6 Ways to incorporate positive psychology into your daily life to give you more feel-good!
Instead of focusing on what is wrong, Positive Psychology focuses on what is right, and looks at how we can build thriving and flourishing individuals, communities, and organisations, with nutrition as a growing area of interest within the field.
Positive Psychology is the study of human virtue, discovered at the turn of the millennium by then President of the American Psychological Association, Dr Martin Seligman, who sought to offer a positive counterbalance to the existing field of Psychology, which traditionally focused more upon dysfunction and disorder than on positive mental health.
Mental health may be thought of as being distributed across two continua, from maximal mental illness to minimal mental illness, and from minimal psychological wellbeing, or languishing, to optimal psychological wellbeing, known as flourishing. This representation offers a complete picture of mental health, with the absence of mental illness and the experience of flourishing as the desirable state to be achieved for mental wellness. Are you languishing? Flourishing? Or somewhere in between?
Flourishing, as the most positive state of mental health, is made up of a combination of factors that includes connecting and developing positive relationships, realising positive emotions, and finding meaning, challenge and accomplishment in life. Where reduced work productivity, poor psychosocial functioning, and increased incidence of chronic health conditions are not only associated with languishing, but also affect mental health, flourishing can be recognised as beneficial for both our personal, and professional, growth.
When seeking to flourish in life, physical activity has been identified as the number one factor to achieve optimal functioning and flourish. In fact, physical activity and moving more is one of the easiest ways to induce a positive mood, with just ten minutes of exercise activating the brain and preparing it for the intake of information, allowing for greater productivity and a state of pleasurable and happy wellbeing as a result.
Physical activity is linked with increased self-esteem, improved body image, better sleep, and a greater sense of purpose, as well as a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and death. Exercise is as effective as medication in treating depression, but with a much lower relapse rate, of nine per cent for exercise, compared with 38 per cent for medication, and 31 per cent for medication and exercise combined.
It is thought that the sense of control that is provided by participating in exercise allows for greater perceived ability to overcome obstacles and progress towards positive mental health for those involved in the treatment. It is also noted that physical activity may increase positive emotions for up to 12 hours after intense exercise – something sure to have you reaching for your training shoes right away….
So what about food? Nutrition is an area which tends to go hand in hand with physical activity, and yet has been surprisingly under represented within Positive Psychology to date, only really being brought to the fore very recently. A study that tracked the eating habits of 281 young adults across 21 days, discovered that eating fruits and vegetables increased experience of positive feelings for the participants on the following day.
The optimum daily intake of fruits and vegetables was identified as seven servings, offering findings upon which to build further research into the importance of nutrition for positive mental health. If eating more fruits and vegetables can impact measurably on our psychology, then evidence supports the shift away from processed food items and towards more natural and health-giving whole food diets.
Given the overwhelming evidence in support of physical activity as a positive psychology intervention to achieve optimal functioning, and the growing field of nutrition for positive psychology, a combination of physical activity and optimum nutrition, along with the development of a positive psychological skill set, could offer an integrative approach to wellbeing and flourishing, in the pursuit of an optimallyou.
Ways to incorporate positive psychology into your daily life to give you more feel-good:
- Do things that make you happy, and increase your experience of positive emotions 🙂
- Invest time in building positive relationships.
- Challenge yourself to accomplish new things, no matter how big or small.
- Be grateful. Notice the beautiful things around you, and take time to savour life’s small pleasures.
- Choose foods that are abundant in nutrients.
- Exercise daily – our bodies are designed to move if we are to function at our best.
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