Accentuate the Positive

Tough economic times are the perfect setting to practice the principles of positive psychology, says a new report from Harvard Medical School. Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, personal strength, and mindfulness describes many of the concepts that have made positive psychology the most popular class at Harvard University, and teaches how to put positive emotions to work in your life.

Numerous scientific studies have linked positive emotions with better health, longer life and greater well-being. At the other end of the spectrum, chronic anger, worry and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease by boosting blood pressure and stiffening blood vessels. A 2005 Harvard School of Public Health study found that people who were generally hopeful were less likely to develop hypertension, diabetes or respiratory tract infections than those who were less hopeful.

Included in positive psychology are vital techniques for enhancing well-being and savoring the positive aspects of your life. They include:

Single task. Multitasking is the enemy of savoring. If you’re walking the dog on a beautiful path but checking your phone for messages, you’re missing the moment. Don’t pile on so much stimulation that you dilute your ability to enjoy it.

Celebrate. Don’t keep the good moments of life to yourself. Let yourself be happy when you complete a project or when something goes well. Savor your accomplishments.

Slow down. Time affluence—having the time to enjoy your life and participate in the activities you want—predicts happiness better than monetary affluence. Try to eliminate some of the less enjoyable ways you spend your time, so you can enjoy the pleasurable experiences in your day without rushing.

Simplify. Too many options can actually diminish your pleasure.

Share the moment. Inviting someone else to share an activity can enhance the pleasure. Together you can relish the sunset, symphony or ski run.

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