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June 27, 2013

3 ways to harness positive psychology for a more resilient you

Intriguing research suggests that positive psychology can help you weather the routine ups and downs of life and also build resilience for times of greater difficulty.

Here are three ways to capture the benefits of positive psychology.

Express gratitude. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have—from a roof over your head to good health to people who care about you. When you acknowledge the goodness in your life, you begin to recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside yourself. In this way, gratitude helps you connect to something larger than your individual experience — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
Set aside a few minutes every day and think about five large or small things you’re grateful for. Write them down if you like. Be specific and remember what each thing means to you.
 

Leverage your strengths. To reap the benefits of your strengths, you first need to know what they are. Unfortunately, according to a British study, only about one-third of people have a useful understanding of their strengths. If something comes easily, you may take it for granted and not identify it as a strength. If you are not sure of your strengths, you can identify them by asking someone you respect who knows you well, by noticing what people compliment you on, and by thinking about what comes most easily to you.

Certain strengths are most closely linked to happiness. They include gratitude, hope, vitality, curiosity, and love. These strengths are so important that they’re worth cultivating and applying in your daily life, even if they don't come naturally to you.
 

Savor the “good.”  Most people are primed to experience the pleasure in special moments, like a wedding or a vacation. Everyday pleasures, on the other hand, can slip by without much notice. Savoring means placing your attention on pleasure as it occurs, consciously enjoying the experience as it unfolds. Appreciating the treasures in life, big and small, helps build happiness.

Multitasking is the enemy of savoring. Try as you might, you can’t fully pay attention to multiple things. If you’re scanning the newspaper and listening to the radio during breakfast, you’re not getting the pleasure you could from that meal — or the newspaper or radio program. If you’re walking the dog on a beautiful path but mentally staring at your day’s to-do list, you’re missing the moment.

For more information on drawing on your strengths and finding the positive meaning in your life, purchase Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and inner strength from Harvard Medical School.