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Positive energy - Raising the wellbeing bar

Episode 4 of the energy series

Lifting the blinkers

Existing is okay. Survival is considered perfectly acceptable. After all couldn't we agree that embarking on change carries the risk of disappointment or defeat? It would seem that childhood excitement, endless possibilities, innocent joy, living in the moment - it can all diminish over time as life happens - the speed at which depends on your own individual circumstances. Life creates blinkers for us all in some capacity, and the existence of new possibilities and fresh challenges can begin to narrow - whether it be to avoid the pain of a potential outcome, to enable us to keep to a gruelling life schedule or to meet the many family commitments that modern life demands - the blinkers keep us on track to "support" us as our time is not limitless.

The outcome of such blinkering can certainly lower our well-being and energy levels if life begins to lose purpose or future gain.

With the pressure on mental health continuing to grow, POSITIVE ENERGY will be a focus in many of my workshops. No one deserves to struggle to get out of bed in the morning because their energy levels are so low. No one deserves to not be able to access a degree of contentment and peace.

What is positive psychology

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human strengths and virtues. Martin Seligman

This definition comes from the forefather of positive psychology. He created a tool to measure what he considers to be the five factors essential to wellbeing: "positive emotions, engagement, meaning, relationships and accomplishment". I use this tool in my coaching. In this blogpost I look at aspects of these five elements as I touch on our stress levels, our predisposition to focus on the negative, the daily language we use, the concept of change and of challenging ourselves positively, the importance of connection, of achievement and of removing the blinkers. My intention with all of this is not to "coach you happy" (indeed there is a new toxic positivity concept that rebukes positive psychology for making people feel inadequate for their lack of positivity). No, my intention is to introduce the concept of "raising the bar" - that invisible base line that we drop to when difficulties happen. If you could just raise that bar a few invisible inches then your recovery would be quicker and the impact of difficulty potentially more gentle. Stop to lift those blinkers and let the positive energy in.

Still in cave man mode

Humans are predisposed to focus on the negative: it was a survival mode for our million year old ancestors. To sit in a moment of mindfulness or stop and count your blessings would be to let down your guard and be eaten!

The magnificence of evolution does not seem to have moved our brains forward to temper these sudden reaction extremes. Many of us continue to be taken to this heightened stress response state constantly: we are in "fight or flight mode". Does the average individual today need this to be their default mode in their everyday lives? Probably not. So, what actually is it and why do we subject ourselves to it?

Fight or flight mode

Do you ever find yourself racing from calm to agitated on receipt of an unwelcome text, phone call or triggered by some other external influence? Fight or flight mode is an automated physiological response to a perceived threat. It is the body's ability to leap into action at the first sign of trouble. Our heart rate quickens and blood pressure increases. Our brain releases chemicals such as adrenalin and stored sugar is released - all to prepare us for action. This sounds great right? Well not when it is activated too frequently and unnecessarily. This can lead to constant energy drains sometimes with more serious consequences. But why do we fall so easily into this fight or flight state?

High stress As a society we live in high stress mode. Being constantly busy is a badge of honour, a symbol of success, a sign of a life lived to the max. "Rest and digest" which is the antidote to "fight or flight" seems to only just be coming into fashion with a new emphasis on mindfulness and living in the moment. We are starting to catch on that high stress living is not healthy.

Negative predisposition We continue to be predisposed to focus on the negative. We just haven't trained ourselves out of this state. As time has moved on we have just replaced sabre tooth tigers with work stress, life stress or social overwhelm to the point where we can no longer identify a genuine high alert situation or an imposter.

Whether you are a regular "fight or flighter" or an individual who recognises there may be an element of blinkering in their life the tools of positive psychology can really help to re-channel our minds. Here are just a few to consider...

In reaction to others

The map is not the territory - I remind myself of this all the time - with my children when they respond in a grumpy mood after a long week at school or with friends or clients. Other people's "map" is not your own. They are viewing the world right now from a different perspective to yours. Their current experiences to lead them to this point in the day are not the same as yours. Reminding yourself of that can be a comfort and I guarantee leads to a reaction/interaction that is more beneficial to both of you.

Find the positives

Can you reframe the situation? Reflecting on particular experiences and extracting learning and positives from it can leave a more optimistic memory. Here is where I lean to the stoics for support and have written a whole article on their thinking with regard to how we react to situations.

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Epictetus

If you can find the positives in a situation, not overthink an outcome, respond without judgement. or refrain from catastrophising certainly unknown and probably unlikely outcomes, this all helps to park a situation where it is meant to stay instead of carrying it with you into your day letting it drain you of energy.

Let go of what you can't control

Again, a stoic concept, the idea of not letting the actions of others impact you or of expecting things to go a certain way - you can't control any of it but trying to can cause significant stress.

Be kind to yourself

The self-compassionate pause as you stop and reflect on how you speak to yourself. Would you talk to a loved one the way you talk to you? Would you set the bar so high for others? Would you show so little forgiveness? Give yourself a break. Stop and pause and then go back and be kinder to yourself.

Daily routines

The presence of a daily routine can be hugely calming. The organisation and clarity that comes from a regular routine can bring structure and with it reduced stress levels. What would you put into your daily routine if you had one? My daily routine began when I discovered Hal Elrod and his book, The Miracle Morning (one for a future blog). To put it simply here, my routine has to include journaling (my journal process is super simple), movement - even ten minutes of yoga, time outdoors either running or walking the dog, connection - meetups with friends planned in the week however brief, a current goal I am working on and my values (don't knock it until you try it!). These are all elements within Seligman's definition of positive psychology and considered vital to wellbeing.

Change your language

A commonly cited split of language usage proclaims that across age groups people use 50% negative words, 30% positive and 20% neutral words.

Change your language and you can change your state. I spent a lot of my parenting life using the word "stressed." It was my husband that pointed it out to me. The simple of act of changing the words we use in our daily language, both in speech and thoughts can change our state. I have found when I am running around after my children and trying to fit everything in I now try to remind myself I am actually pretty lucky to have this life. Or if I need something done I try to reframe it in a positive statement. I don't always remember but when I do it really works!

The language we use naturally translates to our interactions with others. How do we make people feel when we talk to them? What language do we use to describe experiences?

Intention setting

I prefer the word "intention" to "goal". It is more gentle and better reflects the aim in regards to positive psychology. By setting an intention we are putting a pin in the future and therefore giving ourselves something to work towards. This can be super powerful. For me in 2022 my intention was actually to be more positive - so I kept this front of mind every day and checked in with my actions from time to time to see if I was achieving it. It worked! In 2023 my intention is "balance" - and I will check my actions against that intention throughout the year. It acts as a guide for me. If you create the intention, you are setting a future design for change:

“Light must come from inside. You cannot ask the darkness to leave; you must turn on the light.” Sogyal Rinpoche

I finish with this poem which I think beautifully narrates the concept of accepting all the experiences in life as opportunities for learning.

The Guest house by Jelaluddin Rumi. This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival, a joy. a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honourably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.


Workshops and courses

Through my positivity workshops we try out various positivity tools in a safe space. In my other workshops we work on intentions, on values, on finding time and on using that time to create valuable energy giving daily routines. Please check out my courses online


Blog posts

Blogposts in the energy series

Blog posts in the alcohol series


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