Welcome to the website of Canadian Positive Psychology Network! Positive psychology focuses on how to help people prosper and lead happy and healthy lives. Positive psychology methods have been validated by many research studies all around the globe. There are thousands of therapists practicing positive psychology worldwide and millions of people benefiting from positive psychology techniques.
Positive Psychology is about three main concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Understanding and embracing positive emotions helps to achieve contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future.
Positive individual traits are various strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom.
By promoting positive institutions we foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance.
We believe that everyone deserves happiness and, regardless of personal circumstances or conditions, there are some simple steps one can take on a path to a happier life. Concept of happiness is different for everyone, but most of us want to live meaningful and fulfilling life. Our goal is to help you with this. We practice in 14 different cities across Canada (see “About Us” page for more details). Please contact one of us and embark on a journey to happiness.
There is a powerful attribute housed within all of us: we know it as self-confidence. We all have it. Some to a greater or lesser degree than others. If you look closely enough, you can see it at work in the decisions or choices we make.
Lacking Self Confidence
Depending on self-confidence, people can lead their lives in one of three ways. You can see self-confidence at work in those who live their lives without doubt and questioning. Then there are others for whom life is filled with an abundance of self-doubt. They seem never to be fully comfortable with any decision. That leaves a third group, a majority those living day to day, often in doubt while at other times very clear about what they should do or how they should behave.
Although this first group is smaller in number it is a force to be reckoned with. Its membership is made up of those with high levels of self-assurance. So much so that they can seem at odds with others; arrogant, rigid, always right. Within this group you will encounter those driven by purely altruistic motives and a handful who are diagnosable as sociopaths.
In our second group are those people who never seem quite sure about their interactions with the world. More often than not they are very capable of making good decisions, although they falter as though they haven’t a clue about their decisions.
Which brings us to the last group. These are people who, for a multitude of reasons, seldom are confident in their own decisions. Life is experienced as many forks in the road and they are there without a map. Much of their time spent is spent in self-doubt, wondering if the choices they have made are right or wrong. Questioning the past and asking, how would the outcome be different if only I had chosen differently?
Hope and faith are powerful feelings of looking towards the future with an optimistic view. Medical science has recognized the importance of hope a long time ago. How many of us have heard of people facing life threatening illnesses like cancer beating the odds of survival based on their hope that they can make it?
Hope is one of important concepts in Positive Psychology. Hope isn’t something you should rely on only when you’re in a crisis. Being hopeful that the future reserves better things is also an important motor in motivation and drive. Why work harder if you can’t believe you will do better tomorrow than today?
If you are familiar with broaden-and-build model of positive emotions by Barbra Fredrickson, you might remember that building yourself up with positive emotions helps increase resilience in the face of crisis and also generates a cycle of positivity in your life, where you “attract” the positive towards you. It’s more or less like tuning into the positivity channel. Which doesn’t mean that no bad thing will happen to you, (we all know bad things happen to good people), but instead you will bounce back faster.
Forgiving and moving on is an important part of leading a more positive and enjoyable life. It seems like holding onto grudges stains our hearts and doesn’t allow us to move on, keeping us stuck in a negativity cycle. Or with a grief in our hearts.
You may reply: “Forgiving someone is not as easy as it seems.” Depending on what’s been done to you, I tend to agree. It often takes some time before someone is ready to forgive. But you also need to be open to that thought or you might end up carrying that grudge your whole life.
Being imperfect humans that we are, we might start to generalize based on our grudge. I often hear people say “everyone is selfish and has a hidden agenda” based on a disagreement with someone they cared deeply about. Holding on to those negative feelings only prevents you from seeing the positive in our life and moving on. And like the self-fulfilling prophecy theory by sociologist Robert Merton states, the more negative or positive is your vision of life, the more probable it is for you to follow a path where your beliefs are met. Meaning, if you expect the worse, the worse will happen with a little help from you. (This is why keeping an optimistic mind usually helps).
