The Science and Art of Positive Psychology- Part Three

 

The previous posts from this series ( which can be found here and here) revealed that pursuing happiness is essential for living a fulfilled and healthy life.

Something to be mindful of is that sometimes our pursuit of happiness could actually lead us in the wrong direction. This can happen when:

  • In our efforts to stay “happy” we try to fully eliminate negativity which is not a feasible strategy as negativity is “embedded” in us as a natural way of protection against danger.
  • We tend to engage in non-meaningful activities to keep ourselves cheered up or distracted (like my tendency to continuously watch multiple episodes of my favorite show until I realize that hours have passed), which in hindsight is more of a temporary “quick fix” rather than a sustainable way to attain happiness.

The key is not to eliminate negativity or distract ourselves from it, but to keep our ratio of positive to negative emotions within healthy limits. Positive psychology tells us that the “optimal” ratio is 3 to 1 and this is the ratio above which the people are found to be “flourishing” (you can read more about the ratio and how to calculate it here). The higher the ratio, the greater the associated growth and resilience.

When we start calculating  our positivity ratios most of us will find them to be lower than what we would like them to be (which also happened to be my case!) – the reason might be that our negative experiences tend to be “louder” and more -prominent than positive ones which are more subtle; thus the negative ones are more easily remembered and higher weighted. For example, which situation do you think will stay with you more – a friend who said something nice and cheered you up, or the same friend making a nasty comment that made you feel miserable?

Therefore, calculating your baseline ratio based on the result for only one day is not the best strategy. To get really meaningful insights try to do the calculation every day for at least a week and afterwards calculate the average.

Research shows that we don`t really need huge positive events to tip our positivity ratios- mild positive experiences that occur in a sustainable way matter the most. One great aspect of the positivity ratio calculation is that it will very likely trigger some thinking around all these small positive emotions that we tend to overlook during the day. This way we`ll learn to discover the value of the small positive things around us (which actually matter a big deal) and to develop an opened readiness to capitalize on them and increase their number. For instance, you might discover that small things such as going for walks uplift you, but you never thought of it. As a next step, you can incorporate it in your daily routine, or perhaps go for a walk when you need a positive influx.

And once again- trying to fully eliminate negativity is not a feasible strategy:

  •  It is unnatural as negativity is embedded in our nature
  •  Research shows that exclusively positive people tend to lose their creativity and that successful entrepreneurs need a “pain point” that triggers them to take decisive action.
  •  A positivity ratio that induces flourishing requires some amount of negativity- that is why the optimal positivity ratio is 3 to 1 and not 3 to 0.

Being able to honestly recognize negativity therefore allows us to be grounded in reality and to be more creative.

So go ahead- start calculating your positivity ratio and let me know how you experienced this by leaving a comment below 😉

 

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Ten takeaways from attending the “Wisdom in Business” conference in Amsterdam

We are constantly occupied with accomplishing our goal of the day, the week or the year. And once it is accomplished we move on to the next one which has already been lined up. And then the next one. Celebrating the accomplishment, reflecting on the lessons learnt and taking time off to rest, recharge and consciously decide on the next steps often seem like a sort of a luxury which we don`t have time to indulge in. 

A few weeks ago I found myself getting stuck in this pattern and decided to take time to learn, recharge and get inspired by attending two conferences in Amsterdam – ‘Wisdom in the Business’ and ‘Inner Peace’, centered around themes that are close to my heart such as self-reflection, compassion and mindful living.

I find such topics to be of high relevance in both our professional and private lives, where a lot of focus is put on doing rather than being, searching outside rather than inside and taking rather than giving.

I greatly enjoyed the conferences, both of which offered new insights and plenty of food for thought. As usual, I took plenty of notes (for those who know me, you know well I have a thing for taking notes 😉 ) and below is my synthesis in the form of ten learnings from “Wisdom in the Business” conference; these are not  quotes, but my personal takeaways from the different speeches; I`ve also added the names of the speakers in case you would like to find out more about them.

