According to the World Health Organization, October 10 is World Mental Health Day.
During the time leading up to that date, I’ve noticed an emphasis on the lack of mental health and the many problems that can affect our well-being.
Did you know we’re hard-wired to focus more on the negative than the positive? Psychologists call this the “negativity bias,” whereby we tend to remember adverse events more easily and focus on our shortcomings, which can reduce overall happiness, satisfaction, and contentment with life.
But what if we focused on what is right with us rather than what’s wrong?
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive psychology is an area of study that does just that. Practitioners and scientists look at what we do right and how that can lead to growth and development, greater resilience, and deeper levels of satisfaction and happiness.
You might think that it’s impossible and that you’re either born optimistic or not. I can assure you that if you tend to be more pessimistic, it’s not too late to learn to be positive.
How Can You Use Positive Psychology?
One of the most important factors is to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. While this can be challenging, it can pay off enormously.
How do I know this? I’ve lived it.
My emotional profile indicates that my self-actualization (my drive to learn and accomplish things) is relatively high compared to my self-regard (my willingness to accept myself and to feel confident.
This means I suffer from “imposter syndrome,” a state whereby a person never feels like they belong or are an imposter. It’s pretty common, so I’m guessing many people reading this also do.
Even if you don’t have imposter syndrome, you might still focus on your weaknesses and past failures.
Or if you played to your strengths and collaborated with others with different skills that were complementary to your gaps?
How much better would you feel?
For the past 20 years, I focused on patching the holes in my background and tried to work on aspects of my character and professional skills I considered lacking. It was not only exhausting, but it didn’t really work.
About five years ago, I started to accept who I am, look closely at my strengths, play to them, and hone them. I’ve found that I have much more energy, feel more confident, and am better at what I do now than ever.
Ask Yourself: What’s Right With You?
I want to challenge you. Take a moment to write down your personal and professional strengths and achievements. Review the list and explore your feelings.
Note your energy levels when using your strengths and consider how you could further enhance your strengths. It’s important to recognize that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that’s why collaboration is excellent.
As a final word of advice, play to your strengths and encourage others to do the same. By doing so, we are all stronger together.
Hayley Hesseln, Ph.D., is the co-founder of EI Advantage and is responsible for developing all e-learning courses and training curricula. As a lifelong learner, she recently completed a Mastering Positive Psychology program, which led her to share these insights.