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A Simple Strategy to Increase Life Satisfaction

Recently with a client, we were discussing how pessimists typically view optimists as unrealistic in their focus on the positive. Pessimism, as you may know is often exhibited as a tendency to see the worst in a situation and pessimists habitually gloss over or downplay any positives they may recognize. And even though pessimists might actually take pride in their ability to be “realists” (like my client did) they are often unaware of the cost.

Several years ago Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania found that even when optimists were not being realistic, their ability to accentuate the positive resulted in more satisfying and fulfilling lives. And Barbara Frederickson from the University of North Carolina has coined the “Broaden and Build” theory of savoring positive emotions. She has proven that people who cultivate their positive emotions by savoring them build long lasting resources that 1) enhance life satisfaction, 2) increase the likelihood of experiencing positive emotions in the future, and 3) foster resilience for negative events that are experienced.

Whether or not you would consider yourself a pessimist, we could all benefit from cultivating positivity. Here are some tips on practicing savouring in your life:

  • Savour positive events that have occurred in the past. One of my daughters’ favorite activities around the dinner table is to play “remember when”. It typically begins with a sentence stem of: “Remember when”, invariably different people will add their take on the event and it isn’t long before we are laughing and reliving a wonderful moment we shared. You can implement this with a similar kind of story telling or by looking at scrapbooks or photo albums.
  • Anticipate positive events. Actively plan for and imagine good events to come. Talk about the things you might do and then research them by reading or watching films related to the event you are anticipating.
  • Be present in the moment. Try and notice the positive aspects about a current experience you are having. Appreciate and savor the small things such as observing a kindness shared between others, a great cup of coffee or the nature sounds you might catch a glimpse of in spite of a busy day. See if you can make time to actively notice things and appreciate them. The trick with anticipatory and present moment savouring is to not get your hopes up about it being perfect or that it will have a notable or lasting effect on you. Just take them as they come and see if they might eventually culminate into more positivity. These changes tend to happen gradually as opposed to suddenly.

We wish you well in your endeavor to increase positivity and we hope that your application of this helps you to build resilience in your life. If you or anyone you know is struggling with a pessimistic view of life, one of our clinicians at Westmount Psychological Services would be happy to help. We are so fortunate and proud that we get to help people increase their overall sense of wellness every day.

Written by: Shawna Atkins, Ph.D., OPQ.