A frequently cited definition of positive psychology comes from one of its pioneers, Christopher Peterson, who stated: “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.”
To put it differently and in contrast to other forms of psychological study, it examines strengths rather than weaknesses and prioritizes building upon what is working over fixing what is broken. It concentrates on the best things life offers as much as on solving the worst. It strives to improve the psychological state of everyone and not just those who are struggling with a condition. Ultimately, it seeks to take ordinary people from a good state of being to a great state of being.
As the name suggests, positive psychology focuses its attention on the positive influences and experiences in life, such as positive emotions and positive traits, to see how these elements help people grow and enjoy the best possible life. Living a positive life and attracting positive energy toward you are facilitated by mindfulness and meditation.
Let’s look in more detail at what mindfulness meditation means and how it can help you lead the life you’ve been wanting to live.
What is Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of what one is feeling and experiencing in the present, without assigning a value judgment to it. It focuses the mind on the thoughts, emotions, sensations, and surroundings going on right now. It helps to center the individual in the present and temporarily set aside the worries and concerns about the past or future.
A typical mindfulness meditation exercise involves paying close attention to your breathing and consciously slowing it down. Notice any thoughts or feelings that pass through your mind, without judging or suppressing them.
You may be wondering what focusing on your breathing has to do with positive psychology. Here are just a few examples:
Mindfulness Changes Your Brain Activity to Increase Happiness
In 2003, neuroscientist Richard Davidson collaborated with Jon Kabat-Zinn on a study to explore how mindfulness meditation can change the parts of the brain that are related to positive emotions and resilience.
To do so, they engaged employees from a biotech company and divided them into two groups. One received an eight-week mindfulness meditation training program, and a control group did not. The participants’ brain activity was measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG) before and after the program. The scientists took measurements four months later. Participants were also asked to complete questionnaires that measure their anxiety and mood before and after training.
Prior to the mindfulness training, the results from the questionnaires and the EEG were similar in both groups. However, following the eight weeks of training, EEG testing showed that the group that underwent mindfulness training saw significantly increased brain activation in the left side, which is the area associated with feelings of happiness and energy.
The questionnaire scores reflected similar results: the group that received the training reported a marked decrease in negative emotions and exhibited less anxiety than the control group.
Mindfulness Can Improve Our Strengths
Exercising mindfulness requires curiosity and an open mind. While one is practicing mindfulness meditation, it is common to encounter challenges like distractions, boredom, and discomfort. Continued practice builds perseverance and courage. It increases our ability to focus and sustain our attention without allowing our mind to wander.
Mindfulness also trains us to be more aware of our surroundings. An increased awareness, free of judgment of those around us and their emotions, trains us to be more compassionate and better listeners. In turn, it improves relationships and minimizes conflicts.
Because mindfulness meditation makes us take notice of thoughts, emotions, and events without judgment, it helps us to moderate our emotional reactions to upsetting events in our daily lives. That means we can respond with greater clarity and more rationally.
Mindfulness and Positive Psychology
It’s clear that positive psychology and mindfulness go hand-in-hand. Mindfulness training helps to reduce stress and anxiety, increase happiness, and improve existing strengths. All these things are cornerstones of positive psychology that get us closer to living our best life and exceeding in our leadership.
If you’re interested in finding out more about mindful leadership and positive psychology, sign up for a free 30-minute consultation today.
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