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Living the Good Life

For many of us, life is consumed by the relentless, high-pitched ding of a mobile phone with the constant alerts of emails, phone calls and social media notifications. We are reachable 24 hours a day. Gone are the days of a hand-written letter, a face to face conversation or via a corded landline telephone.  In between the demands of technology, we squeeze in school drop offs and pick-ups, study, work, socialising, sporting commitments and exercise. And that is only the beginning.

Our desire and drive to succeed, however, comes at a cost to our soul. We are malnourished when it comes to compassionate self-acceptance, awareness and care. We long for simplicity but struggle to find it. We ache to find and sustain balance. We are so busy that we miss opportunities to marvel in the small things, the ‘specks of gold’ in our lives. We miss the chance to stop and think about what we can do for others. More importantly, we miss the opportunity to reflect and give to ourselves. As individuals and parents, we strive for happiness in ourselves and our children, a hopeful future and the desire to achieve goals. Simply put, we want to feel good and do good. But how?

Positive psychologist, Martin Seligman is the founding father of Positive Psychology and its efforts to scientifically explore human potential.

‘The very good news is there are quite a number of internal circumstances under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (and be warned that none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.’

— Martin Seligman

This is not a ‘happy-ology’ but based on science, research and evidence. It works!

Feeling good and doing good does not require us to exhaust our finances or become a zen-master. It does not require wellness retreats or to sit and meditate with our legs crossed and incense burning. As individuals and as parents there are strategies that we can simply embed into our lives and those of our children to support the path to well-being. These strategies can conjure positive feelings of appreciation, mindfulness and gratitude. A well thought out ‘thank you’, instead of a half-hearted ‘thanks’ often leaves people feeling amazing. Spend a moment alone and with your families reflecting on a time that involved strong feelings of gratitude.

Most of us associate gratitude with saying ‘thank you’ to someone who has helped us or given a gift. From a scientific perspective, gratitude is not just an action. Gratitude is a positive emotion, which is important because it serves a purpose. Gratitude acts are done unconditionally to show to people that they are appreciated, not because people are looking for something in return. However, that is not to say that people do not return the favor. It can be contagious, in a good way. Expressing gratitude not only helps you to appreciate what you’ve received in life, it also helps you to feel that you’ve given something back to those who helped you.

A Gratitude Letter

Spend time over the next week to hand-write and deliver a letter of thanks to a deserving person. This consists of three basic steps:

  1. Think of someone who has done something important and wonderful for you, yet you feel you have not properly thanked.
  2. Reflect on the benefits you received from this person, and write a letter expressing your gratitude for all they have done for you.
  3. Arrange to deliver the letter personally, and spend some time reading the letter and talking to them personally about what you wrote, or send it through in the mail.

Applying gratitude in your life

Before you go to sleep, simply think of the positive things that happened during the day; things that you are grateful for. Take a moment to do this every night. You may choose to keep a gratitude journal to handwrite what you are grateful for to reflect on later.

Gratitude journals can be purchased from Kikki K, RRP $34.95

If you have children, take a moment with them before bed-time to ask them to think about something they’re grateful for themselves. Don’t forget to set a good example by sharing what you’re grateful for.

Recommended Books

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment, Martin Seligman

Flourish, Martin Seligman

Gratitude Apps for iOS and Android

Gratitude Journal 365

Gratitude Diary

Live Happy

Thankful For