When you hear the word psychology, what comes to your mind? Maybe you think of faceless people in lab coats who somehow manage to stay sane while dealing with the mentally ill. That’s part of it, yes, but certainly not all – or even most – of it. Take positive psychology, for instance.
What Is Positive Psychology?
The simplest way to describe it is the psychology of happiness. More than that, though, positive psychology is about the mindset required to make the most of your life. It’s not about the mindless pursuit of temporary highs – aka the mindset that you only live once.
It’s about building habits and attitudes that contribute to long-term happiness and well-being. It’s not about pretending your problems don’t exist; it’s about attacking these problems at the root, and figuring out the most productive way to deal with them.
How Does Positive Psychology Work?
Positive psychology has so many aspects, that it’d be hard to flesh them all out in one post. Still, you can’t go wrong with knowing the basics, such as the AIM approach to letting go of negative emotions. AIM stands for:
Attending. Take a closer look at the things that have happened and are happening to you. Ask yourself: How did these incidents make me feel? What did the other parties involved feel? It’s important to get the facts straight first, before you analyze anything.
Example: “My co-worker forwarded my happy hour photos to my supervisor, resulting in me getting reprimanded on a Monday morning. When I confronted the co-worker about it, he denied any wrongdoing, and it made me angry.”
Interpreting. This is the part where you analyze and ask questions like: Why did I feel this way about the incident? Why did others feel this way about the incident? What is the positive side to this?
Example: “I have evidence that the co-worker got me into trouble, yet he refuses to take responsibility for it. Then again, it’s not like anyone in his position would fess up to anything like that, not to mention I was partly to blame for uploading those photos in the first place.”
Memorizing. Notice, in the previous point, that the question is phrased as “What is the positive side to this?” instead of “Is there a positive side to this?” As trite as it sounds, there is a positive side to everything – though it may not be immediately obvious to you. Keep in mind that the way you frame certain events today will affect how you frame similar events in the future.
Example: “Though I wish my co-worker didn’t go out of his way to rub salt in the wound, I’ll remember not to get too drunk during happy hour again. Also, I’ll take it as my cue to work smarter and harder in the office, so that my supervisor will see me as a valuable asset – and, more importantly, a person who’s willing to own up to mistakes and learn from them.”
Seems simple enough, right? As with most things in life, AIM is easier in theory than in practice. To make this approach work for you, you need to master the following skills:
Impulse Control. When you’re under stress, your first instinct is to panic and/or lash out at others. Don’t do this. Instead, take a deep breath to calm your mind.
Mindfulness. With a calm mind, it’s easier to be aware of what’s happening to you – and to others – in the present moment.
Analysis. Now, mentally take a step back from the current situation and look at it from all angles. This way, it’ll be easier to pinpoint the exact source of a problem.
Empathy. This is the ability to see things from someone else’s point of view. If you limit yourself to how a problem affects you, and you alone, it’ll be much harder to come up with a solution that benefits as many people as possible.
Optimism. Contrary to popular belief, optimism isn’t blind. It’s trusting that things will turn out for the better, and doing everything in your power to make sure it happens that way. It’s easier to take charge of your fate when you’re not feeling down, after all.
Resilience. Even if you’re the most sensible and cheerful person in the world, you’re bound to have problems every now and then. That’s fine: It’s not the problems, but how you deal with them, that will make all the difference.
By the way, these skills can be applied not only to problem-solving, but also to how you treat life in general.
Positive psychology is more than just chanting motivational mantras on a daily basis. If you consistently practice the abovementioned skills, and apply them to AIM, you should see a major difference in your life for the better.
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