Take a Bite Size at Positive Psychology

Is the glass half empty or half full?” (My version, at the end of this reading)

Have you tried telling your friends about your problems or explaining about the stress you are having, only to have them respond with “it will be fine. Look on the bright side!“. Boy am I glad that I came across someone with a different perspective of things and very much voiced my concerns.

Smile or Die is written by author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich in 2010 with the objective of shedding a different light amidst all the hype of positive psychology. She ranged her discussion from history, studies, businesses and economy, before summing up with the idea for everyone to face reality, and removing threats “only by shaking off self-absorption and taking action in the world”. What got her started though, was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was exposed to all the effects of positive thinking – deeming cancer as the “ticket to life“, “gift” or “connection to the Divine“.

We clearly do not need to be diagnosed with life-threatening illness to start thinking positively; nor do we want to dwell in the everyday negativity, thinking it is me against the world.

Everything in life requires a good balance. Just as Bryan Appleyard explained in his article of similar context – The Happiness Conspiracy: Against Optimism and the Cult of Positive Thinking.

Regardless of positive psychology, life coaching, self-help/improvement, every genre are tools that actually focuses on one key aspect of our life:

Happiness and joy

Happiness and joy are the goals. Fulfilment gives happiness. Action brings fulfilment. Thoughts and tools should lead to action. Knowledge translates to the thoughts and tools. Exposure accumulates knowledge. Opportunities increases exposure. Curiosity sources for opportunities (I’m sure there’s a courage somewhere…)

For many of us, the positive psychology that we have been working on requires action and not on self-dwelling positive thinking towards a fantasy dream. If someone were to say that you can think positively towards riches, it means widening one’s perspectives and resources to act on towards gaining wealth, happiness or achieving one’s desired goals. It is realism.

If we were to ask the really successful people and coaches, one of the main criteria for their success will always be “hardworking“. Positive psychology will then be their resilient pill – Facing the music, yet not dwell in a downward spiral negativity nor a delusional positivity. Think what can be done, not what is not in control. A well-balanced mindset.

Many gurus and even spiritual teaching have exclaimed that it’s not the scenario or situation that affects us, but rather our responses and reaction to the situation. In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the same was emphasised – “Don’t expect never to have bad things happen to you, don’t despair over all the dreadful things that do happen in the world“. Ultimately, our responses and actions are what matters – a balance between positivity and realism.

Back to the cliché of whether the glass is half empty or half full?

I just need a drink. Really.

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