Thriving in Life With Positive Psychology

March 1, 2024

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by Kim Childs, CPPC

It seems the changes that began with the pandemic keep coming as we move into spring during a year filled with its own changes and challenges. No matter what is happening around us, we can work to cultivate internal states that optimize our chances for achieving greater peace, resilience, happiness and success in life. Positive psychology, the so-called “science of happiness” that was established in the late 90s by Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubormirski, Barbara Frederickson and others, offers research-based practices and concepts to move past surviving and actually thrive in life. Many focus on using what’s known as Appreciative Inquiry to shine a light on what is strong in us and our lives, even when other things feel painful, lacking, uncertain, or difficult. Here are some to try:

Look for the Good
At night, asking “What went well today, and why?” involves recalling three positive events from the day and identifying how our own choices, actions, and perhaps other conditions created those outcomes, aiming to repeat what works later on.

In the morning or evening, identifying three things we’re grateful for helps to flip the internal script from complaining to appreciating. Adding “Why?” and keeping the list fresh embeds the attitude of gratitude, according to researcher Robert Emmons.

Begin the day by asking “What am I looking forward to today? How do I want to feel in that experience, and how can I support that outcome?” to practice what Seligman calls prospection. While we can’t guarantee things will go as desired, this exercise primes us for good by rehearsing that outcome and identifying ways to bring it about.

Focus on Solutions and the Potential “Good” in the “Bad”
While it’s human nature to entertain worst-case scenarios when worried, choosing to then imagine the best-case scenario and desired solutions to problems broadens our perspective and taps into our imagination and creativity, leading to more effective actions.

Hardships and loss are built into life and, while not everything seemingly happens for the best, the practice of benefit finding helps people make the best of challenges by looking for the growth, gains, lessons and gifts in them. This is only after we’ve let our natural emotions flow, of course.

Appreciate Strengths and Acknowledge Imperfections
The free strengths assessment offered by the field of positive psychology is found at the VIA Institute on Character ( Once we know our top strengths, we can honor and implement them in our work and life for the greatest personal fulfillment and satisfaction. Asking each morning “How can I use one of my strengths to make this day better?” directs us to our internal resources, especially when facing a problem.

Understanding that we are imperfectly human works in progress—here to learn and evolve in this lifetime—can help to cultivate self-compassion. This motivates us to improve, notes researchers like Kristin Neff, whereas self-criticism and shame can keep us stuck.

Find the Fun
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, advocates so-called Artist Dates for anyone seeking to live a more self-directed, colorful life. They can be as simple as a visit to the ocean and as grand as a night at the opera, and many things in between. The idea is to pick something that sounds delightful or intriguing to you, go on your own to have a mostly personal experience, and soak up the fun or fascination as deeply as you can.

Kim Childs, CPPC, is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, and life transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule an initial consultation. This article originally appeared in the March 2024 edition of Natural Awakenings Greater Boston/Rhode Island.

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