Saturday, March 28, 2009

Positive Affirmation: Accentuate the Positive

Imagine you’re about to go to an anxiety-provoking social event (a party, a fundraiser, an intimate dinner or whatever makes you nervous). Is there a difference between telling yourself, beforehand, don’t say something stupid, or telling yourself, be brilliant? You betcha.

In efforts to improve organizational and athletic functioning, and more recently other aspects of achievement on an individual and even global scale, researchers have examined the nature of positive thinking and affirmations. Especially when learning something new, positive self-monitors (those who notice what they’re doing right and try to repeat it) are more successful than negative self-monitors (those who try to avoid doing something wrong).

Can you view your own behavior through this kind of an appreciative lens, affirming the good? Consider potentially difficult situations like public speaking, competitive events, meeting new people, learning something new. Approach them with an eye toward what your strengths are, what you want to do and what you hope to do. Avoid focusing on your weaknesses, what you don’t want to do and what terrible thing might happen.

I know it’s corny, but we could probably all benefit from Mercer and Arlen’s advice, and start reviewin’ the attitude of doin’ right.

More corn: Hear Bing sing here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Are you Flourishing?

What comes to mind when you think “mental illness?” For most of us it’s depression or anxiety. Maybe something a bit more exotic, schizophrenia or alcoholism, if you’ve encountered it.

How about “mentally healthy?” What comes to mind on that? Again, for most people it’s something like the absence of depression, anxiety, and so forth.

What about “flourishing?” What comes to mind for that? And do you even think of it as a description of human functioning?

Not to make anyone feel bad about their adjustment, but just because you don’t have a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re flourishing. Flourishing, as defined by Corey Keyes, is having a sense of well-being and satisfaction with one’s life which includes feeling mastery, autonomy and ongoing personal growth.

To be flourishing, one must:

· Be interested in life and often cheerful
· Be satisfied with one’s life
· Feel good about yourself
· Seek new challenges
· Believe your life has a purpose and makes a contribution
· Have rewarding relationships
· Believe you can control your environment, and do so
· Be interested in the social community and its potential for growth

Flourishing adults miss fewer days from work, function better psychologically and have fewer physical illnesses.

So how do we flourish? There’s the rub. We’ve studied mental illness for so long we’re just beginning to get serious about flourishing.

But here’s one tip. Think about what you do really well. That’s something you’re very good at and something you love doing. It could be part of your job, something in your role as a parent, or your ability to make people happy with your cooking (remember Chocolat?). Once you’ve got something, then ask yourself how you can do more of it? And do it.