Positive Psychology For Dummies®

Table of Contents

Positive Psychology For Dummies®


About the Authors

Averil Leimon is a Leadership Psychologist who uses positive psychology on a daily basis. Originally a clinical psychologist, she pioneered the transfer of techniques, knowledge and academic discipline from the reserve of the damaged to the domain of the eminently normal (well, relatively speaking) becoming a Coaching Psychologist as a result. When the Positive Psychology discipline became formalised, she was one of the first to undertake the Authentic Happiness Coaching programme with Martin Seligman.

Averil is co-editor of an ever-increasing coaching series. Previous books include Essential Business Coaching and Performance Coaching For Dummies. A founder member of the Association for Coaching, Averil was one of the first people accredited by the AC and now works as an accreditor herself in order to ensure high standards in coaching.

Also hailed as one of the Top 10 Coaches in the UK, she and Gladeana make a formidable team of heavy hitters in the coaching and psychology world.

Averil’s company, White Water Strategies, combines the best of psychology and business knowledge to coach and develop rounded leaders who get things done successfully, time after time.

Gladeana McMahon is considered one of the leading personal development and transformational coaches in the UK. She was instrumental in founding the Association for Coaching for which she now holds the positions of Fellow and Vice President. She is also a Fellow of the BACP, The Institute of Management Studies and The Royal Society of Arts. Gladeana is widely published with some eighteen popular and academic books on Coaching and Counselling.

An innovator, Gladeana is one of the UK founders of Cognitive Behavioural Coaching and currently works as Director, Professional Coaching Standards for Cedar Talent Management and is Co-Director of the Centre for Coaching. She is passionate about her work in coaching business and public sector leaders to master the psychological complexities of 21st Century corporate life. She was named as one of the UK’s Top Ten Coaches by the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Observer and one of the UK’s Top Twenty Therapists by the Evening Standard.


From Gladeana: To all my clients who have allowed me to help them and who have taught me as much about living life to the full as I have taught them. To Averil who has, as always, been a joy to work with on this project. To my partner Will who provides me with love and support and makes me laugh.


From Averil: Thank you to all the wonderful full time researchers who are working in the field of Positive Psychology, making it possible for us practitioners to use evidence-based techniques in our work. To all my clients who have been living proof of the existence of strengths and virtue even if they didn’t know it at first. Thank you to all my friends and family who have proved recently how much I have to be grateful for. To Gladeana, part of that circle, but also an excellent writing partner. To Sam Spickernell and Simon Bell at Wiley’s for their encouragement and light touch.

Publisher’s Acknowledgements

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at .

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Commissioning Editor: Samantha Spickernell

Executive Project Editor: Daniel Mersey

Publishing Assistant: Jennifer Prytherch

Project Editor: Simon Bell

Copy Editor: Christine Lea

Proofreader: Mary White

Technical Editor: Lucy Povah

Cover Photos: © Patrick Blake / Alamy

Cartoons: Ed McLachlan

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Lynsey Stanford

Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis, Christin Swinford

Indexer: Ty Koontz


You have probably heard about positive psychology because there has been a lot of publicity about it. For the first time, science has tried to answer questions about what makes us happy, what a good life is, and how you can increase life satisfaction, all questions that most people have some interest in. In the past, you may have thought that psychology was too complex and full of jargon to be of immediate use to you. One of the main points in positive psychology’s favour is that it gets the research findings out there fast, so that people can start to put good ideas into practice themselves rather than waiting for an expert to do it for them.

About This Book

This book draws on lots of profound positive psychology research. Psycho-logists are finding out more every day in the field. So, while we aim to be as accurate and up to date as possible, more ideas and applications are emerging all the time. What we wanted to do was to give you the really important stuff now – the ideas that can change your levels of life satisfaction and happiness.

We have occasionally mentioned theories by name, and sometimes quoted research, so that you know where the concepts are rooted and can trust the fact that the ideas we are presenting have been well tested: It’s well worth the effort to give them a try. Many researchers have been working in this field and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for making this a subject we can all share in.

