Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton are the senior editors of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Together they have edited two books in the Positive Psychology News series: Resilience: How to Navigate Life's Curves and Gratitude: How to Appreciate Life's Gifts. Kathryn co-edited the third book in the series, Character Strengths Matter, with Shannon Polly. Their co-authored articles are here.
Senia Maymin, MAPP '06, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full Bio. Her solo articles are here and her articles with Margaret Greenberg are here.
Senia Maymin: GO SOMEWHERE. We are creatures of habit. Indoors, in the same house, we all gravitate to our separate laptops and to the TV. Go somewhere together. For a walk to a less familiar park. To the aquarium. To the zoo (as adults!) To a chess match. To a rock climbing wall where the instructors belay you. Somewhere where there is something to see and comment on together, like a museum, but perhaps less formal.
Editor’s Note: Our final gift for the 2012 holiday is a set of ideas for maximizing PERMA, the structure Martin Seligman introduced in his book, Flourish, for thinking about the contributing factors to well-being. For a quick review, these are:
- P is for Positive Emotion
- E is for Engagement, the experience of flow
- R is for Positive Relationships
- M is for Meaning
- A is for Accomplishment
The ideas are organized below by contributor rather than PERMA element since some enhance more than one element.
Happy holidays to all our loyal readers.
Louis Alloro: Record your wins daily. 3 Good Things!
Anything that made you feel good is a win. Scientific studies show this helps people build a good muscle for happiness – especially when you list what you did to contribute to that good thing. (For example, a win is that I got up to go for a run this morning. What did I do to contribute to that? I did not snooze through my alarm; I honored my word.) As you record the wins, remember to FEEL them again. This is the key. Release those neurotransmitters.”
Genevieve Douglass: Here are some ways I build PERMA:
- Object Writing every morning gets my mindfulness up and my creativity running. Directions: Write about an object or subject using your sense based faculties: Taste, Touch, Sight, Sound, Smell as well as your kinesthetic senses- movement and body sensations. Set your stop watch and write for ten minutes – EXACTLY! (This is an exercise from songwriting guru Pat Pattison, but I think it can definitely be seen as a positive intervention as it’s all about noticing the vibrance of life. I think it falls into Vitality, Mindfulness, a little Accomplishment, and Creativity.)
- Baking something fun to give to my neighbors. (Creative and also connective)
- Committing to doing Tabata Squats every day from Christmas to New Year’s. (Physical fitness and accomplishment)
Lucy Hone: PERMAnent sources of happiness for me this holidays (bearing in mind it’s summer here in New Zealand): Brightly painted toe nails on a backdrop of sand; painting them with my daughter; my husband reading out loud to us at the end of the day; laughing with my sister on the phone; picnics in the riverbed with hordes of other families; bobbing around outback savoring the beauty and refusing to wonder how I’ll ever get back to the beach; eating strawberries; having time to cook and linger over food with friends.
Kathryn Britton: After giving the same people gifts for a number of years, it can become difficult to think of the sparking ideas that make giving gifts so much fun. So we have been branching out.
- Among one group of friends, we make donations to charity in each other’s honor. The honoree gets to pick the charity. We ask each year, which gives us a chance to learn about changing priorities. For example, one year we gave gifts to Habitat for Humanity because a friend had just gotten back from building houses in Guatemala.
- A few years ago, my sister drew my brother’s name in our Christmas drawing. She sent him 2 books and 2 movies that were important to her along with a letter explaining why. Inspired by her idea, we’re abandoning the drawing and instead we’re all sending everybody else in the family our own ideas of books, movies, or other media that are important to us. Family members who aren’t fond of writing can get away with something as short as “I find this funny.” I’m looking forward to learning more about my family.
- More ideas appear in my 5-year-old article about Giving Gifts.
Create a Positive Portfolio for someone. Make a collection of pictures, videos, letters, shared memories, mementos (anything you can think of really) for a family member or friend you love. Present them the gift!
