Think Lyubomirsky, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Education

Facing challenges? Being positive helps!

Colorful peoples design for teamwork concept illustration

Colorful peoples design for teamwork concept illustration

Previously, I had outlined four strategies recommended by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky for promoting happiness. Expressing gratitude, being optimistic, avoiding overthinking and social comparison, and engaging in acts of kindness are likely to enhance your well-being. Today, I will lay out another tetrad of strategies that may elevate your mood.

Lyubomirsky highlights the pan-human need for social connection. Whether we are party-hoppers or poopers, almost everyone draws succour from human contact. The size of our social circles doesn’t matter as much as the strength of our bonds. In India, as family is central to our lives, most people have regular contact with others. While familial ties can indeed be nourishing, at times, they can also be stifling. Thus, it is wise to cultivate relationships both within and outside the family fold. Having a close friend or confidante, whom you can trust, can be cathartic to your well-being.

Positivity pays

Being happy, alas, does not mean that you are immune to the vicissitudes of life. However, when confronted by challenges, you can develop coping strategies that can hold you in good stead. If a problem has a solution, try and implement it. However, many of our troubles don’t have ready-made remedies. When we are faced with intractable situations over which we have scant control, we can at least ensure that we are not engulfed by a cascade of negative emotions. Lyubomirsky posits that writing about a traumatic event can help you process tumultuous feelings better and can sometimes even lead you to find meaning in pain.

The next strategy is about forgiving others for transgressions, both minor or major. When we hold on to grudges, we not only mar our relationships with others but also end up hurting ourselves. I had written an earlier column on how forgiveness results in greater physical and psychological well-being. If you find it hard to extend mercy to your transgressor, Lyubomirsky recommends that you try and cultivate empathy for the person who damaged you. Perhaps, you could imagine the person as a helpless newborn. What quirks of fate drove this little being to commit unpardonable offences against you? Viewing the person in this light may help you extend positive thoughts to the person who aggrieved you. Of course, forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone the crime but that you view the perpetrator as a fellow human being.

Another strategy that has a robust relationship with well-being is engaging in ‘flow’ activities. This term, first coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, refers to a state of being so fully absorbed or immersed by an activity that you lose any sense of self-consciousness. Flow can be achieved by any activity that taps your signature strengths and offers you an optimal level of difficulty. From cooking to crocheting to car fixing to calligraphy to canoeing to creative writing, pick an activity that interests and challenges you and as you practice, you will hone your skills and abilities. Ideally, if you experience flow in your profession, at least some of the time, you are blessed. Even if your job doesn’t absorb your attention, you can cultivate flow experiences by engaging in a hobby in your downtime. Lyubomirsky avers that since flow activities are “inherently pleasurable and fulfilling,” they are relatively easy to sustain.

So, when the going is tough, do not despair. Even if you don’t confide in others, being around loved ones can elevate your mood. Writing about your problems can also dislodge cobwebs from your mind. Though it sounds trite, learning to let go by forgiving people can be just the tonic your weary soul requires. Finally, engaging in a hobby or two adds positivity to your life. Till next time.

The writer is Director, PRAYATNA.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 2:36:08 am |