Why forgive someone?
Not being able to forgive someone and repairing a broken relationship, especially with a family member is one of the most common regrets in later life and for people facing death. At the end of one’s life cycle, people are able to admit to themselves that holding on to a grudge and not being able to forgive someone was simply a waste of time and good energy.
Also, the power of forgiving as personal transformation cannot be ignored. Forgiving someone is a liberating process, a way to grow on a personal level. Being able to forgive and move on is a way to live a more fulfilling and liberated life. Holding on to a grudge is, in some ways, a form of imprisoning yourself.
Author of great novels and psychotherapist Irvin Yalom talks frequently about the rippling effect we have on people’s lives. Imagine yourself as a rock sinking down a lake and causing a wave of emotions and impact on everyone around you. Did you truly believe you would come and go out of this world without influencing anyone? Without changing someone’s life? And that that effect wouldn’t be passed on?
Even if we don’t realize it, we’re constantly touching and changing others people’s lives simply by existing and that wave of change keeps on going through time and space and generations. Simply put: think about the great heroes and characters of our history. How much influence has had Leonardo de Vinci or Jesus in our lives? And they’ve lived and died centuries ago! It’s actually a comforting idea: your body may die but the ripple effect you’ve caused will live on as long as your teachings or your actions do too.
Apart from comfort it gives you a sense of responsibility. Your actions will be passed on and repeated even through generations. Doesn’t it give a new meaning to your job as a parent!
Looking back: feeling a sense of purpose
The Australian nurse Bronnie Ware published a book on the top five regrets of those who are reaching the end of their lives. It is a moving book that serves as a wake-up call and warning on how to face death with a sense of mission accomplished, as opposed to “I should have done better with my life”. In case you’re wondering the top 5 regrets of those facing imminent death are:
- Not having a courage to live the life you wanted and not the one that was expected of you
- Not having worked so hard and enjoying the simple pleasures of life more
- Not expressing one’s true feelings
- Not keeping in touch with friends
- Not letting yourself be happy (because happiness is also a choice)
The conference was held at Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on July 16 – 18, 2014 and it brought together over 400 of internationally-renowned researchers in positive psychology, positive psychology practitioners, clinicians, educators and teachers, business consultants, coaches and the general public from across Canada and the world.
The goal of the conference was to share leading-edge research and best practices in the application of positive psychology across disciplines.
The conference was a huge success, with many interesting and thought provoking presentations and a great amount of interaction among the participants. Congratulations to Canadian Positive Psychology Association (CPPA) for organizing this event. All presentations from the conference are now available online and could be viewed at CPPA website.
The father of the Positive Psychology movement, Martin Seligman, talks about character strengths as opposed to pathologies. He even designed a classification system similar to the famous DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) but simply focusing on those personality traits that make you function best.
Why do that? Simply put, we are more than just the sum of our parts. We have many talents and strengths going for us and we may achieve success in our lives if we use them well. Please understand that success is relative for each person, it’s not just professional and financial success, but it can also be personal, related to family or your community. Would you say that someone who is known for its volunteer work in the neighbor’s kitchen soup is not successful at that? Or that a single mom that keeps the family going is not successful? You don’t have to invent the wheel again to be successful in your daily life. Or even acknowledged for it.
But do we know our own talents?
What are best at? Are you a great communicator, are you a leader, and are you well-organized? If you can’t answer this question yourself just yet, ask your friends and family what they believe to be your strengths and talents. If their answers are inconclusive, you can try to do Dr. Seligman’s questionnaire at https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/ and find out what are your character and signature strengths.
In horse racing there is something called a trifecta. To win a trifecta, the bettor must not only pick the horses finishing in the top three places in a race, but the exact finishing order of each horse. In this article we will lay out our own trifecta. Ours has nothing to do with horse racing though. Rather, it has to do with picking a winning strategy for a life well lived.
