on positive psychology

February, 2017

There’re plenty of reasons I’m doing a masters in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology. They’re all connected with happiness and most of them relate to my work as a professional organiser. 

To paraphrase Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, pictured here, I’m studying the science of what makes things better. At the same time I’m learning to be the best coach I can. I’m only one term in (of many – I’m taking it slowly), yet already the stuff I’m learning is filtering seamlessly into my work and personal life. I’m happier and I think I’m better at my job.

Going back to university is interesting. I’m finding the reading pretty challenging. I’m the one in a book group who begs a ‘nice novel’ instead of pithy non-fiction. It’s 30 years since I was a psychology undergraduate and I’m not in the habit of reading scientific articles. However, like most things, it’s not as tough as I thought it would be. Google revealed some useful hints on ‘how to read’. It took a while, but now I’ve got an organised system to record what I’ve read, what I thought and where that led me next, I feel a bit more in control. 

I’ve just emerged from submitting my first paper. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to return to the conversational style of blogging; such joy not having to reference every other sentence and reflect on each word within a critical framework.

Not all of positive psychology is written about in academic speak. I’m going to recommend a few books below. All are easy reads, none are namby-pamby psychobabble. I want to recommend them as I discover there really is something in all this research. I’ve been a member of Action for Happiness for some years now. I always assumed Action for Happiness called themselves that because campaign-like organisations ‘take action’ on their particular issue. I was wrong – it’s about us taking action. A large amount of our happiness is in our control (scientific fact). These actions are easier than we think.

Psychology loves an acronym. The happiness increasing actions are called Positive Psychology Interventions – PPIs! I had one of those PPI phone calls whilst writing my paper – we had a good laugh about it, the telesales man and me.

So, a PPI is something we can do; an act of connection, kindness or gratitude, exercise, mindfulness, there’s a great long list and something for everyone. To date I’ve not found much about decluttering and organising, but I know there’s a connection there somewhere. Watch this space – maybe my dissertation research might be a scientific examination of how organising a drawer increases our well-being.

Here are the book recommendations – enjoy!

Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier

Barabra Fredrickson, Positivity

Vanessa King, 10 Keys to Happier Living

Sonja Lyubomirsky,  The How of Happiness

Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness

 

"Dear Caroline, I just wanted to write to say a massive and heartfelt "thank you" for all your hard work in helping me sort out my flat. As you know, I had such a sense of complete overwhelm regarding all the junk I had accumulated, especially since the death of my mother, I didn't know where to start, and felt deeply ashamed of letting things, literally "get on top of me". I couldn't move for the piles of clothes, paper and general "stuff" that covered the floor entirely. It was deeply depressing and getting me down, yet I felt stuck and unable to tackle any of it on my own. "

- K, London N5

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