Positive psychology underpins health and wellness coaching. Our conversations with clients are drawn from its principles and the outcomes that are frequently achieved involve at least in part, greater life satisfaction, and of course happiness.
We owe a lot to the researchers who have managed to research and quantify the effects of various interventions that lead to this all important resource and yet there always seems to be more to learn from these people.
Research has shown that happy people are:
- More productive at work and more creative
- Earn more money and have overall better jobs
- Are more effective leaders
- Have better relationships
- Have better health
- Are more helpful and generous
Note that happiness is measured in two ways – overall satisfaction with life and self report of positive emotions at any one point in time (eg over the course of a day etc.)
Of course we wonder how these things and this was explained. Studies measure happiness levels of a wide cohort of people and at a later point in time compare where these people have ended up on the above list of life factors.
A fascinating study showed that when injected with the cold virus (into the nasal passages, the people in the study were thenkept in confinement away from other life factors that could influence the result. The findings showed that happy people were less likely to develop a cold than the less happy subjects.
But can be actually become happier and how do we sustain this state?
There are three factors that suggest that happiness is pretty static over life. These are the “set point” theory, the adaptation principle and the idea that our personalities are fixed. However, we now know that we despite these ideas, 40% can be we still have the ability to improve our happiness by up to 40%.
There are many strategies that have been used, all of which have been shown to work. These include:
- Performing acts of kindness
- Practicing forgiveness
- Setting and working towards life goals
- Working on relationships
- Visualising best possible future
- Making someone else happy
These are not new ideas but what was interesting to note was that some work better for certain people and some may have no value at all, possibly because of cultural factors. And also, that the dosage is important. So for example, expressing gratitude in some cultures might be inappropriate and actually make the person feel less satisfied with life and somewhat uncomfortable. Similarly, whereas one person might find the “three blessings” exercise useful on a daily basis, someone else might find that it actually becomes less meaningful than if they did this once a week.
The learning for us as coaches, one size does not fit all and we need to take the research and apply it in our work but never in a prescriptive way and always taking into account the individual ‘s values and stage of life.