To get started I’m going to ask you to suspend a commonly held belief. That belief is this; “all I need to enjoy a good life is to be happy.” Nonsense! As you will learn, happiness is an overrated temporary response to the alignment of certain events in your life. Happiness is not a permanent state or condition. If it were meant to be permanent we would have no need for the word sad.
That said, let me assure you that I have nothing against being happy. I enjoy happiness whenever or wherever it may occur. Pursuit of happiness is an important factor in human evolution. My only concern is that in our pursuit of happiness we often overlook those events, people, and situations that may or may not be conducive to our being “happy,” but never-the-less are important. If I may, allow me to substitute here the word contentment for happiness.
As I will explain, contentment captures the importance of balance in our lives. I like to call this place, a life lived in balance, the good life. Which brings us back to the trifecta. Our race track: the Good Life; the heat: Psychology and mental health; the entrants: in gate #1 is Spirituality, gate #2 holds Meaning of Life; gate #3 Positive Psychology. The rest of the field is made up of a rag-tag assortment of lesser important names. Let’s look at the top three.
Have you read our previous post on crisis? Well, this is its sequel. There comes a time in life when you come across a choice: the choice is to go forward or pass on an opportunity. Those are what I like to call turning points in life.
Over time, luckily for us, we’re faced with several turning points in our lives, chances to evolve or to stagnate. Are you making the best of those moments towards a better version of yourself and hopefully a more meaningful and happy life? Do you recognize a turning point when faced with one?
Of course, you’re going to have to be a little bit of an optimistic to make the most out the turning points in your life. Fear of the unknown and a pessimistic attitude could enable you from taking an opportunity to make positive changes in your life, transforming a low point into an upwards one. Are you ready to live a full life? And discover what lies ahead when you take chances and dare to dream a brighter future?
Fear is a powerful feeling. In evolutionary terms, fear has protected our species and helped us survive. And it stills does to this day. Can you imagine if our ancestors felt no fear at all? In the face of a fierce animal and took no measures to protect themselves or run? Fear is a part of our self-preservation instinct and can get us out of many troubles. Trusting your fear, even if you don’t understand it, may be a good call most of the time.
But what if you’re letting you fear get the best of you?
What if your fear is actually controlling you and preventing you from achieving greater things? Of not taking the necessary risks to accomplish success? You can never succeed if you don’t try. Most importantly, what if fears are feeding your anxiety and leading you to the brink of mental disorder?
First thing you need to do is to identify the roots of your fear. Fear has a lot to do with our personal history, the values that our parents and relatives passed on to us. Most of us may look at our parents and realize their parents passed on a fear of financial ruin to them. Why was that? Our grandparents lived through a great economic depression and because of that, passed on to our parents the need to have savings and prevent a rainy day. Some of us incorporate that fear in a constructive way (like having a few savings stored away) and others take that fear to extremes (like becoming a serious cheapskate and not enjoying your own money to spend).
Knowing your fear and assessing it against your reality, can help you not only understand it but also overcome it.
When it comes to raising our children, there are many available methodologies to help them build character. Positive psychology is one of them. Positive psychology focuses on the achievement of authentic happiness, as well as the ability of individuals to enhance themselves, their experiences and ultimately, their lives. I am a conventionally trained child psychologist, so it took me a long time to accept positive psychology as a legitimate science, yet there is undeniable evidence that it works for many patients.
Positive psychology focuses on fostering positive emotions, positive traits and positive institutions. These three pillars can be incredibly beneficial in the development of your child’s character. Positive psychology teaches parents that in order to build their child’s character, they must focus on the strengths and positive aspects of the child’s development. It is imperative to remember that capacities differ from one child to another; your child’s capacity to love, to be creative, courageous, or compassionate may differ from that of other children.
My staff and I do a lot of psychological assessments for children, and during that testing, especially during social emotional psychological testing, we can observe the effects of different parenting techniques. There is clearly a very strong correlation between the parenting style you use and child’s emotional health. Positive parenting style focusing on child’s strengths rather than weaknesses is the best approach to raise confident, emotionally mature person.
