What do Sheryl Sandberg and I have in common?
Yes, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and I have something in common. Something that has transformed our lives by giving us a fresh perspective to look at life; a refreshing and an influential perspective that generates immense power to create solutions for opportunities in personal and professional space.
It is a field of science. It’s a way of life. It is where morals meet brain power. It is a platform where your mind meets your soul, where science meets happiness.
Positive psychology, a field of applied psychology, is based on the idea to focus on “what is going right” in your life or your strengths and to use those generative aspects to create solutions to fulfill personal and professional ambitions. The idea is to focus on not just the “positive” but the “generative” aspects, values, or ideas that are creating the desired change in your life right now, and using those ideas to create even a better bigger impact on an individual life or in an entire organization.
Sheryl Sandberg, in her commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley, talked about a few of the tools of positive psychology that she applied in her life to deal with the tragic loss of her husband. She talked about handling disappointment with the application of the three P’s—personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence, and with that, she also mentioned highly effective concepts like the impact of gratitude in life.
I want to share the concept of gratitude that is heavily studied and empirically researched in Positive Psychology with you.
Gratitude, as we know, means being thankful for what we have. There are moments when we feel extremely grateful in life but our primal instinct is to focus on what is wrong or what needs to be fixed or what we don’t have. That is how our brain is wired; to look for problems; to look for dangers; to look for something that needs to be fixed. This is why we are always looking at “what is not working” in our personal relationship or in our professional life.
So how do we train our brain to look at what is working for us, and not have a deficit syndrome?
One way of doing that is to teach our brain to be grateful.
Just the way we have trained our brain to do calculations or to drive or to cook. In the same way, we need to do some exercises regularly so that our brain gets trained to focus on the generative or happy aspects of our lives. Research shows that if these positive psychology exercises are made a part of our daily lives, we can actually change the structure and functioning of our brain to be more positive and productive.
Isn’t that fascinating that you can actually alter the structure of your brain in a way that it can become more positive, grateful, and productive?
I am mentioning below a few exercises that you can adopt in your life to create a happy and a grateful life:
Writing down a few things you are grateful for is probably the easiest and most popular gratitude exercise available. The purpose of the exercise is to think back on the past day, few days, or week, and remember 3-5 things you are especially grateful for. In this way, you are completely focusing on all the good things that happened to you in a given set of time. I did this exercise daily once for 45 days. Seriously, it changed the way I looked at my day.
Tip: If you plan to do this exercise, set a daily alarm for a time convenient to you so that you don’t miss it.
This is perhaps the most powerful gratitude exercise there is. Write a hand-written letter to a person you are particularly grateful to have in your life. Be detailed. Express all the wonderful qualities about this person, and how they personally have affected your life for the better. If you have the time personally deliver this letter to the person yourself. You will feel immense warmth and exuberance within you when you do this exercise.
Tip: If you plan to do this exercise for someone special, do this on his/her birthday. Won’t it make a beautiful heartfelt gift for that person you love?
Similar to the gratitude journal except you are going to take pictures of all the things you are grateful for. This gives you the opportunity to visualize your gratitude. This can be more powerful than just viewing it as words on paper. Try taking a picture of one thing you are grateful for every day for a week. Take a look back at the pictures every week. You don’t have to find grandiose things to be grateful for. A simple picture of a flower will do.
Tip: Look for simple moments or things in life that make you smile and capture those through the lens. Your coffee mug, your friend’s smile and yes food counts too!
I really hope your try at least one of the exercises today. We all have the power within our soul to change our lives. What I love about positive psychology is that its solutions are practical, soulful, and based on extensive research. These gratitude exercises have been successfully applied in personal as well as professional settings. I hope you try these exercises (at least one) and share your experiences here. Would love to know how it made you feel!!
P.S: To read or watch Sheryl Sandberg’s entire speech, please click here.