We think you will find the ideas in this book interesting and useful, but thinking by itself won’t change your world. Changing your behaviour is what it takes. We are pretty practical people and so have aimed to provide you with the ideas but also the actions you can take to make changes in your life.

So, if you are interested in finding out how to take pleasure in life, how to become more deeply engaged in your life by discovering and using your strengths better, how to make your life a really good one and how to make more of an impact on the world as a result, then this is a really good place to start.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you navigate through this book, we set up a few conventions:

Italics are used for emphasis and to highlight new words or define terms

Boldfaced text indicates the key concept in a list

Monofont is used for Web and e-mail addresses

Sometimes we (the authors, Averil and Gladeana) use the pronoun ‘we’ to signify both of us. At other times, when an anecdote is specific to one or other of us, we say, for example ‘Averil did this . . .’ or ‘Gladeana says that . . .’ , depending on who the author writing that particular paragraph is.

Also, when speaking generally we use the female pronoun ‘she’ in even-numbered chapters and the male ‘he’ in odd-numbered chapters to be fair to both genders! (And we do not intend to imply that men are ‘odd’ in any way at all!).

Throughout the book we’ve sprinkled sidebars – the grey boxes you’ll see as you flick through. These contain titbits of extra information, anecdotes, and other stuff you might want to think about – but don’t have to. Read them or leave them be, as you choose.

Foolish Assumptions

We have assumed, and correct us if we were wrong, that you:

check.png Are quite a sensible, pragmatic person

check.png Already have some interest in positive psychology but maybe not much knowledge of it

check.png Know that there’s quite a lot of psychological research behind all this but you have absolutely no intention of reading any of it

check.png Want to find out how to apply some of the theories in your life right away

check.png Will be highly selective about which parts of the book you read

How This Book Is Organised

We are sure you bought a For Dummies book because you wanted some answers fast. There are probably some specific things you want to know now and other situations which will crop up along the way through life and drive you back to read a different section as it becomes relevant.

With Dummies you don’t need to read cover to cover. Look up the bit you want. Check out the table of Contents and the Index to find what you need.

Of course, we have written it so that if you want to, you can read cover to cover and get the total overview. We are very sure you will want to but we know the chances are that some aspects of life will be more important to you at particular times. Dip back in as you need to.

This is what you can look forward to.

Part I: Getting to Grips: Introducing Positive Psychology

This part is all about painting the big picture. It gives you a fair overview of the rest of the book. Find out here what Positive Psychology is and how it differs from more traditional psychology. This is where you can see the breadth of applications of positive psychology and perhaps where you can decide what you are most interested in. You will be able to read about the impact of positivity on health, happiness and wellbeing.

It is where to start if you want to get the big picture before you launch into applying the ideas.

Part II: Doing the Time Warp: Past, Present and Future

Sometimes you need to go back in order to go forward. Part II looks at dealing constructively with the past through ideas such as the ‘born yesterday’ concept, contemplates the present and how you can maximise your experiences, and then takes you on to consider a hopeful future through optimism and hope

Part III: What Positive Psychology Can Do For You

Here is the part where you can build opportunities for happiness through considering what truly gives lasting pleasure in your life , experiencing sensations to the full. It also concentrates on finding and using your strengths in order to engage to the full with life and experience real life satisfaction. You are challenged to contemplate how much meaning your life can have before moving on to building personal happiness programmes and finding constructive ways of bouncing back from adversity

Part IV: Positive Psychology in the Real World

In this section, we look at how Positive Psychology can be applied in real life situations, strengthening significant relationships, making the best of parenting with your children and step children and benefitting from extended and sometimes challenging family lives.

In Part IV, you will also get the chance to think about how your working life and performance can be enhanced by the use of Positive Psychology theories and techniques.

Part V: The Part of Tens

Here you will find a whole batch of exercises – even if you only did these and didn’t read another word you would probably raise your happiness. But we would live you to dip in elsewhere and find out more about why these exercises work. We have also given you a list of inspirationally positive resources – books , songs and films that raise your mood. We hope you enjoy these and add your own uplifting ideas.

