Have you ever felt like you were stuck somewhere with no means of getting out of the situation? Pretty scary isn’t it.
Here – have a paddle.
You’re still in the situation you’d rather not be in, but now you have a means to get out of it – makes all the difference doesn’t it.
Well that’s my take on the power of ‘positive psychology’.
Truly believing we have the means to change and move forward is the first step in ‘finding our flow’ – which is being totally engaged in something that fulfils us (and even feeling like the universe is paddling with us).
Last week A fortnight ago, I wrote some thoughts on how to find your flow (damn, where did mine disappear to and where the hell has February gone)! This the second post in the series, with one more to come.
Sometimes I feel like I’m holding the paddle strongly and the rowing is easy….other times I’m grasping to grip the handle, muscles sore and the strokes hard….sometimes it feels like I’ve dropped the paddle overboard, and other times I feel like I’m in the drink!
Before you can ‘find your flow’ I reckon you need to accept where you are stuck right now, make peace with that place, and then pick up a paddle and ‘unstick yourself’ (not sure unstick is actually a word)!
What does the paddle look like (apart from this long thing with a handle and a blade)?
The paddle to help you row towards your flow could be:
– Forgiveness and self-acceptance
– A friend who listens and understands
– Time to yourself without stress (ie relaxation, meditation, yoga, massage, a holiday). Space and mind fullness create room for flow.
– Time in ‘presence’ with children or simply having fun (ie imaginative play, laughter, joy). Pleasure opens up opportunities for flow.
– A ‘positive’ change (from exercising more and healthy eating to fewer hours at work, a new hobby, a new home)
– A new skill that equips you to meet new challenges
– A new ‘positive’ challenge (a precondition of something being a ‘flow’ activity is there being a certain level of challenge – we find our flow by taking ourselves to the edge of our comfort zone and a little bit beyond – flow sits between ‘control’ because we have the necessary skills and ‘arousal’ because we are excited by the challenge)
– An activity you believe to be one that in doing it, you can ‘find your flow’ – in other words we find our flow by starting to paddle, by actually starting to do that thing that will eventually put us ‘in the zone’.
Positive psychology is a ‘new’ branch of traditional psychology that focuses on nurturing positive emotions and states rather than focusing on the pathology of negative, unhealthy states ie mental health rather than mental illness.
It doesn’t ignore the unhappy stuff, but it shifts focus to the value of positivity and contentment and the virtues that help us thrive (including resilience and GRIT, yeh).
Professor Martin Seligman (watch his TED Talk here) of Penn University is credited with founding this branch of psychology, with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (watch his TED talk here – although ironically it doesn’t flow very well) a key contributor, particularly as a proponent of ‘flow’ as a means to finding happiness and fulfilment.
Without positive psychology, psychology as a whole would seem unbalanced (in my unlearned, yet yin-yang opinion). Yes we need to let go of anxiety, but we also need to let in joy, and in letting in joy we let go of anxiety…. and so on.
Positive psychology is more than the simplified ideas of positive thinking and ‘law of attraction’ visualisation – it seeks to nurture genius and talent (through flow) and make everyday life more pleasurable and fulfilling and so help prevent mental illness. It also seeks to understand the contribution of a meaningful life to overall mental health.
If you’d like to find out more about positive psychology, you could try this website and this one (for a whole lot of tools and quizzes about finding authentic happiness), as lay-person resources (with academic backing).
Meantime, pick up that paddle!