Positive Psychology, be happy
September 2014



This is a relatively new modality that I use and it is becoming more popular as people respond well to the associated interventions. The interventions include aspects of cognitive behavioural therapy, life style, plus calming techniques. The emphasis is on achieving self efficacy and resilience in daily life. A positive outlook on life, with adequate outlet for negative feelings, is known to promote health and well being. People who practice the behaviours listed below have been shown to live longer.

Sonja Lyubomirsky has researched happiness for more than 20 years and has written a book summarising her research and the techniques that will help to attain a happy state. Her book is called "The How of Happiness: A new Approach to Getting the Life You Want". She hypothesises that 40% of our ability to be happy is under our personal control with respect to what we do and think, whereas genetic predisposition contributes about 50%, and environment contributes about 10%.


The 12 steps to happiness her research has highlighted are:

  1. Practice gratitude Put three items in a gratitude journal once a week. More often is not as effective.

  2. Practice optimism Look on the bright side. See your ideal future and write it down as if it is happening now.

  3. Have downtime Don't over think, distract yourself, read a book, relax, don't compare yourself to others.

  4. Practice acts of kindness Be kind, even to strangers, whenever you can. Ideally one big act of kindness a week.

  5. Nurture social relationships Make sure you spend time with people who are important to you each week

  6. Cope with tragedies Write about it for 15 minutes to make sense of it, find ways to stop intrusive thoughts about it.

  7. Practice forgiveness Be willing to let go. See things from the other person's point of view.

  8. Increase living in the present Use mindfulness and/or meditation to stop living in the past or future. Find an absorbing activity.

  9. Savour life's joys Enjoy everything, especially the simple things like a walk, a bath, music. Laugh often.

10. Have meaningful goals Break them down into manageable short term goals. Put effort and passion into them.

11. Be spiritual Attend regular meetings and/or read inspiring literature.

12. Be physical Ideally 30 minutes a day of physical activity. Three a week should be vigorous exercise.


The Alcohol Anonymous saying of "Fake it until you make it" applies to happiness. If you act happy, you will become happy. Renowned psychologist Hans Selye said that the best antidote to a negative thought is to replace it with a positive one. Darwin determined that it is not the strongest or smartest that survive, but rather those that can adapt to change.


Fran Lowe, PhD

Registered Psychologist

Bill Hercock St Pirimai Phone: 021 055 4897