Have you ever thought about what makes people happy? Studies have shown that positive emotions are frequently accompanied by a longer life, health, and large social networks.
Martin Seligman, a leading researcher and director at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Authentic Happiness, describes happiness as having three parts: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Pleasure is the “feel good” part of happiness, engagement refers to living a “good life” of work, family, friends, and hobbies, and meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose.
According to Seligman, the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths and use these for a purpose greater than their personal goals. As I read more about this positive psychology, I could not help but relate this concept to nursing. Do we as nurses use our strengths to promote the health and comfort of our patients?
Positive psychology helps people develop skills to be able to deal with life’s issues in fuller, deeper ways. Seligman scientifically studied what makes people happy and the effects of these emotions on health, performance, and overall life satisfaction. Happiness is described in three dimensions:
How to identify your strengths?
Think about a situation in your life when you were at your best. What quality enabled you to perform? Seligman suggests that you are most likely to value a job, relationship, or a hobby that aligns with your core strengths and allows you to utilize them regularly.
He suggests that one of the best ways to boost your long term happiness is to use your strengths in new ways and situations rather than focusing on your weaknesses. There are a number of questionnaires available which allow you to track your happiness. Questions include the frequency of sharing feelings with others, doing things for others, physical exercise, awareness and use of strengths and activities that you find challenging.
Strategies to stay on the path of happiness
- Maintain a positive attitude
- Love what you do
- Strive for better health
- Discover the power of pals
- Take time to enjoy life’s special moments
Nurses are in a perfect position to utilize the concepts of positive psychology to promote happiness for our patients and ourselves. It would be great to hear from our colleagues who have identified their own strengths and have utilized the above strategies.