I recently found myself telling a work colleague that hope was everything in my life and was surprised by what I’d said as soon as the words left my mouth. On reflection, I discovered that indeed hope has, and still is, everything in my life. Hope has pulled me through the darkest of times and has driven me to continue growing no matter what. I have never consciously looked for hope, it has always subtly been there in my life, popping it’s head up whenever I’ve needed it.
In studying for a MSc Applied Positive Psychology degree I’ve become more and more interested in the tools that can be used to enable people to flourish. I’ve found myself wondering how much easier my own past challenges would have been if I’ve been aware of Positive Psychology and the interventions that exist.
My current challenge is grappling with a decision to sell up and move to a new house. Whilst this doesn’t seem a huge event ordinarily, it is the first time in my life I am facing this kind of situation alone. Every decision and choice needing to be made is to be made by me alone, and the responsibility of achieving the best outcome possible is all mine. Not being a fortune teller, I can’t see how it will turn out and it is one of the scariest things I have ever done knowing that it affects my children as well.
In acknowledging the pressure I am feeling, I have turned to Positive Psychology to use the interventions that I believe will provide me the desired support through this period. There are three things in particular I know I need right now, hope for the future, courage to make the necessary changes to get there and self-compassion to give myself the understanding and kindness to acknowledge that life is actually quite difficult for me right now.
So, how am I increasing feelings of hope, courage and self-compassion in your life? Here’s some of the things I am doing.
Watching favourite movies which show a hero or heroine’s journey through challenging times, then being able to find hope and ultimately succeeding in their task always eases my worries about the future – the Star Wars movies are my absolute go to movies for this, a few others that come to mind are: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Pursuit of Happyness, Shawshank Redemption & Interstellar. Of course, there are many others to choose from depending on personal taste. I am using the feelings of hope I gain by watching these movies to flow through to my self-belief and motivation to move forward.
Courage is a tricky one, being too courageous has in the past sometimes led me to disastrous consequences, whereas not having enough courage can leave me feeling ‘stuck’. In considering my VIA character strengths, bravery appears as one of my middle strengths, sitting just under hope and perseverance. Learning to ‘flex’ my strengths i.e. drawing on different strengths as needed at the time is something I have learned to do during the past year of undertaking the MAPP course. So, to increase my feelings of bravery I’ve created a list of quotes which define courage. I turn to this list every time fear gets the better of me. My favourite quote right now (below) feels very relevant to the situation.
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. — Lord Chesterfield
I am starting to learn to be okay with not always feeling okay. For me this has become necessary to keep moving forward with my plans whilst minimising my stress levels. I have regularly practised meditation for the last 3 years and I’m a huge fan of a regular 10-minute guided practice which helps me feel refreshed in the mornings before I face my day. Recently however, I am using a self-compassion meditation at other times of the day, whenever worry and anxiety about the future appears. I switch between a short 10 minute or a longer 20-minute guided practice depending on my feelings at the time. Through checking in with myself and applying the care & kindness I would normally seek from others I am quickly able to return to my normal emotional equilibrium. I wish I’d learned to do this years ago!
This is the first time I have actively used Positive Psychology interventions to a real event I am experiencing in my life and what a difference it’s making. It’s absolutely made me realise that in Positive Psychology there is always something to help ease people through life changes, and limit unnecessary stress and suffering. The trick is knowing it exists and where to look for it. As the world becomes more attuned to the benefits of Positive Psychology research I am hopeful more people will have access to the knowledge of tools they can use when they need them most.
And my moving house story? It’s to be continued 🙂