Icons Used in This Book

You will find a number of icons to help you find the juiciest bits of this book.

Warning(bomb).eps Positive psychology is fantastic stuff and we don’t think you can ever get too positive but it is easy to get carried away. This icon asks you to hang on a minute and think about the consequences of what you are doing.

trythis.eps Although this is not a workbook, there are just some times when you really have to give something a go. It’s a great way of learning but you can always come back to it later if you don’t have time at first.

Remember.eps This icon draws your attention to an important point to bear in mind. The rest is up to you and the state of your memory.

TechnicalStuff.eps Positive psychology involves a lot of serious science, but we have tried to keep the book practical. However, we’ve found that at times we haven’t been able to resist the odd technical bit. Hope you enjoy them too.

Where to Go from Here

Have fun. Look for the positive. Leave cynicism out as it isn’t too good for your health. Flick through and dip in wherever takes your fancy – you are bound to get something useful. If you need more logic in your life start with Part I to get an overview, but if you know all that already, just go for the bit takes your fancy or is particularly relevant to your life today. Above all – have a good life. We wish you joy!

Part I

Getting to Grips: Introducing Positive Psychology


In this part . . .

This Part provides you with an overview of what positive psychology is all about, and lets you in on what to expect from the book. Here’s where you come to find out what positive psychology is and how it differs from your usual psychology. Check out the number of ways positive psychology can be used, and use this part to decide which bits interest you most. Read here, too, about the impact of positive thinking on health, happiness and wellbeing.

Chapter 1

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

In This Chapter

arrow Finding out about positive psychology

arrow Seeing where positive psychology applies

arrow Recognising the benefits of being positive

So what is this positive psychology you have heard about, and how relevant is it to your life? It has been quite traditional for people to consider you a bit stupid if you take a positive, optimistic view of life. They assume that you are just not getting the picture, that you are naive and don’t have a realistic view of life. Positive psychology has changed all that. At last there is a growing body of evidence that says something different: that being positive is an appropriate and constructive behaviour that is more likely to lead to success and wellbeing, and that there are ways of thinking and behaving that you should cultivate in order to have a good life. This chapter gives you the basics of positive psychology – the story of how it came about, some of the findings and what may interest you elsewhere in the book.

Putting the Positive in Psychology

Positive psychology is the scientific study of what enhances life. It is all about building positive experiences, positive traits and positive organisations, leading to an increased quality of life for people. Here is how it began.

Looking for a message

You find the name of Martin Seligman appearing repeatedly when people talk about positive psychology. When he became President of the American Psychological Association (with the biggest vote in the history of that organisation) he had already contributed hugely to the realm of psychology, developing theories that were widely respected by the psychology profession. However, as the new president, he looked for a theme to focus on. While gardening with his young daughter Nikki, Seligman had a moment of revelation after she advised him to try ‘to stop being such a grouch’. As a result he decided to embark on the ‘scientific study of optimal human functioning’ – that is, what it was that made people thrive.

Seligman described psychology as ‘losing its way’ after the Second Word War. Because of the need for remedial treatment at that time, and the consequent government funding available, psychology focused almost exclusively on what went wrong in people rather than on how to access and maximise the very best of people’s potential – especially for positive emotions such as happiness.

Being authentically happy

Initially, Seligman’s work focused on what it took to be truly and genuinely happy. He initially proposed three routes to happiness, through living:

check.png The pleasant life

check.png The engaged life

check.png The meaningful life

You can find out more about these ways of living in Chapters 6–8.

Positive psychology has developed rapidly since Seligman’s original work through research into a vast array of areas such as mapping human strengths, measuring wellbeing, the development of wisdom and the development of positive health.

