moments that can be of a great value to people in need. It can be also a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day worries and life challenges. It can allow us to renew our vision to overcome life difficulties and carry over into our personal and professional life.
Happiness is a skill that can be developed. It is a personal choice and not a result. It should start from inside before the outside. Once attained, no one will take if from you as it should not depend on any external factors. But the best act of happiness is when you make someone happy
The faster way to reach happiness is simply to be HUMAN.