Tag Archives: Positive Psychology

The science of happiness

How (and Why) To Enjoy Every Toothache

How is your toothache feeling today?

If you actually have a toothache (or headache or some other physical discomfort), I hope it’s feeling better. If you don’t have one, I hope it feels worse for just a second.

I’m not being sadistic, really.

If you are like me, you did not wake up this morning and declare how happy you were to not have a toothache. Or not to be grieving some kind of tragic loss. Or not to be deep in a personal drama immobilizing you with fear.

All those things happen from time to time. They have all happened to me at various points in the past several years. And when I am in such pain, such drama or dire circumstances, it is hard to think of anything else. I just want that toothache to go away. I want that person to come around and see things my way. I want a friend to get her health back.

So that toothache that you don’t have? Imagine you do have it, for just one sharp second of pain. Then another. Imagine how awful that tiny little inconvenience is—how it disrupts your thinking and can compromise your whole day. Now imagine the blessed relief you feel when it finally goes away and you are where you are right now—without that toothache.

When things like toothaches happen, they force us to pay attention—and when they pass, we celebrate.

But today, I didn’t give attention to all the joyful things that are already in place—or celebrate the cessation of pain. I didn’t celebrate what is for what it is. I didn’t acknowledge the beauty, the safety, or the love in my life.

I just laid in bed, like I do so often, thinking about the little things that were bothering me, the crappy stuff I really didn’t want to do today, the slurry of emotions that had somehow crept into my mind overnight.

I’m lazy. When I’m doing well, I tend to just coast and enjoy it—until I’m not coasting anymore. I turn to tried-and-true positive psychology tools like a gratitude journal only when I’m struggling the most. And that practice, undertaken for a few minutes before I go to bed, never fails to help ease me into a better place. Even if I don’t write them down religiously, making a mental list of what I’m grateful for reminds me of a guiding principle of positive psychology that Tal often describes as “What we appreciate, appreciates.”

In other words, what we bring into awareness will grow in value.

It’s not just through the practice of a gratitude journal that we can do this. It can happen throughout the day, over and over again. When we stop to see and acknowledge and give words to what we appreciate, we create the awareness of what’s working in our lives. Not just what’s wrong, but what’s strong.

This is especially true and powerful when we appreciate the people in our lives.

This morning, when I woke up, I made the decision to appreciate the challenges, pitfalls, and yucky feelings I had when I woke up this morning. So they grew a little. I gave them audience, and they responded with a command performance. But it could have gone differently.

Luckily for me, I had the impetus to write this today, to help remind me that there are other aspects of my life that wait politely in the wings, waiting to be appreciated—and grown.

Luckily for you, you made it this far to help remind yourself to do the same.

 

This post was originally created for Wholebeing Institute as a part of my installment series on the fundamental concepts and stories of positive psychology.  For the entire series, or to sign up now for a free two-part video training series and free e-workbook on evidence-based tools for flourishing, click here.

Your Pulse Is Not Your Heart: Permission to Be Human

For some reason, I find it difficult to find my own pulse. Which tends to remind me of a limitation we often have: We are not always in the best position to see our own humanity. It’s why a considerable field of study called psychology rose up to illuminate aspects of ourselves that others can help us see.

This notion—that we lose sight of our humanity from time to time—is one of the guiding principles of positive psychology. It is known as Permission to Be Human. To me, this means much more than just admitting that we make mistakes (we do) or asking forgiveness (we should).

To me, Permission to Be Human is more about looking at ourselves—taking our own pulses.

Try this. Grab a timer and take your pulse right now. Maybe you’ll be better at this than I am. (I ended up just buying a heart rate monitor.) Place your index and middle fingers on the underside of your wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Count the number of beats (pulses) for 15 seconds. Take this number and multiply by four to find your heart rate in beats per minute.

Okay, now that you’ve got a number, tell me. Is it good or bad?

I hope you didn’t answer that. Here’s why: That number changes all the time. It’s sometimes higher and sometimes lower. Did you just walk up a flight of stairs? Have you been sitting down for a while? When’s the last time you ate? Did you exercise earlier? What time is it? Did you just think of something you forgot to do? Did you just yawn? All of these things can affect your heart rate. It rises and falls with variability triggered by the situation you are encountering.

Watch this video for look at HeartBot, the drawing machine that is controlled by the heartbeat of the viewer.

HeartBot Imaging

Our changing heart rate is an analogy for what it means to give ourselves (and others) Permission to Be Human. To accept the emotions we have at any given moment as part of who we are—and not worry too much about labeling them as good or bad. Whatever emotions we feel in the moment and whatever actions we are undertaking that trigger those emotions, they need to be understood in the context of our broader lives.

Our first job is to be aware of our emotions and accept them for what they are—temporary responses. Then we can work toward the goal of broadening and building our positive emotions in light of what we’ve learned about ourselves.

Physical training and nutrition can guide us toward heart-rate responses that signal and orchestrate our health and well-being. So, too, can we guide our minds toward healthy responses to our emotions as we process them. We can train our bodies to be stronger and our minds to be more resilient, capable of success and sustainable happiness.

Keep in mind that the art of being human can shift us toward peak performance through both mind and body. That’s been described in a phrase that makes me smile: Permission to Be Magnificent.

Magnificent, in my estimation, is simply another word for human.

 

This post was originally created for Wholebeing Institute as a part of my installment series on the fundamental concepts and stories of positive psychology.  For the entire series, or to sign up now for a free two-part video training series and free e-workbook on evidence-based tools for flourishing, click here.