Building an evidence-based case

We don’t mean to get too heavy right away but we want you to be very clear about one thing – this is sound, serious stuff. It is real psychology with all the usual emphasis on research and data. It isn’t some happy-clappy, hippy, ‘just smile and be positive’ nonsense! It isn’t about putting on a happy face, whistling a merry tune and hoping for the best. We are talking real science, heavy research and big studies. The aim is to make all that accessible to you so you can start to get the benefit without having to drag you into too much science, but you would miss out on some of the fun if you didn’t know about the amazing research findings that underpin everything we say throughout the book.

So, positive psychology really sets out to look at the upside of human existence. Traditionally, many people have assumed that feeling happy or positive is just the result of nothing sad or bad being in your life at that point rather than a real, desirable and achievable state in life. In fact, people can be quite puritanical about the idea of seeking positive good feelings and circumstances in life. People consider happiness, contentment and joy as rather ephemeral – emotions that come when we least expect them and that cannot be under our conscious control. Others may consider it selfishly indulgent to contemplate what makes for a good life of wellbeing and happiness. Surely life is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’ as Hobbes claimed in his Leviathan? Bad things are happening all the time, each of us will face trying and painful experiences, and the media chooses daily to show only the worst of humanity. What place is there for striving to have a good and happy life?

Some people assume that if you are happy and optimistic then you are somehow less intelligent – you are just failing to get the whole picture. Others assume that ‘That’s just the way folk are. Either you are happy or you aren’t.’ So, in the face of such fatalism and suspicion, it is important to know more about what has been proved about these good emotions as opposed to common assumptions, old wives’ tales and habits of a lifetime.

Measuring the good, the bad and the ugly

While immense work has gone into classifying psychological ill health (as classified in ICD – the International Classification of Diseases – or the American DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder), little had been done to examine, record and measure good health and wellbeing. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in 1946 as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’, this doesn’t actually tell us much about how we achieve such an idyllic state.

Years ago, Averil was working in the NHS and had become more and more convinced that prevention of problems made much more humane and economic sense than waiting for people to fall off their perches and then providing inadequate resources to ensure they were treated in an effective and timely fashion. So she applied the psychological techniques that worked best to the general working population. However, although there was plenty of research-based evidence for the efficacy of the techniques in the psychologically unwell population, there was no evidence base to quote for so-called normal people! With positive psychology, things began to change. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson produced an astonishing classification of strengths and virtues in their tome, ‘Classification of Strengths’.

Living a positive life

Building on the World Health Organization’s aspirations, positive psychology looks at what it takes to live the Good Life – the life that is really worth living and is lived to the full. Here are a few aspects that contribute to that healthy life:

check.png Having more positive than negative emotions (see Chapters 2, 3 and 4)

check.png Finding satisfaction in life and work (see Chapters 5 and 6)

check.png Recognising strengths and talents and putting them to work (see Chapters 7 and 9)

check.png Exercising virtues (see Chapter 7)

check.png Being caught up in activities (see Chapter 4)

check.png Fostering positive family life (see Chapters 12 and 13)

check.png Building a good working life (see Chapter 14)

check.png Contributing to the good of society (see Chapter 9)

check.png Finding meaning in life (see Chapter 8)

You can find out lots more about each of these areas throughout the book.

Studying Positive Psychology

Positive psychology, while based on the soundest research principles, should not solely be the domain of academic psychologists. It is very accessible to everyone and absolutely vital for the serious consideration of how to achieve the very best life. We outline some of the key areas in the following sections.

Having positive experiences

In the past, psychologists rarely considered or assessed positive emotions such as joy or delight, except as a means of establishing the absence of depression or negative feelings. Work done by Professor Barbara Frederickson changed all that. Negative emotions narrow people’s focus to deal with the problem at hand – for example, the flight or fight reaction makes you just want to resolve the problem fast, by either staying and fighting or running for your life. Negative emotions close you down and make you turn inwards. Frederickson’s ‘broaden and build’ theory proposes that positive emotion does not just show the presence of wellbeing, it has the effect of leading to even greater wellbeing and human flourishing.

