Last month I attended Dr. Martin Seligman’s public lecture in Melbourne.
Seligman is known as the founding father of Positive Psychology
–not to be confused with self-helpish positive thinking.
I recall seeing his name in textbooks over the years as one
who coined the phrase “learned helplessness”
and later focused his research on “optimism” and “authentic happiness.”
I couldn’t ask him to sign my copy
of his book Flourish (the downside of
reading via Kindle)…but I did get a photo 🙂
Yes…I seem to have a permanent smile these days 🙂
Not just because I live in Australia (…though that probably has a lot to do with it) – but I consider myself a cup-is-half-full optimist.
Even if the cup really is half empty, I would likely search for
a solution to make the cup runneth-over.
Seligman explained that he began his studies as a pessimist, and that he believed “only pessimists could do good work on optimism.”
He got a laugh, and it made me think of my ‘Pollyanna worldview.’
My optimistic outlook may be Pollyannaish but I don’t think I am
I am well aware and not desensitized to the
worldly news of unjust and devastating circumstances.
Instead of becoming pessimistic and cynical, I often find comfort in the [cliché] mentality of ‘one person really can make a difference’
(…I recently used that saying in January’s Charity Spotlight…)
or I can be found ‘looking for the good side of things in the bad.’
Seligman’s recent theoretical and research efforts centre on a theory “PERMA”
that makes well-being not only measurable but teachable (visit his website authentichappiness.org for details):
P = Positive emotion: hunting for the good stuff
E = Engagement: doing what are you best at in the world
R = Relationships: making already good relationships better
M = Meaning: belonging to or serving something bigger than yourself
A = Accomplishment: gaining a sense of mastery and competence from achievement
Seligman argues against the Freuds and Woody Allens of the world who view
‘the good life’ as one devoid of suffering
– that the best we can strive for is to not be miserable.
To enhance well-being, we [obviously] do want to relieve suffering but we also
need to focus on increasing PERMA.
His approach is helping soldiers with post-traumatic stress and is encouraging positive education in schools.
Positive Psychology interventions and research results highlight the importance of gratitude (a popular topic these days) as part of evidence-based health-promoting practices aimed at enhancing well-being.
*To read about the application of gratitude lists, visit my friend Tania’s blog
So, I thought I would take this opportunity to list of some things I have been grateful for lately (in no particular order).
– the smell of jasmine flowers while walking in the morning
– riding the train over the iconic Sydney bridge
– young students in their school uniforms and hats at the train station
– thunderstorms (click here for a time lapse of the recent one)
and the spectacular sky that emerges after
– opportunities to collaborate with researchers here and abroad
– hearing and seeing kookaburra birds for the first time
– the sight of flying fox bats flying into the city every evening at dusk
– coming upon a food and wine festival in the park
– taking a ferry trip from Sydney harbour to Manly beach
– having dinner with Frank at the beach
– street markets
– riding our bikes on biking paths
– staying in touch via technology
– seeing Aussie-made “Ugg” boots for sale and thinking of Alberta
– walking to the grocery store – in flip-flops
– seeing lemon trees
– buying fruit that says grown in Australia
– seeing pomegranates growing on trees while walking to the train station
– overhearing people say “fair dinkum” and other Aussie sayings
– experiencing +41 degree weather
– eating at outdoor cafes during my first visit to Melbourne
– the smell of eucalyptus trees – still surprises and delights me daily
– hearing church bells from our balcony
– seeing our tiny solar patio lanterns move in the wind
– data collection that includes afternoon tea with high school staff on a Friday
– the buzz of the cicadas in the trees (the loudest insects in the world)
– the sight of a flower shop in a train station
What’s on your gratitude list?