As I continue my work in mental health, the one thing that that occurs time and time again, and something that undermines peoples attempts to recover from crises in their lives is social isolation. When illnesses such as depression strike, the need to be with supportive groups of people, whether this be family or friends, or in the case of the need for hospitalization meeting people like myself or my nursing colleagues is clear. Of the many things we can do for our fellow man is to be with them when the going gets rough.
In modern society however, with all of the challenges that we face on a day to day basis, we often turn away from other peoples issues’ as we have enough on our personal plates. However if we refrain from turning away, we are presented with an opportunity to enhance our personal happiness. Many studies have demonstrated that acts of kindness have the capacity to enhance our own personal satisfaction, it even enhances the personal relationships with a partner when we extend kindness during times of their personal need.
We are social beings and although most people value personal time, when that is extended or even in some circumstances enforces, we experience distress. It has been said that there is only one race on the planet, the human race, and an increase in we more than me thinking can only be beneficial to our collective species. So if you meet someone who is down, give of yourself a little, reach out and give them a hand up, you will likely find yourself benefiting in the longer term yourself.
Positive Psychology is not specifically the study of happiness, although happiness is a concept that we are all familiar with, it is the study of what makes life worth living. There are examples throughout history of people overcoming the most difficult of circumstances, perhaps the greatest example of this for me comes through in the writing of Viktor Frankl, a man who’s now very famous story shows how he survived the Concentration Camps of Nazi Germany and emerged a better man who was able to go on and contribute to the world. Refusing to be victimized by his experience, he found the meaning in his experience. Everything begins as a thought, and it is this idea that has become the focus of my life in recent times. How can I be more masterful of my thoughts and therefore be happier.
I am by the way a happy person in general, I have a family that I love and who love me, I have work that I find valuable and challenging, and I have access to resources that stimulate me, including the physical environment of British Columbia Canada where I live.
As a therapist working in mental health I was taken by the writings of Epictetus, the Stoic Philosopher, who said that “Men are disturbed not by things which happen, but by the opinions about the things” or simply it’s not what happens to us that causes us problems, its what we think about those things. Epictetus might be the worlds first self-help guru…..
Epictetus also pointed out that change is inevitable, and I am changing at this time, my thoughts have changed as I have been exposed to the Positive Psychology framework, although saying that I was not blind it previously, I just hadn’t found the framework. I’m not a slow learner, but I certainly missed the start of the movement. I am also keeping my dreams alive and I will be exploring my world of possibilities in future posts.
But for now it’s Valentines day and I’m going for lunch with my darling wife.