When people are in positive emotional states, they are likely to view an issue and its solutions more broadly – to be more creative and flexible in their responses – and, as a result, to build up a greater bank of social, emotional and intellectual resources from which they can benefit, even in adversity. They will have higher interest, generate a wider range of options, explore more fully, and generally develop far more. Hence the term ‘broaden and build’.

So positive emotions are directly related to success in problem-solving and the building up of resources. Positive emotions also contribute to the development of more extensive interpersonal networks, better health and greater success. So you should be working to have more positive emotions and experiences. Go on, you know you want to! Here are a few ideas. There is much more throughout the book about learning to experience positive emotions.

Finding happiness

People are very good at knowing how happy they are at any given time. They are not so good at predicting what will make them happy, how strong the feeling will be and how long it will last. Which is presumably why so many people cling erroneously to the belief that material possessions will make them happy. Although the majority of people in Western countries now have a far higher standard of living than in the past, happiness levels have not risen over the last 50 years. This is known as the Easterbrook paradox, from Gregg Easterbrook’s book The Progress Paradox, subtitled How life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. He argues that people are inherently negative and so need to work hard at positivity and meaning in life in order to feel truly happy. Throughout the book, we will keep coming back to what really, truly does make us happy and enhances wellbeing.

Experiencing pleasure and enjoyment

One route to happiness is through pleasure. Pleasure is the good feeling that comes from satisfying basic needs such as hunger, thirst, sexual drives and physical comfort. Think of the most pleasing sensations and notice how happy they make you. Imagine you are about to eat your favourite food. Can you see what it looks like, can you smell it, imagine that first bite? Wonderful – what a sense of pleasure it gives you. Momentarily it even makes you happy. Now imagine eating ten more servings of that food. How do you feel? By now you probably shudder at the very thought of it.

Pleasure is not about having an excess. It is much more about taking pleasure in everything you do. In a busy existence, we often rush through events without taking time to savour, enjoy and extract maximum pleasure. If you review what has given you most pleasure in life, you may be surprised at the trivial nature or smallness of the incidents – that smile, that ‘thank you’, the good feedback you got. This is not to suggest that people should be spartan or puritanical in their lives, but rather that it is important to notice all the small pleasures that lead to a sustainable happiness.

Sometimes, we can be working so hard or so bowed down by problems and duties that we overlook the need to indulge in some pleasures. Take a little time to build pleasure into your everyday life, whether it is a really good cup of coffee or losing yourself in a much loved book. Revel in the experience. Chapter 6 covers finding pleasure in life.

However pleasant these pleasures are, they do not contribute as much to happiness and wellbeing as the enjoyment that comes from taking part in something more active and possibly demanding.

Achieving gratification

Having your desires satisfied can be fantastic, but there is something perverse about human nature. The ability to delay gratification – to work for something when you may not see the results for a long time – is likely to make people both more successful and more deeply satisfied with life. Just being indulged without having to work for it may seem terribly attractive but is rather like being a helpless child. For real happiness, it is important that we experience the pleasure of the moment but also that we strive for future gratification – often known as jam tomorrow!

The attitude to material possessions is one of the ways in which society has changed in just a generation or two. Parents and grandparents who lived through the Depression or the Second World War were used to a certain austerity; then their children ‘never had it so good’ but still had to work for all of life’s treats. Nowadays, the culture has become one of instant gratification. Credit has been extended to many people who cannot afford it but who have no tradition of working and saving until they can pay for what they want. You want a new car, couch, designer handbag or whatever? Have it now! The risk is that as our excitement and pleasure in the new item palls, we have to get something better – a bigger fix – next time. This is called the hedonic treadmill: the law of diminishing returns means that you have to work harder and harder to just achieve the same level of satisfaction, with the result that dissatisfaction is a more likely outcome.

Recognising positive traits

In an extremely ambitious project, Peterson and Seligman set out to describe and classify the human strengths and virtues that cause people to thrive. Six clear virtues emerged that seemed to be recognised and respected by every culture in the world:

check.png Wisdom and knowledge

check.png Courage

check.png Love (sometimes called Humanity)

check.png Justice

check.png Temperance

check.png Transcendence

Across the world, most people can recognise those characteristics that sum them up. Chapter 7 discusses these strengths in more detail.

