Positive psychology: The secret power of optimism

What’s the one trait shared by people who live longer, people who enjoy better health and successful entrepreneurs? They’re all more likely to think of themselves as optimists. Studies have shown that having a positive outlook can help you enrich all the aspects of your life. With these tips from the field of positive psychology, you can learn to look on the brighter side every day. 


So what is positive psychology? In short:


It’s the study of what makes life worth living

Coined by famous psychologist Martin Seligman, positive psych looks on life on three different levels. First off, it focus on positive traits such as optimism, enjoyment and well-being. What makes people happy? What makes them satisfied with their lives? Next, comes “the good life.” As humans, what is it that we need to feel fulfilled? Is it the dream of 2 children and house with a garden, or something more intangible? Finally, we look into what goes into creating a good society: morals, a sense of community, trust. How can we build happy, functional societies? What does coexisting mean? From small moments to the largest questions, positive psychology uncovers the happy side of life.


It plays to your strengths

Rather than taking a glass-half-empty approach to life, positive psychology puts its lens on your strong points – and how you can use them to sculpt your life into the happiest possible outcome. To get started, think of one of your favourite things about yourself. Are you curious? Brave? Amazing at making plans? Take that strength, and find a different way to use it every day. If you’re brave, for instance, one day you might use that skill to enrol in an activity you’ve never tried before. The next day, you could speak up for yourself in a situation you’ve remained silent in before. On the third day, you might take a different path to work.


By focusing on your strengths, positive psychology creates opportunities for growth and support in areas that you might have previously considered your weak points.  


It encourages building and maintaining healthy relationships

A famous Harvard University study has followed a group of men from 1938 to the present day, tracking their health and emotional wellbeing, and eventually following their spouses and children as well. Among the many findings over the 80 years, scientists learned that one of the key indicators of happiness and health late in life were strong, healthy relationships. As a result, one of the key take-aways is to foster your relationships and work on deepening your connection to your loved ones.


So why does positive psychology matter?

There’s a little secret – one of the core discoveries is that done correctly, optimism can be infectious. By learning to look at life on the sunny side, you’ll beam rays of happiness to your loved ones. Think of it as a positive chain reaction resulting in more feelings of fulfilment, less stress, better health and even longer lives.


How can you practice positive psychology in your everyday life?


1. The Gratitude Journal

Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions there is. A sense of thankfulness serves to ground you in the present and gives you a sense of connection to the events and people around you. Learn to practice it daily with this simple exercise: before going to bed every night, take a moment to reflect on the day you just had and list 3-5 things that you are grateful for, large or small. Try this every evening for a week, noticing any changes you might experience in your outlook or interactions with others.


2. Describe your best possible self

Researchers have found that visualising success can directly increase your optimism. Tap into this by picking a moment in the future, where things have turned out exactly as you planned. What has happened? What character traits do you need to make this happen? Write these down, describing them as clearly as you can. You might write, “Five years from now, my partner and I have started a family and I have a meaningful career helping people. I am able to do this because I am loving and have a strong sense of unity with my spouse. In my career, I use my sense of teamwork and creativity to come up with solutions that fulfil me and bring light to others’ lives.”


In the coming week, take five minutes to visualise these strengths and the best possible outcomes every day. Notice where these character traits reside within you, and reflect on how you can live life as your best possible self.


3. Soulfulness meditation

A key concept in positive psychology is that of mindfulness, which can be defined as living in the now and having an awareness of one’s experiences. At Rituals, we reinterpret this as soulfulness, which adds in an extra dimension of attention to how this nourishes one’s soul. Learn to practice soulfulness daily with a body scan meditation, which works to connect you to your physical self, calm your mind and enrich your soul.


Want a deeper dive into the world of positive psychology? You can find additional resources here.