Traditional psychology has used the “disease model” focusing on the pathology of mental disorders, while positive psychology is defined as the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The positive psychology movement has been led by the research efforts of Dr. Martin Seligman who directs the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Seligman’s large body of research has identified some basics that everyone can benefit from knowing and applying in daily life for greater personal happiness and wellbeing.
What has the positive psychology movement taught us about happiness and wellbeing? Dr. Seligman’s PERMA model gives the components that help us to flourish. Let’s break it down. P = positive emotions such as love, gratitude, hope, peace and joy. E = engagement in a task or project that moves us into the state of flow, a fully engaged energetic state. R = relationships that enrich and provide meaningful connection. M = meaning that comes from serving a higher cause or greater good. A = accomplishments that come from mastering a skill, achieving a goal, or growing in ways that are personally meaningful. An increase in any one of these areas of PERMA is beneficial, enabling us to better flourish and thrive.
We’ve learned other powerful things from positive psychology. We now have scientifically proven methods of elevating our state of happiness, including two simple but profound exercises. The first is Seligman’s gratitude letter. In the words of Dr. Seligman, “Close your eyes. Call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet face-to-face next week. Got a face?” The task is to write a letter of gratitude to this person. Be specific about what they did for you, what it meant to you, and how it has affected your life. Consider writing your gratitude letter to someone you’ll be able to see in person over Thanksgiving, since you’ll be reading your letter to them in person. The exercise is most fun when it’s a surprise to the recipient.
The second part of ARI’s challenge is Dr. Seligman’s Three Blessings Exercise. It’s human nature to think more about what goes wrong, than what’s going right. Although this may have been an important survival skill for our early ancestors, it’s not serving most of us well today. In the three blessings exercise, you’ll write down three things that went well today and why they went well. The benefits of this exercise were so powerful during the research phase, that many participants continued the exercise long after the experiment ended. We’ve set our intentions on doing this exercise for ten days, starting November 14 to continue until the day after Thanksgiving. We invite all within our reach to take the challenge. Ten days of writing down three things that went well and why, capped off with a personalized gratitude letter shared with an unsuspecting recipient between now and November 23.
We hope you are well. We pray you are safe. Best wishes for a healing, happy Thanksgiving!