It is critical that we recognise where our strengths lie and do everything in our power to use these strengths on a daily basis at work and in play. Life has often taught us all about our weaknesses – the things we are not very good at. We invest immense amounts of time, thought and angst in an attempt to shore up the worst of these weaknesses. If you want to find out exactly how to play to your strengths, turn to Chapter 4 to find out how to get into flow through using your strengths in much more constructive ways.

As ever, critics exist who are concerned that if we all knew our strengths and focused on them then we may not confront our weaknesses. This is not the case at all. The only way you can overcome problems of any sort is by applying your strengths more effectively.

Building positive relationships

Good relationships with family, friends and colleagues are a critical part of a healthy and happy life. Relationships and networks immunise against depression and loneliness and contribute to wellbeing. That may look obvious, and yet so often people allow relationships to falter. You move away, become busy at work or irritated by people’s ways, and as a result can become isolated. If too many of your relationships fall into the negative, it may be time to make changes. You will find that positive psychology talks about forming good and lasting relationships and as a result support systems that can protect you through life. Chapters 11–13 focus on the different sorts of relationships in your life.

Constructing positive institutions

‘The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.’

Jeremy Bentham 1748–1832

A lot of emphasis is put on our own individual responsibility for happiness and success. However, how do you achieve a positive society with all its possible benefits for the individual and the community as a whole? If everyone changes significantly in the way they live and interact then that may be enough to cause a tipping point and influence our institutions. Or, on the other hand, you could try to change those institutions from the inside in order to both influence and work for the benefit of all people. Chapters 7 and 8 cover positive thinking in organisations and institutions.

Local authorities

Lord Layard from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics (LSE) has shown that if people can control the circumstances that impact on their lives then they will experience greater wellbeing. In a project carried out in three very different local authorities – Manchester, Hertfordshire and South Tyneside – Lord Layard and his team looked at positive policies for the following:

check.png Emotional resilience in 11- to 13-year-olds

check.png The wellbeing of older people

check.png Guaranteed apprenticeships

check.png Neighbourhoods and community empowerment

check.png Parenting

The first report in June 2008 looks at neighbourhood and community empowerment and how local authorities can increase the wellbeing of their residents.

If people can take an active role in their community and change it for the better then they benefit. Rather than just aiming for the maximum happiness for individuals, it is possible to use positive psychology to achieve good for the community as well. Here are the most important suggestions in Lord Layard’s first report:

check.png Give opportunities for residents to shape decisions which affect their neighbourhood

check.png Encourage regular contact between neighbours

check.png Building the confidence that enables people to take more control in their neighbourhoods


‘The best days of your life’: that’s often what grown-ups tell despondent pupils, despite their own memories to the contrary, but it ought to be true. School days may be the time when you are stretched to the full extent of your abilities, your enquiring mind is given more and more opportunity to expand and develop, your sense of your own strengths is endorsed and encouraged, and you begin to understand that if you focus and you set your mind on something, you may well achieve it.

If you are saying ‘Yeah, right!’ in your head right now, it may be because that description certainly doesn’t sum up your educational experience. School may, in fact, have given you a very clear understanding of what you were not good at – that you ‘didn’t have a head for maths’ or ‘had no aptitude for tennis’ and that it would be amazing if you amounted to much at all. Much can accurately be said about lack of resources, over-extended timetables and excessive testing, which all put a lot of pressure on schools. In fact, many schools do an excellent job. However, there is often still an emphasis on the negative. All too often when dealing with successful adults their confidence is nowhere near as high as it should be. They live with a fear of being found out because they didn’t achieve some qualification in the past. This shows that early negativity has a powerful effect, because it often stays with people for a lifetime.

Averil facilitated a positive psychology project where she dealt with head teachers who were attempting to apply some of the positive psychology tenets. The head teachers found that before they could begin to impact on the children, they had to win over first the teachers and then the parents to focus on building children’s strengths and developing their optimism about their own abilities.

