Jump Off The Treadmill Anytime And Elevate Your Mood #SwearYourWayToSanity
In the last 30 years, psychology has undergone a transformation. Psychologists went from having people lie on couches free associating to actively challenging negative thinking. Psychology is more evidence-based, which means we use what research shows to be effective and efficient in helping people feel better. It isn’t voodoo. It’s science.
Positive psychology is one of the coolest areas of scientific study in psychology thanks to researchers like Martin Seligman, Ph.D. and Ed Diener, Ph.D., and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D. Positive psychology is the study of what makes people thrive and flourish. It includes concepts like optimism, resilience, happiness, flow, gratitude, strengths, and virtues. This is a 180 degree turn from the historical over-focus on what is wrong with people.
Positive psychology IS NOT just telling yourself to be positive or think positive thoughts or to be Pollyannaish. It’s not closing our eyes and hoping for the best. Instead, it is the study of what factors help people do well, feel well, and be well. I love using positive psychology because it works.
Although we are not all born with the same wiring (for example, some people are wired to be pessimistic and others optimistic) or into great life circumstances, positive psychology researchers believe that all people have the ability to learn to thrive - with practice. Some have to work harder than others, I admit, but we all have the chance if we choose to take it.
In 2002, Martin Seligman, Ph.D. released a book called Authentic Happiness, and I highly recommend it. In fact, you can go to his website (https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/) and find out more. The book is full of questionnaires that are also available on the website to help you discover more about your levels of optimism, motivation, strengths and virtues. Could be fun……
Seligman summarizes what we know about happiness:
Factors related to more happiness
-Marriage (unless it is a toxic marriage)
-Socialization — have good friends
-Religion — likely because there is more socialization and more meaning in life
-Live in a wealthy, democratic country
Factors not related to more happiness
-Money (as long as you have your basic needs met for food and shelter)
Seligman also discusses what works to improve your mood:
-Show gratitude: Write a thank you note to someone who has made a positive impact on your life or take time to reflect on what you are grateful for.
-Forgive and let go of past hurts: You forgive in order to move on (for yourself) — not so much to give something to another person. It is when you are done keeping the toxic poison alive in your life.
There is much more in his book about identifying and building upon your own strengths and virtues.
Seligman highlights an important concept called the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill is the idea that the more you get, the more you want. You tell yourself, I will be happy when I get X. You get X, and then you say, now I want Y. You are living to get the next thing. Each time you get that thing, you are happy for a moment or two, but then you start to think of what you want next. You are training your brain to live for the next high. Each time, your happy moments get shorter and shorter. Before you know it, you are running on the treadmill, and you are living for the future. It is always the next best thing.
You can get off the treadmill anytime you want. The key is to identify that you are on the treadmill, catch your negative thoughts, and argue your thoughts. Force yourself to stay in the moment. Doing things like journaling gratitude and savoring what you have keep off the hedonic treadmill. The treadmill causes unhappiness. Sometimes people feel trapped by it, but I am here to warn you that it is a choice.
So much of the time we are caught up in torturing ourselves with “what if” thinking, guilt about the past, worry about the future, and being a judgmental little shits to ourselves that we miss what is going on around us. We are missing our lives, and there is no exact do over. Hopefully, we walk up before it’s too late.
In the end, you have to do the work. Nothing comes for free. Test me on this. I challenge you to read Authentic Happiness or Google “Positive Psychology” and try some strategies for a week or two. Or just spend some time with good friends this week. See how you feel. Jump off the fucking hedonic treadmill and into your real life. Joy comes through people not things. #MOMF.