Recently I was discussing with a client the issue of happiness and how to have more of it. One of the questions that came up was “isn’t that rather obvious”, and it occurred to me that a lot of what I say in my work does have a feel of being rather obvious. In the treatment of depression for example we often use a ‘visual / analogue scale’ or more simply a line on a piece of paper with zero at one end and ten at the other end. People are asked to rate their depression at this point on the scale, then a second rating in answer to the question “has there ever been a time in your life when you have been less depressed than you are now?” As you can imagine most people have had better times and when they explore what was different they often say things like, “I had more friends” or “I had a job that I loved doing” or “I used to walk my dog everyday”, leading to the realization that in many cases they have stopped doing the things that gave them pleasure and satisfaction, and therefore made their lives happier.
My recent reading led me to the writings of David Myers and the subject of Social Psychology. He points out that what can appear to be common sense is that we often invoke it after we know it, this he terms a hindsight bias. So I will continue to promote the principles of happiness and how to have more of it, as I am increasingly doing in my day to day work, and if I get told that I am stating the blindingly obvious, then I will gladly accept that….
No doubt about it one of the greatest principles to promote happiness in an individual is having people to love and having people in our lives that love us. This last several days has been a little different as my daughter and I have had the opportunity to spend time together as my wife has been away visiting family.
There is certainly a different dynamic operating when one key person is removed from the family unit, fortunately only for a short period. I have to say I have very much enjoyed this time with my daughter who is getting ready to leave the nest and head out on her journey, and to continue her education in an area that she is passionate about. Having that passion and seeing it as a purpose in her life is something that can only contribute to her life.
One other factor that has been evident recently is the importance of the silly stuff in our lives. Having time to play is critical in enhancing happiness and creating opportunities to see things differently. If we are relaxed our minds have the opportunity to process information and we do this subconsciously, our ability to solve problems is then enhanced, and clearly the more effectively we can deal with problems, the less we have and the happier we can be.
So time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time….
There is certainly a strong discourse around the Positive Psychology movement.
As the move to take Psychology away from the traditional roots of a focus on the psychopathology of illness, to one of a focus on resilience, character strengths and virtue, strong voices have emerged to challenge what might be considered a limited view of the world promoted by the positive psychology thinkers.
As I set out on my own path to explore the ideas around happiness, I am conscious of the many colleagues that I have in the field of Psychology who are fine upstanding people, and who have no greater focus in their careers than to relieve the suffering of others by using their skills and knowledge in the best way that they know how, essentially doing the best they can with what they have.
Nowhere have I read any declaration from Positive Psychology proponents that the mainstream psychology field is negative or of reduced importance. Clearly there is suffering in the world and that suffering has a place in human development, however one has to make a determination for oneself as to how to approach the world that we live in, and I have chosen to align myself with the Positive Psychology movement. I say this with a recognition that The Happiness Lens is not rose coloured, I do not live in some Pollyanna like world; this would be impossible as I am faced on a regular basis with the after effects of the damage the world and other people can create, but I am making a choice. Self-determination is a significant characteristic in achieving personal growth and happiness, and here I walk the talk.
I do believe that the tools promoted by the PP movement have the capacity to move us forward and assist those of us that need it to have greater well-being. Health after all is more than the absence of illness. But I accept the dialectic, and hope that the synthesis of differing views is a place where we all can be satisfied.