The workplace

We spend a great deal of our life at work. As with school days, work can contribute richly to your sense of self-worth and wellbeing, but often this is not the perception people hold of the world of work. People do better work when they are experiencing positive emotions, yet often the job is fraught with anxiety, uncertainty and self-doubt.

So, what is good business? In the annual awards for Best Companies to Work For, certain companies tend to come out on top. For instance, W L Gore, the manufacturer of fabrics and materials worn in a range of outdoor settings, is one of those companies that appears regularly. The company says:

‘We are successful because of the ability of our associates to grow, explore and learn in an environment of freedom and trust.’

According to research from leadership coaching firm White Water Strategies:

check.png Two-thirds of staff feel undervalued by not hearing the words ‘thank you’ enough from their employers.

check.png Only a quarter of employees believe they receive enough praise in the workplace, although 72 per cent of staff think it is important to be acknowledged for the work they do.

check.png Bosses in London thank their employees the most for a job well done (30 per cent).

check.png In Scotland, 39 per cent of staff feel they do not receive enough thanks.

check.png Overall, 72 per cent of staff feel it is important that senior staff thank them personally.

check.png A mere 3 per cent of employees do not feel it is important to say thank you.

It’s not a question of just being nice: saying ‘thank you’ fundamentally affects the bottom line. Staff are primarily motivated by two key areas: financial reward and a happy working environment. This analysis showed that acknowledging staff achievements properly has the equivalent perceived value of a 1 per cent pay rise. Looking at current employment figures, that translates to a £5.2 billion saving for UK business!

People will flourish in a positive environment at work – where they feel they will be recognised for the good work they do, respected for their strengths, and given the opportunity to develop. These are just a few of the factors that lead to good business. If this is of particular interest to you, make sure that you look at Chapters 13 and 14 for more insights.

Making It Worth Your While

You may be asking yourself a few questions right now, such as:

check.png Well, that’s all very nice, but what’s in it for me?

check.png Why should I bother?

check.png Isn’t it a bit selfish to want to be happy and flourishing?

check.png How much effort do I have to make?

check.png What are the likely returns on all my hard work?

You should be very interested in how all this applies to you and those around you, because the benefits are extraordinary and make your input worthwhile. Although you may start by thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’, it’s worth contemplating what will also lead to a good family life, a positive working environment and a good and thriving community.

Benefiting from positivity

Positive psychology works. Just some of the ways in which your life can be improved include:

check.png Having more positive than negative feelings on a daily basis

check.png Finding contentment in the way you live your life

check.png Recognising that you have strengths, and understanding how you can use them better

check.png Giving yourself the best chance of good health and wellbeing

check.png Building resilience throughout life

check.png Being able to become fully engaged with activities

check.png Developing a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life

check.png Giving something back to the wider community

If anything on this list appeals, read on and, most importantly, give it a go!

If you want to make sure that you really want to read on, check whether any of the following are important to you.

Looking for health

Optimists have a better chance of good health. Studies have shown that in the face of life-threatening diseases, optimists show symptoms later and have a longer life expectancy than the more pessimistic. Much of this is explained by the effect of positive attitude on behaviour. Optimists are likely to have a go at some of the suggested treatment approaches, while pessimists may give up or think there is no point even trying. More positive people tend to have better developed social networks that will help them get through the most difficult phases of the illness and the treatment. There may even be a direct physiological connection slowing down the advance of disease, but this is yet to be scientifically proved. See what Chapter 9 can do for your health.

Living a life worth living

This is not about self-indulgence – about being happy at the expense of others. It is about building a life that is flourishing, where you are growing on a daily basis, developing a range of powerful and productive relationships, impacting on individuals, communities and organisations.

Taking the next step

Whatever your original interest in positive psychology, there are many useful concepts and lessons to be found throughout this book. Dip in wherever you like to find out what positive psychology has to say about finding the best things in life – happiness and fulfilment.