Positive psychology is a relatively new area of study in the field of psychology and behavior change. It officially started in 1998 when Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD became the President of the American Psychological Association and introduced a shift in focus from ‘what’s wrong’ (pathology and repair) to ‘what’s right’ (competency and strengths). A nice description of a positive mindset is, “the tendency to focus on the bright side, expect positive results and approach challenges with a positive outlook”.
At the Center for Healthy Minds, Dr. Richard Davidson has been researching emotions and the brain since 1984. In 1992 upon meeting the Dalai Lama, Dr. Davidson was asked “why not use the tools of modern neuroscience to study qualities such as kindness and compassion?” Having no good answer, he has spent the last 20+ years “placing positive qualities on the scientific map”.
What have we learned? Research in neuroscience has shown that having a positive mindset is good for your health, good for communities and can be learned. Benefits? Yes! Striving for a positive mindset allows for personal growth, broadens outlook, opens possibilities, helps you build resources and fosters creativity and autonomy. The key of course is to be genuinely positive. Choosing positivity doesn’t mean that you ignore danger or avoid pain and grief, it means that you accept reality and continue to believe there is good around us and you seek it.
How can you become more positive? Positivity united with awareness. Actually, slowing your thought patterns to become aware of the present moment. This is also known as mindful awareness. It means intentionally savoring the good things that happen, recalling good things that happen and letting your mind linger on them. It means routinely assuming the best of others, giving people the benefit of the doubt, listening fully without rushing to judgement. To have a positive mindset we decide to override ‘auto-pilot’ where we are naturally predisposed to think negatively and choose a positive path.
To support you in spreading positivity at work and beyond, we offer the UW Health Positivity Pack, inspired by Total Wellness Health. The pack contains six cards with an appealing picture and affirmation. The back side has a spot for you to write a note to someone acknowledging their positive attitude and its influence on others.
Here’s how it works:
- Start with yourself, strategically place a positivity pack card to help you during challenging parts of the day: your alarm clock, your desk, the refrigerator, your computer or near a transition point to help shape your perspective and think positively.
- Post a positivity pack card where colleagues will notice it to infuse positive energy unexpectedly in your workplace (ie the copier, the breakroom, a mirror in the bathroom).
- Take notice of colleagues being optimistic, gracious, accepting, resilient, mindful or acting with integrity and SEND A CARD! Write a note and hand deliver (if possible) letting them know the impact they made on those around them.
Tell us how you use the cards! Share your comments to build momentum for positivity.
- Total Wellness Health (pdf) The inspiration to Wellness Options at Work Positivity Pack
- Positive Psychology Program An online learning environment for anyone who wants to put positive psychology in practice
- Theory of Authentic Happiness Martin Seligman, PhD. An excerpt from Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
- Positive Emotions Trigger Upward Spirals Toward Emotional Well-Being (pdf) Barbara Fredrickson and Thomas Joiner