The Secret to Bringing About a More Fulfilling Life
We all know or have met someone who is the eternal optimist. Someone who is able to see the positive in most situations and when they can’t they don’t allow the situation to get the better of them.
These people send off a ‘good vibe’, they are a pleasure to be around and being around them makes you feel good.
Ever wondered what their secret to eternal happiness is?
I have and I believe I have discovered what the secret is to leading a more fulfilling life is.
I want to share this discovery with you here.
Our Thoughts Influence Our Well-Being
In recent times psychologists have come to recognise the important role our thoughts play in influencing our physical and mental well-being. Thoughts are the antecedent to our emotions which determine our actions and the manner in which we respond to stimuli in our environment.
Often these reactions are conditioned responses and learned ways of being that have evolved over our lifetime. These conditioned responses are in turn influenced by the psychological and emotional prisms or mindsets through which we view our world. For the sake of this post, these prisms may be divided into two broad groups. Pessimistic and optimistic prisms or mindsets.
Dr Martin Seligman, a founder of Positive Psychology – the branch of psychology that studies human flourishing and wellbeing – found that these prisms are, to a certain degree, genetically wired.
This means that some of us are born to view life’s events in a more positive manner than others.
Fortunately, some of us are genetically wired to adopt a positive outlook on life. They experience higher levels of subjective well-being than those of us who are hard-wired to view life in a less positive light.
But all is not lost for those of us who, like me, were not fortuitously born with the ‘happy gene’. Because through persistence and determination it is possible to change our emotional set point to a more positive one. This is where gratitude comes into play.
Gratitude and its Psychological, Emotional and Physical Benefits
It’s when we pay recognition to that which is good in our lives.
It also comes into play when we recognise and appreciate the lessons learnt from life’s challenges. And are thankful for the personal growth and change that comes from these difficult periods in our lives.
By practising gratitude we acknowledge our connection to something outside of ourselves. We feel connected to others, nature and that metaphysical force in life that we just can’t explain.
It brings joy to the simple act of smelling a rose. Next time you do it, adopt a feeling of gratitude and I guarantee that you will feel some kind of connection with something bigger than yourself.
Most importantly, by practising gratitude we train our mind to focus on the positives rather than the negatives in life.
“True wisdom is the ability to see the equal benefit and blessing in every challenge, the silver lining is always as bright as the cloud. When we see the shining light, show gratitude for the gift of the challenge”, Dr Demartini
Studies demonstrate that when gratitude is intentionally practised, we begin to view life through a more optimistic prism. We begin to adopt a more optimistic mindset. Our psychological, emotional and physical well-being improves.
Not only do we feel better about our lives but we sleep better and are more inclined to exercise, creating a virtuous upward cycle of positive habits feeding into one another. Furthermore, when we are the recipients of gratitude in the workplace we perform better.
Experiencing the Benefits of Gratitude
I am telling you this as someone who has experienced first-hand the power of gratitude. Throughout my entire adult life I have, until very recently, experienced extreme and debilitating anxiety and bouts of depression.
Anyone who suffers from anxiety will know that it is a fear based state of being. Where your mind constantly ruminates over negative thoughts and concerns about the past, present and future. At their worst, these thoughts are all consuming. They begin to control your life by influencing every decision you make and these conceptual fears paralyse you with inaction.
Through the consistent effort of my daily gratitude practice of writing a list at the end of every day of 3 things that I am grateful for. Combined with my daily meditation practice, I no longer view life through a pessimistic prism.
This didn’t happen overnight, it took consistent effort over a period of time until it became my new way of being.
PERMA: The Components of Psychological Wellbeing and Happiness
Intentionally practising gratitude is but one component of psychological well-being and happiness.
In his quest to discover a happiness formula, Dr Seligman developed the PERMA model, which consists of the ‘five core elements of psychological well-being and happiness’.
P stands for positive emotions; having an optimistic view of the ‘past, present and future’ (achieved through practising gratitude)
E stands for engagement; this occurs when we are engaged in an activity that we find rewarding and that completely absorbs our attention
R stands for relationships; building and sustaining positive relationships with family, friends and peers
M stands for meaning; this is when we are living our lives with meaning and purpose
A stands for accomplishments; this involves regular goal setting and the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from achieving them
Gratitude and a Living a Fulfilling Life
Now so far we have learnt that practising gratitude brings about a more optimistic mindset and a feeling of connection to those around us.
By adopting an attitude of gratitude we begin to incorporate two of the five core elements – positive emotions and relationships – of psychological well-being and happiness into our lives.
When we feel good about the present and optimistic about the future we are more likely to make plans, setting and accomplishing goals. Incorporating another core element of wellbeing into our lives.
I believe it’s safe to say that once we have three of the five core elements of well-being and happiness covered it’s not too difficult to imagine ourselves engaging in rewarding activities and finding meaning to in our life.
So, through making a conscious effort to experience gratitude more often, we begin to experience life through a more optimistic prism. If we do this often enough, we will begin to see the positive aspect of a great majority of situations in life and if we can’t see the positive we develop the wisdom to see the lessons that are to be learnt.
It is having the ability to do this that increases our psychological well-being and happiness, bringing about a more fulfilling life.
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Quote of the day and food for thought