  1. Applying wisdom in the business is about putting priority on the people in the organization and creating a caring culture which will eventually have positive impact on business performance (Richika Sookrey, Google).
  2. Contributing to the formation of a caring corporate environment starts with you practicing self-care and also having the courage to open up and share your story and vulnerability with others. Very often this has a domino effect where people gradually become more connected and caring for each other. This applies to all levels – from individual contributors to senior leaders (Kamel Hothi & Gian Power, TLC Lions).
  3. A big challenge that we have in our western culture is not acknowledging death as a natural part of our lives and living as if it doesn’t exist; by keeping running with time instead of taking time to established what really matters to us. A useful exercise that would help us get more in touch with our inner world and our true (but sometimes hidden) drivers is to contemplate the hypothetical situation of us dying in 3 months, and to ask ourselves – Who do you want to see? Where do I want to be? What do I want to do? (Stephan Rechtschaffen, Author of the book Timeshifting).
  4. Every time you give yourself time to explore the unknown, you unravel a new a side of yourself. (Stephan Rechtschaffen)
  5. In order to be happy we need to exercise our minds just like we train our muscles. But in order to achieve this, we need to be persistent with our mindfulness & meditation practice (and practice at least two times a day), which very few of us do consistently. In order for meditation to really work for us we need to turn every aspect of our life into meditation practice. (Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer for Google X, an entrepreneur, and the author of the book Solve for Happy)
  6. Often we live under the assumption that we are fully in control, but this is rarely the case – we are only in control of our free will, but we are always operating in a bigger context that is beyond our zone of control. (Mo Gawdat)
  7. You don’t do something because it is either not important to you or you are doing too many things at the same time. Focus your attention on the thing that matters most. If you trully want to spend time with your family, make it a point not to touch your phone when you are with them. (Mo Gawdat)
  8. We experience time as “flying”, when we are not really present and are instead living in our heads, occupied with thoughts related to the past or the future. We truly live and remember every moment when we are in the real world and not in our heads (Mo Gawdat).
  9. By 2049 machines will be 1 billion times smarter than us. This is the difference between us and flies. The key question is, what will the machine do to the fly? In order for the machines to develop to be compassionate they need to be taught values which we also need to display in our daily lives. We need to be able to communicate to them that our culture as a society is to be compassionate and caring. (Mo Gawdat).
  10.  The Parable of the Sadhu contains important learnings for individuals and corporations: 1) Be compassionate towards each other and do not forget one’s humanity 2) Stop creating narratives around not taking action and helping others in your pursuit of seemingly important but essentially meaningless goals. (James R. Doty, Clinical Professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University and founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education).

For those of you who also attended the  conference – I`ll be curious to find out whether my learnings resonated with you and hear more about your reflections.

 

 

 

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 15 – A story about smiling with your heart

 

 

They are meetings that do not seem to hold a particular significance yet leave you illuminated and uplifted, and make you smile every time every time you go back to them in your memories. Many of these meetings for me have happened in India.

One of them was with Naomy Jane, shining like a little sun and radiating pure joy. 

 

 

A meeting without words yet filled with such meaningful exchange of positive energy. A meeting that lasted for a few minutes, which seemed to expand in time and which comfortably found space in my memories.

 

 

A meeting with no specific purpose, no agenda, simply sharing one’s love for her baby goats with a curious stranger, who enchanted by your charm is taking picture after a picture.

A meeting that reminded me how little you need to smile from your heart.

And how important it is to do it more often.

 

 

***

 

 

Има срещи, които привидно не са значителни, но същевременно те оставят зареден и развълнуван и към които винаги се връщаш с усмивка. В моя случай повечето такива срещи се случват в Индия.

Такава беше срещата с Наоми Джейн – едно малко слънце  разпръскващо лъчи от щастие.

Среща без думи, но изпълнена със толкова смислен обмен на позитивна енергия.