Sherri Fisher: The holiday season is a great time for appreciating the art of the catalog, with ripples of Pleasure, Engagement and Meaning. I love catalogs, the old-fashioned kind on paper that used to clog our mailbox before email clogged our inbox. I love the care that has gone into styling the layout, whether it is the beautiful pictures, creative descriptions, clever promotions or sample swatches and can become lost in my imaginings. I test myself: Do I really need this item? I dog-ear the pages of items for consideration and then put the catalog into a pile for later re-viewing, perhaps while enjoying a mug of hot tea and a ginger crinkle cookie. Will I still find the items I have coveted to be so attractive? Unlike bookmarking something online, the tangible nature of a paper catalog can make the browsing more like reading a mindless novel, perhaps a “choose your own adventure.” Alas, I have often practiced self-regulation. The catalog is sent to recycling.
Angus Skinner: Often the best way of showing gratitude is by listening. People feel valued when they feel listened to. It does not need to be a great show. But if you listen, then people also know you feel grateful for what they have said in the past.
Bridget Grenville-Cleave I would definitely recommend the following activities, which I have used several times in coaching receiving great feedback from clients. These activities enhance relationships and positive emotions.
- Arrange a Strengths Date: The first is to plan (together or as a surprise) a Strengths Date for you and your partner. A Strengths Date involves doing some of those things which you mutually enjoy and which play to your strengths. Start by imagining having a whole day in which to indulge your strengths; what activities would you do? Some simple ideas include
- Taking a day trip to a nearby park, town or tourist attraction that you haven’t explored before (Curiosity)
- Booking a one-day workshop for a new hobby (love of learning)
- Curling up on the sofa together with a DVD or YouTube recording of the greatest sporting moments of all time (Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence). Even if you’re not a huge fan of spectator sport, this is really inspiring and uplifting.
Afterwards you’ll have some fabulous positive memories to savor together too.
- I Value U, the second activity, involves spending some time, perhaps 30-40 minutes, reflecting on what you really appreciate about your relationships. Start by choosing a current strong relationship that you want to explore further, for example a friend, sibling, colleague. Some questions to start you off in this gratitude exercise include:
- What are some of the things that you do well together?
- What is it about this relationship that makes it really work?
- Think back to a high point that really stands out. What was going on, and what made it such a high point for you?
- What do you value most in the other person?
- What do you value most about the relationship you have together?
Client feedback suggests that this activity takes time to do well, and can be enhanced by sharing your reflections directly with the person concerned, or with a simple ‘Thank You’ card, outlining what it is that you appreciate about him or her.
- Relationships and Meaning: Whenever somebody I love dearly wants to engage–that could be a hug, kiss, asking a question, or talking on the phone–no matter what I might be doing, I stop whatever it is that I am in the middle of to give that person my full attention. I believe that relationships are the most important part of human life, and that always giving my full attention to those whom I love is important. This increases the love, gratitude, zest, and feelings of connectedness that we share. It also creates the space to be fully present in each moment.
- Relationships and Positive Emotions: Every week, I make a trip to a stationary store to look at the cards. Whenever a card reminds me of a person whom I care about, I grab it, buy it, and write that person a message “just because I love you.” This increases my feelings of gratitude and love for the people in my life.
- Meaning and Positive Emotions: Every morning upon waking, I take a deep breath and ask myself what it is I intend to make happen in my day. This increases the meaning in my day on both conscious and unconscious levels.
Christine Duvivier:Want to feel happier, more energized and alive? Engagement, or Flow, is a great way to get into a better-feeling state and sustain it.
Working on a gift for someone else? Think about when he or she ignores you. For my 85-year-old father, that’s aircraft video games. He forgets the world around him because he’s so absorbed in flying that plane and pushing the control button at just the right moment – to complete his mission and gain some points. Sadly, his new pc won’t play his old video games, so this year I bought him a new Flight Simulator game (shh, don’t tell).
Looking for a “me” gift, something to brighten your life? You might want to try a new activity which is similar to one that gets you into “Flow.” For me, that was surfing. You DON’T have to be good at something to come alive doing it.
Gothic P, Gothic E, Gothic R, Gothic M, and Gothic A all courtesy of chrisinplymouth