Parents must always remember to reward their children with praise whenever appropriate. Positive reinforcement is essential for positive child development. Children can identify the desired behaviors that elicited the meaningful praise. It is vital to provide children with specific feedback, especially when they believe no one is watching them. This will help developing a child’s inner strengths and virtues that will have a positive effect on their thoughts, emotions, and actions. Teamwork, an example of character strength, can be praised when siblings clean up their playroom together. Honesty, another example of character strength, can be complemented when your child admits that he got in trouble at school or tells you that returned a toy that he took without permission from his sibling. The praise should be honest, meaningful, and relevant. When such praise is given to a child, he develops healthy self-esteem, that is an essential component of emotional intelligence..
We all want to find meaning in our lives and live the life to its fullest. But the question remains: how do you find meaning and purpose in your life in the first place? What happens if you just don’t know or get lost along the way? Finding meaning and purpose in life is not as easy. It takes will power to look inside, face your own demons and faults and accept yourself as you are: a perfect-imperfect human being.
Finding your own way
In one of the previous posts we focused on your character strengths and talents. Have you already discovered what they are? What do people compliment you most for? Think about the activities and actions you perform that feel the most satisfying to you. My advice: start making a list and paying attention if nothing comes immediately to mind. You can also complete Dr. Martin Seligman’s online questionnaire (VIA Survey of Character Strengths) about personal strengths and talents and find out a little bit more how that can work in your favor.
Frankly speaking, I had sort of an identity crisis when the time came to choose a major in college. First I decided to go to environmental engineering just to find out after a semester that despite my great love for nature and conservation, I hated it there. All of a sudden, all my certainties and the path I had outlined for myself made no sense! How could I get out of that crisis? After a few weeks of self-reflection and a little of sulking for quitting college (you probably have heard this a lot but I had never quit anything in my life before), I started remembering what it was I most enjoyed doing in life and what people praised me the most for. I’ve always heard people around me saying “It’s so nice to talk to you. After talking to you I feel so relieved.” Besides, I really liked being a volunteer and to do community intervention and teaching. I love reading, so first I thought about becoming an English teacher to inspire others but finally (and with a little help from close friends and family) I decided on psychology. This is how I became a clinical psychologist. This was 15 years ago. I absolutely love my job and my patients and clearly found meaning in my profession.
Yet, your job doesn’t define you. The job is just my example. Many people find meaning in other areas of their lives: family life and raising kids, community work, preserving nature, political and social causes, etc.
Isn’t life a bit like taking a trip to some unknown destination? Let’s call our destination Meaning. If your trip is well planned and organized you will want directions to where you are going. But, before you can get those directions you will need to know where you are starting from. This all seems simple enough.
It’s time for a truth test. Have you noticed how we all wear different hats. Sometimes we even wear different hats at the same time. In our haste to find our way to Meaning we often fall victim to the latest “in” terms. Adjectives that we unquestionably accept as true. Some of these adjectives include descriptors like:
“Soccer mom”, “Easy”, “A loud mouth”, “Smart/stupid”, “Fat/skinny/Wow”, “Nerd”, “Friend”, “Rich/poor”, “Lazy/on their way to the top”
Is it any wonder that we get confused about who we are or what our role in life is?
Added to this is a world of contradictions, or mixed messages. Such things as the generation you most identify with, your gender, your position in life, and your level of involvement in the world around you all influence how you filter these mixed messages. Here are just a few of these messages:
“Stop and smell the roses”
“I want the world and I want it now!”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff”
“The truth is in the details”
“It is what it is”
“You’re in charge.”
The last factor holding many of us back from finding our own place called Meaning is our increased dependence on instant gratification. Gone for many is the patience needed to see things through to their logical outcome. It is difficult to have an attachment to things that are disposable.