The Science and Art of Positive Psychology- Part One

img_0707

The concept of positive psychology is something extremely close to my heart. It started after I had my first glimpses of  mindfulness and meditation when I got to know more about Neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change based on our conscious and unconscious thoughts, behaviors and the environment. Neuroplasticity tells us that we can consciously train our brains similarly to how we train our bodies. Mindfulness, meditation and positive psychology are some of the “tools” to do this training.

I was already practicing and studying the first two and keen to know more. The opportunity to find out more about Positive Psychology came through a six module online course in Coursera that has been developed and thought by Dr. Barbara Frederickson.

One of the best ways to consolidate knowledge is to share it and the opportunity to have even the smallest positive influence on your lives would bring me immense joy, so I will be sharing interesting insights and my reflections from the different modules of the course.

Let`s start with the basics. Have you thought about the positive emotions in your life? Can you maybe name a few? When I tried to come up with a list it struck me that it is very difficult to come up with more examples beyond joy and happiness.

So here there are, a list of the ten main positive emotions and their characteristics:

Emotion Appraisal Tendency Outcome
Joy Safe, familiar, progress Play, learn new things Acquire skills
Gratitude Receive altruistic gift Give creatively Nurture bonds/skills for loving
Interest Safe, but also novel and mysterious environment Explore, be inventive Energy, gain knowledge
Serenity Safe, certain, low effort Savor and integrate Modify self
Hope Negative situations where you yearn for the better Be inventive Increased resilience
Pride Socially valued achievement Dreaming Further achievement
Amusement Non serious social incongruity Share laughter Build friendship
Inspiration Witness human excellence Aspire to excellence Gain skills and morality
Awe Overwhelmed by greatness Accommodate the new Self as part of a larger whole
Love Positive emotion in connection with somebody Play, explore, dream Build trust, bonds, communication

Something important to realize is that positive emotions are much more powerful than what we think. They do not only improve the overall quality of our lives, but enable us to be curious, creative, connected, to develop ourselves and eventually reach our fullest potential. And very importantly- they can be consciously evoked. 

Some of the very interesting insights that are got from the course are:

  • Positive emotions are far more subtle than their negative siblings (such as sadness, anger, misery) that often “scream” at you. This has developed evolutionary, as we need our negative emotions in order to survive- without them we won`t know what’s dangerous and what is not. 
  • Positive emotions are also more fleeting than the negative ones and have a tendency to quickly come and go, which might pose challenges in recognizing them ad staying with them.
  • Despite the fact that they seem less powerful than negative emotions, positive emotions have an important quality called dynamic cyclic capability- where our current emotions determine the ones that follow. In that context the little engines of positivity are the spirals between emotions where one good emotion leads to another one which leads to yet another one and we are eventually put into a sort of “positivity loop”.
  • Positive emotions have the ability to help us recover from negative experiences a lot quicker compared to a situation when we are in a neutral state. The important practical implication of this is that even when we are taken over by negativity we can consciously try to evoke positive emotions and break the negative pattern!

And how can we actually evoke positive emotions?  The course gives us two ideas how to get there:

  • Be mindful and develop the ability to recognize the positive emotions when they occur. When you start doing that you will soon realize that you often take for granted good things that happen to you and you are like the fish who doesn’t see the water; for instance let`s take the simplest example – without air we wouldn`t be able to live no more than a minute or two, but how often do we actually acknowledge this? And there are so many more examples..
  • Of course there are also times when things just go out of hand and it is just so difficult to see the light. A second way to practice positivity is to remember things that make/made us feel grateful, peaceful, loved, inspired, etc. Ideas how to do this are:
  • Every day write down three things which happened during the day and which you are grateful for,
  • Write down one positive thing that happened to you and put the paper in a jar every day. You could open those at the end of the month- have a monthly “happy hour” 😉

More about the Positive Psychology course and Dr. Barbara Fredericson can be found here and here.

No comments yet

The Elephant Bath

Elephants are one of the biggest but also the most beautiful and intelligent animals. There is a saying depicting a clumsy person – “like an elephant in a shop full of glass”, but I completely disagree with the comparison. There is a certain grace and elegance that they radiate which is even more apparent when they are in the water. I believe the pictures below depict this very well.

Elephants are also one of the most auspicious animals in India and especially Kerala which is also playing an essential part of the Indian culture and mythology. Experiencing an encounter with them is an absolute must for every visitor of Kerala.

Seeing elephants take a bath was one of the most interesting experiences in my life. The sight of them splashing their ears in the water , using their trunks as showers and submerging like cute submarines with only their trunk outside is something that will stay with me for a very long time.

There are a few elephant centers in Kerala; the one that I visited is Kodanad elephant training center which is aproximately 40 km from Cochin.

More information about the center at: www.keralatourism.org/destination/kodanad-ernakulam/123/

No comments yet