Среща, която продължи няколко минути, които се разтегнаха във времето и удобно се настаниха в спомените ми.

Среща без повод, без програма, просто  спонтанно споделяне на любовта ти към козлетата ти със случаен минувач, който запленен от чара ти прави снимка след снимка.

Среща, която ме подсети колко малко е нужно да се усмихнеш от сърце.

И колко е важно да го правим по-често.

 

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A Christmas wish

 

 

Christmas can sometimes seem like a big commercial cliche – the presents frenzy, the cooking frenzy, the ‘look how cool is my Christmas tree’ frenzy. The underlying vibe to consume and display your consumption and material possessions  can be quite intense.

But what more is there? Spending time with your family? Reminiscing the good childhood moments? Surrounding yourself with coziness?  I often catch myself wondering and thinking there must be more than that.

In these moments I think about the story of Jesus, the son of God who chose to join the human family and afterwards sacrifice himself out of love for humanity. The ultimate gift – to devote yourself fully out of love. And I am thinking – ‘ for me this is the essence of Christmas’. 

Throughout my life I’ve been given many gifts the most important of which haven’t been material. They have taken various shapes and forms – a shoulder to lean on, a brain to pick, an uplifting role model, an important lesson, a life- changing experience…

My wish is to be able to give to others the same way I’ve received. With a smile, a light heart and no expectations of people being grateful or giving anything back.

To create – good thoughts, deeds and also better versions of myself. And to have the inspiration to keep on trying in the moments when I run out of energy. 

And in the moments when I can’t give much, I wish to be able to be present for my loved ones. Simply being present and fully dedicate yourself can sometimes be the most difficult thing and my wish is to master it. Because giving presense and simply being there for your loved ones nourishes the heart and soul and can be the biggest gift for others and also ourselves.

This year I`m expressing this wish and intention through hand-made Christmas cards. I would be happy to also hear your thoughts and ideas.  

***

В някои моменти Коледа прилича на едно голямо комерсиално клише – суматохата около избирането на перфектния подарък, декорирането на най-красивото коледно дърво (и споделянето му в социалните мрежи), подготвянето на перфектната трапеза (за която също трябва поне да бъде загатнато със снимка) придават усещане за пресиленост и фалш.

А каква ли е идеята всъщност? Да прекараме време със семейството? Да си припомним детството? Да се обградим с уют? Често се улавям да търся отговорите на тези въпроси, мислейки си че отговорът съдържа повече от това.

В тези моменти си мисля за Исус – Божият син, който избира да се присъедини към човешкото семейство, а след това да се принесе в жертва от любов към хората. Най – големият подарък : пълно посвещаване в името на любовта. Тогава си мисля „ На този етап това най-точно се доближава до олицетворението на Коледа за мен.“

През годините съм получавала много подаръци, най – важните от които винаги са били нематериални – рамо на което да се опра, ценен съвет, модел за подражание, важен урок, незабравимо преживяване..

Пожелавам си да мога да дам а другите същите тези неща и по начина, по който самата аз съм ги получила. С усмивка, леко сърце и без очаквания за благодарност или получаване на нещо в замяна.

Пожелавам си да създавам – добри мисли, постъпки и подобрени мои версии. И да имам вдъхновението да не спирам да се опитвам в моментите кога остана без сили.

В моментите в които не мога да дам много, си пожелавам просто да дам пълното си внимание на тези които обичам. Да посветиш безпрекословно времето и вниманието си може да бъде доста трудно, и ми се иска да го овладея напълно. Защото давайки внимание и време означава да дадеш част от себе си и действа благотворно на другите и на нас самите.

Тази година това пожелание оживява чрез ръчно изработените коледни картички. Ще се радвам ако споделите и вашите размисли и идеи.

