I’ve just finished my annual continuing education course for my Life Coaching certification through Coach Approach Ministry. This course consisted of taking a look at what’s called Positive Psychology. I was kind of leery when I saw the subject matter but I found the material we covered to be extremely beneficial for me personally as well as the people I coach. The reason I was a little uneasy about this was because my first thought was, “Oh, no. Not positive thinking.” And, it definitely was not. Positive Psychology is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives and have the ability to cultivate what is best within themselves. Lasting transformation can take place because of action taking in areas that truly do make a difference in improving one’s well-being. Positive Psychology has been well researched and is backed up through multiple scientific studies. I’m intrigued and encouraged with what the studies have revealed.
We examined the book “Flourish” by Martin Seligman. Dr. Seligman has five elements he teaches that will help us live lives that flourish. They are elements that can improve one’s well-being. These elements are:
- Positive Emotion
- Positive Relationships
When he teaches Positive Psychology one of the first things he requires of his students is to get a journal that is used for recording three blessings each day. At the end of the day they are to write down three things that went well and the reason it went well. He has seen depression lift when this exercise takes root in people. He does say it is important to stay with it for many months in order for it to really get embedded and make a lasting difference. I love this! It is SO Biblical! All through the Bible there are scriptures that exhort us to give thanks. Having a heart of thanksgiving is truly transformational.
Seligman says engagement is when one is deploying one’s highest strengths and talents to meet the world in what he calls “flow”. He even has a free on-line Signature Strengths Assessment that can be found at www.authentichappiness.org to help us know where our strengths lie so we can practice using these strengths as much as possible.
His third element is meaning. All of us want meaning and purpose in our lives. The way to flourish with meaning is realizing we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Some of the “bigger than self” places he mentions are religion, political parties, family. That list could go on and on. For me, the two most “bigger than life” places are my relationship with God and my relationship with my family.
This connects perfectly to positive relationships. Christopher Peterson is one of Positive Psychology’s founders and he says, “Positive Psychology is about ‘other people’.” I so agree! Very little that we do in life that brings satisfaction and joy is done alone. Dr. Seligman says that other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up. He suggests that we frequently practice doing an unexpected kindness for someone. This can totally alter our mood for the better! Jesus called this “servanthood”. It’s to be the norm of the Christian’s life.
The last element is accomplishment. This involves using efforts and skills to achieve a specific goal. I can’t help but think how much better I feel about a day when I look back over it and know I’ve accomplished at least a few things. They may not be huge, change the world things, but I’ve found that just reaching a few small goals can certainly add to my own personal well-being.
Our Creator God designed us to flourish! One of my favorite verses in the Bible is, “I have come so that you may have life and have life more abundantly.” God gifted us with the ability of choice. Each day is a gift and we can choose to put into action the things that will help us thrive, not stagnate. I can live in a place of more abundant living. It will make a positive personal difference. It will make a difference to others. A rippling effect for the positive cannot help but happen.