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Positive Emotion Top Tips

Here are some top tips to help you:

  • Make a list: Make a list of things that feel good

    This might sound obvious, but when people get stressed it can be easy to lose track.

    Create a list that has a section on big things - that might take a few hours or more - like Saturday nights, planning holidays - and small things that might just take a few minutes that you could do in a study break.

    It can be easy to lose track of these things so a good tip is to make a written list of small things you enjoy. You can add big things that you can plan, but small ones are a good focus - having a neck massage, sitting in the garden, checking friends on Facebook, short meditations.

    Linked to this is the idea of planning a "beautiful day" (Martin E.P. Seligman). This is a day which incorporates your favourite experiences and includes paying mindful attention to the enjoyment of these experiences - that is losing yourself in the 'moments' you create.

  • Make time for creativity

    As well as the party times, there can be a big range of positive emotions - not just fun, but curiosity, satisfaction, emotional closeness, playfulness. Having some time for these is important because they help us not just to feel better, but to boost creativity.

  • Savour the moment

    Martin Seligman suggests that learning to 'savour' moments can be a key to significantly improving happiness.

    Often we have good things happen and don't pay much attention. Take some time to savour something good that happens. Notice how you respond in your body and what you liked best about it. How did you feel? Stay in the moment with it, rather than jump off on other thoughts.

  • Give and receive kindness

    This is also referred to as "basking and thanksgiving" ( Fred Bryant- 'Key Elements of Savouring')

    'Basking' is accepting compliments graciously and gratefully without minimising or dismissing them, and intentionally internalising the meaning in the compliment for example "I did do a good job, I worked hard and someone has noticed".

    'Thanksgiving' is finding opportunities to express gratitude to others and going out of the way to do this, noting and savoring the shared enjoyment.

  • Practice mindfulness in daily life

    Mindfulness is defined as "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally" (Kabat-Zinn- taken from Russ Harris The Happiness Trap).

    This is done in a non judgemental way with no evaluative process underlying what you do. It is actively attending to every aspect of what you are doing. To try this use all your senses to talk through, in your head, a process you are engaging in. Mindfulness could be applied to almost any daily task but here are a couple of ideas to get you started;

    • Mindfulness of the breath
    • Mindfulness of eating
    • Mindfully clean something
    • Mindfully drive.
  • Three blessings

    One of the simplest and most effective exercises in positive psychology is the 'three blessings exercise'.

    This exercise involves putting aside ten minutes at the end of the every day, to write down three things that went well and what you did to help them go well. An example might be that you had a good interaction with a friend, and that it went well because you had made the effort to arrange to catch up; or it might be that you finished an assignment and that happened because you stuck to a schedule you had set yourself; or more simply it might just be that you enjoyed the sunshine on a warm spring day and that, that happened because you allowed yourself to be present and enjoy the feeling!

  • 'Invite them in'

    Another approach to having more positive emotions in your life is to invite them in.

    It might sound a bit odd, but it works well, and is based on ideas from 'Narrative therapy'. It can help to think of 'fun' or 'creativity' as something separate out there that you want to entice.

    If you want to have more fun in your life, how could you invite it in? Is it likely to happen if you sit at your desk? Probably not. Or watch TV, maybe a bit if you select the shows carefully. Spending time with fun people will probably help. If you don't know any fun people then maybe joining a club, based around something you might like. There are lots of clubs at Uni, have a look at the Clubs Association website to find out more. Plan an activity, like going to the beach, sightseeing, paintballing. If you want more creativity, that involves a few steps.

    Do you want it in relation to your study, such as for essays or in different areas, like doing a hobby? If it is for study, then having a regular alternation between periods of studying hard and immersing in the subject, and times away to rest - it seems that having time for the unconscious to 'bubble up' with new ideas is important.

  • Get to know your senses

    Practice using all your senses to enjoy an experience e.g. close your eyes and feel the sand beneath your feet, tune into noises you enjoy e.g. music as you pass a cafe. Immerse yourself entirely in an experience- this has been called  "luxuriating" (Fred Bryant). This means fully paying attention and using all your senses whilst engaging in an activity. It can be good to pay attention to each sense separately to fully engage. An example might be having a coffee in your favourite cafe, which may involve;

    • the sights- pictures, people, colours
    • the sounds- music, people talking, birds, the coffee machine
    • the smells - coffee, toast, chocolate
    • the taste - of what you are drinking or eating
    • the feeling - of the chair you're sitting on, the warmth of the cup your holding, the texture of the table top
  • Collect positive memories

    This could be taking mental note, writing things down or having a physical reminder. You may like to take photos, share the experience with a friend or have a physical reminder for example a postcard or a shell.

  • Note your achievements

    We're often quick to note the negative and will focus on areas that need improvement. Keep a 'brag book' of things you are proud of and feel you have done well. Practise self congratulation. This can be hard for some people, but reflecting on something you have done well, remembering it and giving yourself the credit you deserve for doing a good job has a powerful effect and can help you to look forward positively and plan. (Martin E.P. Seligman)


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