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June 1 – Your inner child and teacher

 

Today is the International Children day which always reminds of my happy childhood times and also of the importance being opened and playful. It is sometimes difficult to imagine that we can learn a lot from the children around us and even from the children within us. Nevertheless,  being opened, fearless and approaching things without predjudice and judgement are important qualities which we can see in practice in the many of the young ones around us that are unspoiled by the desire to fit in  and be accepted as well as the fear of failing. And just how much lighter and more inspired could we be if we were a bit more like that? So look around- you teachers are all around you, but also – within  🙂

More thoughts on this as well as a beautiful video can be found here 

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March 25 – About loving life

 

I’ve written before about the art of loving and embracing life  that I deeply admire. I recently had another inspirational example of this. It was my 92-year-old neighbor that I met in the elevator and who complimented me on my outfit (the funny coincidence was that I was also super impressed by her classy look). She also invited me for coffee in her house. I couldn’t make it, but promised to go the next day. 

The day after I bought flowers and knocked on the door. She was dressed in a classy black and white dress and was wearing only one shoe. She told me a few months ago she had a stroke as a result of which her left side was very weak so she needed extra stability on the right side. That is why she wore her right shoe in the house as well.

As a result of the stroke she couldn’t do much on her own – not even dress herself, nor cook so she had help in the morning and evening. There was the option to move to a home but she wanted to stay at her own home (which she was happy to pass to her grandson after she is gone).

She told me that she used to work as a model and showed me her collection of Vogue magazines that her daughter in law was buying for her.

She was strong and beautiful, and supremely inspiring in so many ways. First, I was deeply moved by her acceptance of the situation as well as her dignity and gratitude for still being able to live as independently as possible.

And second- her appetite for life despite the fact that her body was failing her was just amazing!  She was a beautiful practical example of our reality in which our impermanent bodies are hosting our potentially forever-young spirits. So strong, so simple and so beautiful!

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March 24 – About making lemonade

 

I recently had a very good learning experience with a close friend who asked me to accompany her to the doctor as she needed to undergo an important and very unpleasant medical test. I really wanted to go and support her, so I took time off my work and made sure i am on time. To my biggest surprise she overslept and couldn’t make it.

 

So there I was, sitting at the hospital reception at 9 A.M. and feeling supremely frustrated. How could she do that to me?  I made such a big effort and what? It all went to vain? 

 

After continuously asking these questions i got two revelations. First, in my discontent i was really focused on myself and not on her. The truth was that my ego was hurt and it was screaming “Me, me, me!”. But the fact was that I did what I did to help her and not to put myself on a pedestal. So in the end there was nothing to be angry about because I made it as per my commitment. Being frustrated suddenly became a pointless and selfish exercise in which I didn’t want to engage any more.

 

And second- I had half a day off, so why wouldn’t I try to make the best out of it. In the end when life gives you lemons the best you can do is to make a lemonade. Eventually I had one of my best walks for this year and after which I was much more refreshed and focused than if I had stayed at the hospital.

 

Each experience that we go through can be seen as positive or negative depending on our perception. It is our choice to keep the bitter lemon, or to make lemonade out of it. That’s the beauty of life and also its biggest challenge.

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March 23 – The artist in us

 

A few days ago I got to know more about the incredible Salvador Dali, his life, eccentrics and artistic genius. His quote above made a big impression on me as I think it describes the essence or art very well. It also illustrates the fact that art can have many shapes and forms, but one sole purpose – to illuminate our lives and inspire us to unleash our creative selves.  And in that sense, we all have the capacity to become artists. Just how wonderful and empowering is that!

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March 22 – About winners

 

I recently visited the Banksy exhibition at the Moco museum in Amsterdam and was greatly inspired by the philosophy and work of this incredible artist whom I hardly knew before my visit.

Today’s inspiration is a quote from Banksy which is something that I deeply believe in and I can stand behind based on my personal experience – winning is about personal mastery and growth that can only be achieved through perseverance despite failings and setbacks. Every failure can be a lesson when there is perseverance, positivity and desire to learn from our mistakes. So let’s dream on and keep on following our dreams without fear. Because our mistakes are nothing more than stepping stones.

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