Forgiveness

Forgiveness isn’t approving what happened. It’s choosing to rise above it.

Robin Sharma

Making the decision to forgive is a deliberate choice. We don’t have to forgive someone who has e.g. betrayed or upset us – however many of us choose to do this. Of course, the more we feel wronged, the harder it is to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t a quick or easy fix – instead it’s a process which involves expressing our emotions and perhaps even showing empathy for the person who wronged us.

It’s important to recognise that forgiving is not the same as forgetting or excusing the action that upset us in the first place – instead it’s letting go of the strong negative feelings we have for the person, whether we decide to include them in our lives again or not.

Of course, forgiveness does not always have to involve someone else – it can be applied to ourselves. Self-forgiveness encourages us to forgive the mistakes we have made by accepting them, letting go of self-resentment/negative thoughts and moving on. Many of us may find this more difficult that forgiving another person.

Benefits

We might view forgiving someone as being a kind and generous act towards them, however forgiveness also has the potential to bring multiple social and health benefits to us e.g.

  • Strengthens our relationships
  • Makes us more hopeful/optimistic
  • Improves our personal happiness
  • Encourages prosocial action
  • Provides closure/peace
  • Reduces feelings of hostility and desires to retaliate
  • Decreases stress levels and anxiety  

HOW TO BE MORE FORGIVING

Research suggests that while forgiveness is part of human nature (with some of us naturally more forgiving than others) we can all develop our ability to forgive by building the necessary skills.

Many forgiveness interventions focus on reviewing the emotions e.g. hurt/anger created, increasing our empathy for the person who wronged us to help us become ready to forgive and finally looking at the potential benefits forgiveness can offer us.

The Greater Good Science Center has a wide range of strategies to cultivate forgiveness, including links to related articles, videos and research papers.

FURTHER READING

McCullough, M. (2008). Beyond revenge: The evolution of the forgiveness instinct. John Wiley & Sons.

Your Best Possible Self

What is It?

This is a positive psychology intervention which encourages you to think about your future in a positive and optimistic way. In this future you will be your best possible self, living your best possible life – whatever that may look like to you.

How to do it

This exercise could be engaged with as a one-off intervention or alternatively you could spend e.g. 15 minutes on it each day for two weeks.

Take some time to stop and imagine your future. What is the best possible outcome you can think of? Be sure to consider all areas of life that are important to you e.g. family, relationships, health, career, opportunities to learn, personal accomplishments – what would these areas of life look like in your best possible future?

For the next 15-20 minutes (longer if you are doing this as a one-off intervention) write down or mind-map what you have imagined using as much detail as possible. Research suggests that the exercise is most useful when you are specific about what you envisage – e.g. if you are writing about your best possible future relationship with someone, who are you really thinking about, what does the best version of your relationship look like, what kinds of things do you now both feel, say or do? This is a real opportunity to be as imaginative as you like, don’t be held back by the reality of your current relationship with this person. The whole point of the exercise is to project how you would ideally like your relationship to be.

Benefits

Thinking about your future in this way can help you identify what is really important to you and what you want in life. Imagining your best possible self in the future can build optimism and motivate you to work towards achieving this. Engaging in this exercise can boost your mood and experience of positive emotions as well as potentially building personal happiness in your future.

Further Reading

Malouff, J. M., & Schutte, N. S. (2017). Can psychological interventions increase optimism? A meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology12(6), 594-604.

Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. The journal of positive psychology1(2), 73-82.

Greater Good in Education

“…skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society – what we call ‘the science of a meaningful life’.”

Have you explored the Greater Good in Education website?  It offers a great selection of evidence-based strategies and techniques to integrate social emotional learning and character education into schools. It also champions the creation of positive relationships within the school community and highlights ways to improve staff well-being. Advocating prosocial behaviour, it offers ideas to improve both personal and collective well-being and build a mentality of global citizenship within our education systems.

It’s well worth a look.

PERMA

Martin Seligman’s well-being framework is one of the most well-known and commonly referred to in positive psychology.

In the PERMA model (2011), he identifies five key areas of our lives which impact on our happiness and well-being and suggests that regular participation in activities to enhance these five areas will effectively enhance our overall well-being, happiness and experience of a meaningful life.

Positive emotions

P – experiencing a good level of positive emotions, optimism, pleasure and enjoyment in life.

Engagement

E – using and developing our strengths and personal interests by doing more of what we enjoy and what we’re good at.

Relationships

R – having positive, healthy and happy relationships with others.

Meaning

M – sense of being connected and part of something bigger than ourselves, whether this comes from religion, spirituality or being community minded.

Accomplishment

A – the self-belief and ability to set and accomplish personal goals, creating satisfaction, pride and fulfilment.

More recently, the importance of looking after ourselves e.g. with a healthy diet, enough sleep and regular exercise has been highlighted, leading to some adding the pillar of Vitality to the original PERMA model – making it PERMA -V.

Being aware of the PERMA model for well-being and happiness may help you begin to identify who and what makes you happy, where your strengths and passion lie and which areas of your life offer a sense of meaning and purpose. When you’ve begun to identify these factors, you can then start to find ways to target the areas highlighted in the PERMA model and make small sustainable changes to your outlook and behaviour. Penn University offer a free PERMA test on their Authentic Happiness site if you’re interested in finding your current level of well-being.

Protecting and promoting our well-being not only feels good but research shows higher levels of well-being can provide numerous benefits such as:

  • Better personal relationships
  • Increased prosocial behaviour
  • Stronger immune systems
  • Better physical health
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Self-awareness, emotional regulation and coping strategies
  • Resilience skills
  • Improved work performance
  • Higher life satisfaction
  • Less depression and anxiety

Have you engaged with the PERMA framework before? Let us know how and in what ways you made changes to your outlook and behaviour.

