Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Is the glass half full or half empty?


After the European Conference on Positive Psychology in Moscow, we announced that we were going to find talks by the ECPP keynote speakers on the internet and post them on the cut-e scienceblog. We start with Leo Bormans, author of “The World Book of Happiness” and, as he calls himself, ambassador of happiness and quality of life. In a TED Talk, he explains the relationship between optimism and happiness and the causes and effects of optimism and pessimism.


Leo Bormans makes clear that we learn through positivity, that is, through support, positive engagement and encouraging each other. This is what leads to optimism, which in turn makes us happy. However, in his opinion, in our everyday lives, we are so much exposed to fear and conflict that we become negative, anxious and pessimistic. The media play a key role here. His key message is that we can change our negative mindset. He cites research indicating that 50% of optimism is genetic, 10% is determined by circumstances, but 40% are left to our mindset! We can change the way we see people and things, and we can change ourselves. We can focus on our strengths. And we can become more optimistic and inspire others to do the same.

Bormans sums up a few of the well-established findings from Positive Psychology: Happiness is not about pleasure, sex, drugs and rock ’n roll, but it is about satisfaction, and there are many factors that contribute to satisfaction. High quality relationships are important. Money plays a role, but it only improves life satisfaction to the point at which basic needs are covered. From this point on, more money does not make us happier and might on the contrary even be detrimental to our happiness. Freedom is important, not only political freedom, but also freedom of choice (although we also know that too many options do not necessarily make us happier). Work plays a role because it does not only give an income, but also meaning and structure. This brings us back to last week’stalk about Positive Psychology in general and the factors Martin Seligman identified as crucial for well-being: PERMA.
Positive Emotions
Engagement
Relationships
Meaning
Accomplishment

Leo Borman’s plea is to go and spread the good news. Let’s go and do it!

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