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Since I was born I suffer from anxiety. I experienced a great number of panic attacks and psychosomatic problems such as menstrual issues, sleeping disorders, poor immune system etc.

This daily endless fight is still torturing me but my 24 years old self says: Girl, put yourself together! This pretty face ain’t gonna get early wrinkles.

So, I literally tried EVERYTHING and when I say everything I really mean it. Let’s clear things up, chronic stress doesn’t just go away or magically disappears with some breathing exercises, cups of tea, candles and yoga. Usually the relief may be temporary and of course anxiety difficulties come back.

Obviously, visiting a therapist is essential but not everyone can afford their services and don’t forget the pandemic situation too. During all these lockdowns, millions of people on a daily basis stress out about their jobs, face unemployment and regarding mental health… well, personally I was going a little bit stir-crazy.

However, all the above reasons don’t stop me to seek my inner peace so while I was searching for new ways to fight anxiety I bumped into an article talking about positive psychology. What can I say, the more I learned the more I wanted to practice it.

So, what is exactly positive psychology after all?

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Martin Seligman once wondered: Instead of focusing only on mental disorders and negative emotions, is there any benefit in looking positive emotions? The answer is yes. As it seems, if someone doesn’t face mental health issues, doesn’t mean that automatically is happy. I mean, how many of us think that sometimes our life is monotonous and boring? (just saying). Positive psychology is a science of positive aspects of human life, such as happiness, well-being and flourishing. While many other branches of psychology tend to focus on dysfunction and abnormal behavior, positive psychology is centered on helping people become happier.

Why positive psychology is important and how it works?

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It has been well established that positive feelings and positive dimensions of human existence are essentials for happiness and psychological health. Practicing positive psychology increases self-esteem improves relationships and boosts our outlook of life. In positive psychotherapy the questions change and shift our attention from problems to possible solutions and from pessimism to optimism. Instead of wondering what went wrong, we start wondering which our strongest personality traits are and how to use these abilities in order to overcome difficulties. Another significant part of the process is to learn from our mistakes and what problematic situations really taught us. To conclude, our inner strength helps us to achieve prosperity.

PERMA model

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The PERMA model was designed by Martin Seligman with five core elements of psychological well-being and happiness. Seligman believes that these five elements can help people reach a life of fulfillment, happiness, and meaning. This model can also be applied to institutions to develop programs to help people develop new cognitive and emotional tools.
P- Positive emotions: This element is, perhaps, the most obvious connection to happiness. Focusing on positive emotions is more than smiling: it is the ability to remain optimistic and view one’s past, present, and future from a constructive perspective. A positive view can influence relationships and work, and inspire others to be more creative or even take more chances. Distinguishing between pleasure and enjoyment is important in this element of the model. Pleasure is connected to satisfying bodily needs for survival; such as thirst, hunger, and sleep whereas enjoyment comes from intellectual stimulation and creativity. As a result people learn to face daily challenges with creative and alternative solutions.

E-Engagement: Activities that meet our need for engagement flood the body with positive neurotransmitters and hormones that elevate one’s sense of well-being. This engagement helps us remain present, as well as synthesize the activities where we find calm, focus, and joy. People find enjoyment in different things, whether it’s playing an instrument, playing a sport, dancing, working on an interesting project at work or even just a hobby. When time truly “flies by” during an activity, it is likely because the people involved were experiencing this sense of engagement. We all need something in our lives that absorbs us into the current moment, creating a ‘flow’ of blissful immersion into the task or activity. This type of ‘flow’ of engagement stretches our intelligence, skills, and emotional capabilities.

R-Relationships: Relationships and social connections are crucial to meaningful lives. We are social animals who are hard-wired to bond and depend on other humans. Hence, the basic need for healthy relationships. We thrive on connections that promote love, intimacy, and a strong emotional and physical interaction with other humans. A positive relationship with family, peers, coworkers, and friends is a key ingredient to overall joy. Stop for a moment and think how many amazing memories you probably have with your closest people and how many great or funny experiences you gained or you will gain in the near future. I bet you already smile and feel the positive vibes.

M-meaning: Goals and motivations give meaning to our lives. At this point I need your full attention. Material wealth is not a getaway to happiness. Let’s say that money is not an issue anymore and you can get whatever you want. You will immediately realize that the feeling of fullness is completely temporary and does not meet your need to feel truly happy. In other words, cultivate spiritually and volunteer for a great cause.

A-Accomplishment: The feeling of accomplishment is one of the best feelings we experience during our lifetime. Start with realistic goals and try to appreciate even little things in life.

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The three pillars of positive psychology

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  • Positive subjective experiences (happiness, pleasure, gratification, fulfillment)
  • Positive individual traits (strength of character, talents, interests, values)
  • Positive institutions ( family, school, work, community, society)

Past, Present & Future

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Dealing with the past: Stop making hypothetical scenarios like if you did some things differently what would have happened in your present. These thoughts are completely useless and past is past. So stop blame yourself about your previous mistakes and choices. Remember, the root of suffering is attachment. One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it’s guilt, love, loss, betrayal. Change is never is easy but exciting at the same time. It is time to move on and accept your past.

Happiness in the present: Leave the past behind, live in the moment, make great memories, set new goals, be grateful, and improve your mindfulness.

Hope for the future: Focus on achieving your goals, travel (ok this is still a problem but don’t lose your courage), think about your near future achievements; think positive (even if you find it difficult).

Personal Experience: How I practice positive psychology

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  • I keep a diary which has two sections. The first one has to do with my daily goals and the second one has to do with my future important goals.
  • I avoid getting stressed about trivial things which do not significantly affect my daily routine or my life in general. (Still difficult to me)
  • I spend quality time with family and friends and recently I decided to leave behind all the toxic relationships I had until now.
  • I became a member of various voluntary actiοns. (this particular decision had the most positive impact on me so far)
  • I have a huge file with screenshots of positive quotes inspired by famous important people. (When I experience severe anxiety and have negative thoughts, I immediately open this file and remind myself to be positive and optimistic)
  • Adopt a pet today! Pets reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. In general, animals provide valuable companionship and as a dog owner, I couldn’t agree more.
  • Recently, I decided to turn off my TV for good and watch more productive things. So, I put myself a great glass of wine, open my laptop and watch influential speeches, optimistic articles about various achievements that happen around the world everyday and when I need to relax, I choose funny movies or series. In other words, I make efforts to work with my subconscious in order to become subconsciously more optimistic than I am.
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That’s all for now, I still have A LOT work to do but at least I try. Positive psychology and PERMA model contributed positively so that I could explore new perspectives and take an important step in improving my life. Of course I have anxiety and problems that so far seem unresolved but as the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons make lemonade.

Do not ever think of giving up!

P.S. Do your own research in positive psychology you may find out really interesting things.

Thank you for your time I really appreciate it.

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