Creativity

Creativity can come in many forms. From the creative expression displayed in e.g. music, art and writing to the creative thinking shown by those that are open to change, who seek out new ideas and can see more than one solution to a challenge.

Creativity takes confidence to try things out, a certain level of openness to failure and acceptance that not everyone may like our ideas. It embodies the desire to think outside the box and explore a different path. Our world has been shaped by creativity and innovation – from scientific research and advancements, the design and creation of innovative products, to the artwork, music and literature we appreciate and find meaning in.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun…”

Albert Einstein

Research suggests that expressing and exploring your creativity can have many well-being benefits such as improving your mood, increasing experiences of positive emotions and generating feelings of self-competence. Being creative can give you a sense of meaning and purpose and deepen your connection with other people.  

Below are some questions to get you thinking about how you view your current level of creativity. Can you identify the last time you…

  • Were open to new experiences and ideas?
  • Thought of multiple solutions to a challenge?
  • Took a curious and playful approach to problem solving?
  • Enjoyed expressing your creativity in some form. How?

Creativity is recognised as a VIA character strength – one that is valued across cultures and time. If you want to know where creativity falls in your personal character strengths profile, you can explore their free strengths questionnaire.  

Like most things, our creativity can be enhanced with some effort. Ideas to begin to grow your creative side include:

  • Break your routine and try new experiences
  • Be curious – play, daydream, mind-map your ideas and see where they lead you
  • Ask open questions and enjoy listening to different perspectives  
  • Set time aside to be creative (whatever that looks like to you!)

While nurturing your own creativity, look for and appreciate creativity in other people – both those you know and those you don’t. From friends, family members, colleagues or public figures – there’s creativity out there to inspire you…

Further Reading

Kaufman, S. B., & Gregoire, C. (2016). Wired to create: Unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind. Penguin.

Robinson, K. (2017). Out of our minds: The power of being creative. Third Edition. Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Time Perspective

Time is an invaluable part of life – a finite personal resource. It’s interesting to stop and think about how we use our time. Whether we’re alone, with others, working, learning, active or sedentary, having fun or feeling low – words like ‘spend, waste, take, give, share, manage, invest’ are often used when we talk about time.  We’re usually either remembering and reflecting on the past or hoping and planning for the future. Sometimes we’re even present in the moment and appreciating and enjoying the right now…

How we use our time and think about time can impact our psychological health and well-being – affecting our satisfaction, meaning and enjoyment in life. Time research highlights time perspective and time use and its impact on our well-being.

Time perspective is our understanding of, connection to and thoughts about the past, present and future. These can influence our motivation, attitudes, behaviour and subjective lived experiences.  Our time perspective is a dispositional characteristic influenced by individual differences – including culture, upbringing, education and level of social connection. 

As well as a time perspective, we have a time personality with factors such as punctuality, time keeping, planning and impatience representing markers of this.

Research suggests that while factors such as additional leisure time (holidays) or perceived reduction in time (stressors) can influence our immediate perspective, our overall general time perspective is relatively stable. 

Zimbardo’s (2008) theory of time perspective includes five areas: 

Future: Your focus tends to be on future rewards and success attached to long term goals.

Present hedonic: You have a strong tendency to meet your needs and desires now, with little thought for consequences of these actions.

Present fatalistic: You feel a sense of hopelessness and believe that you have little personal control over your choices and life.

Past positive: You have a nostalgic and enjoyable view of your past and maintain positive relationship with family and friends over time.

Past negative: You focus on past experiences and interactions which were negative and harmful.

While you may be able to recognise which time perspective is dominant in you from reading the above, if you want to learn more you can complete the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory  to identify your time perspective and become more aware of how this may affect your everyday life.

The time perspective you have can impact your physical and psychological well-being, as well as your relationships with others. While many of us will naturally have a dominant style in our time perspective, a balanced time perspective which utilises a past, present and future outlook (depending on the situation) is proposed as the most beneficial to overall well-being.

Becoming more aware of your personal time perspective may motivate you to assess how you’re currently thinking about and using your time and begin to explore ways to develop a balanced time perspective, creating more opportunities for personal meaning, engagement and enjoyment in life.

Further Reading

Hefferon, K., & Boniwell, I. (2011). Ch 7: Values, Motivation and Goal Theories. In Positive psychology: Theory, research and applications. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

The Psychology of Time TED Talk, Zimbardo (2009)

The Time Paradox

Vella-Brodrick, D. (2017). It’s about time for positive psychology to get more involved in time use research. In M. White, G. Slemp & S. Murray (Eds.). (2017). Future directions in well-being: Education, organizations and policy (pp.213 – 217). Springer.

Free Guide – Parents and Educators

 “…in order for children and teens to be able to focus and learn well they need to feel safe and supported by the adults around them – physically, socially, psychologically and emotionally.”

(Resilience Now For Parents)

CEO and founder of ‘Discovering My Purpose’ Laura Garrison-Brook recently shared the free e-book Going Back to School Well: A Practical Guide for Parents and Educators During COVID-19 on the International Positive Psychology Association education division forum. Written by ‘Resilience Now For Parents’ an international collective of wellbeing-in-education specialists (teachers, psychologists, coaches, researchers and parents), it was created to help parents and educators support children in the return to school amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This resource highlights evidence-based positive psychology concepts and strategies for families and schools to address possible stressors, increase resilience and enhance emotional awareness.

Please share widely.