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Deepening our enjoyment & appreciation of life

A sense of meaning, connection to our values and real engagement in what we do are crucial to nourish high wellbeing in our lives … and then high wellbeing feeds back to help us be more vital & effective in what we do.  But it’s important too to ‘smell the flowers’ on our journey.  Excessive focus on being happy is likely to be counter-productive but being too ‘puritanical’ tends to shoot ourselves in the foot as well.  The fascinating work of Barbara Fredrickson on the 'broaden & build’ function of positive/pleasurable emotions illustrates the way that deepening our enjoyment & appreciation of life doesn’t just balance energy & effectiveness, it actually boosts these qualities.  A high emotional positivity ratiogives us wings!  Fred Bryant's excellent research on ‘savoring’ (savouring to us Brits) enlarges on this positive focus (see the diagram) below – with its helpful highlighting of the value of savouring past memories, current experience & future possibilities.  Finally it’s worth underlining that, as a general rule, deeper enjoyment is likely to involve sensing & feeling more than thinking.  To swim deeper into positive emotions it’s often good to ‘lose our heads & come to our senses’.     


And here are a set of suggestions you can explore to deepen enjoyment & appreciation of life.  If they also respond to our key Self-Determination needs for Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness & Beneficence that's even better.  Do select one or more ideas that appeal to you … or come up with your own initiatives … and try them out.  See what works for you.  Have fun.  This is genuinely an opportunity to ‘Enjoy!’.  

arts, film, theatre, writing & more:  1.)  Look out & visit art exhibitions.  2.)  Draw or paint ... maybe go to a class.  3.)  Go to the cinema.  Download & watch classic films.  Join a group that goes to see films together & then talks about them afterwards.  4.)  Youtube?  Vimeo?  5.)  Remember too theatre, opera, concerts and more.  6.)  Read a book ... maybe even search for, join or start a book group.  7.)  Explore writing ... look for or start a writers' group.  8.)  And how about poetry?  Learn a poem.  Write a poem.  

curiosity & learning:  Curiosity & interest are some of the commonest positive emotions that we experience (Linley 2016) ... and curiosity is strongly associated with greater wellbeing (Harzer 2016).  1.)  Do you have interests, hobbies, skills, knowledge that you would like to learn more about?  Great!  Get exploring.  The internet, for example, can be a wonderful resource here.  2.)  How about a MOOC (massive online learning course)?  Or maybe the Open University?  3.)  How about looking out an evening class put on by a local council or university?  4.)  Learn a language.  There are many online resources & downloadable apps.  Maybe try something like a Yakety Yak language cafe or take a course.  5.)  Learn a new DIY skill or start a project.  Again there are courses, books and online learning options.  6.)  How about crafts?  Calligraphy, knitting, jewellery, cooking ... there's so much to explore.  7.)  What about local societies and other groups?  Search online.  Maybe a Meet.up group?  What are you curious about?  8.)  How about going exploring?  Where do your local bus routes end up?  Which is your favourite local park?  Where do your area's cycle routes go to?  Find out about local history ...    

exercise & sport:  The 2018 paper "Get active? A meta-analysis of leisure-time physical activity and subjective well-being" clearly demonstrates the association between leisure time physical activity and both positive emotions & life satisfaction ... and the great longitudinal study reported in "A theory of life satisfaction dynamics: stability, change and volatility in 25-year life trajectories in Germany" shows how choosing to exercise more links to subsequent increased life satisfaction.  And it's not just 'formal exercise', but also being generally more active that boosts wellbeing, so smart phone data from over 10,000 participants demonstrated that " Individuals who are more physically active are happier. Further, individuals are happier in the moments when they are more physically active."   How can you use this information to boost your own wellbeing?  Clubs ... (walking) football ... viewing sport ... outdoor activities ... Glenmore Lodge ... walking/climbing/canoeing/etc groups ...

food & drink:  Savouring ... the raisin or chocolate or glass of wine (!) experiment ... cooking ... cafes & restaurants ... mindful chef etc ... local markets ... new recipes ... invite people round ...

kindness, generosity & gratitude:  Such a powerful producer of positive emotions ... 'the love you take ... ' ... volunteering ... gaining sponsorship ... random acts of kindness ... gratitude letters ... postcards (snailmail/online) ...

music, song & dance: 1.)  Singing in groups promotes social connection, endorphin release & happiness – what’s not to like (Weinstein 2016Coulton 2015).  2.)  How about learning a new song to sing or play – better still, practise it with other people.  3.)  Music seems particularly powerful for managing/regulating moods – try putting together playlists that aim to deliberately enhance particular emotional states – for example, energy, contentment, zest, happiness (Lonsdale 2011).  4.)  Sing more often – bicycling, in the shower, driving, regularly.  5.)  Dance more often – home alone, with a partner, in a group.  Dance too releases endorphins & bonds us (Tarr 2015).  6.)  Join a dance class – exercise, music, company, wonderful!  7.)  Concerts?  Dance productions?  8.)  And as Gertrude Stein put it “To dance is to move around to move around is to dance.”

nature:  Nature can be such a source of joy, wonder, pleasure, peacefulness & other welcomed emotions.  1.) Exploring natural environments is so often good for us psychologically (Richardson 2016; Capaldi 2015).  2.)  One can amplify this experience by deliberately being more mindful, for example by using coming-to-our-senses mindful walking.  3.)  Interestingly, photography may promote increased appreciation too (Passmore 2017; Chen 2016).  4.)  Natural environments can amplify the psychological benefits of exercise (Brymer 2014) and 5.)  This can apply as well to sufferers from clinical depression (Berman 2012).  6.)  Consider deliberately learning more about the environment – look up or use phone apps for identifying trees, flowers, birds, cloud formations, stars.  7.)  Go on courses to learn more.  8.)  Garden!  As has been said “Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes”.

people:  1.)  Self-determination theory highlights that responding to our key needs for Relatedness Beneficence is crucial for high levels of wellbeing.  2.)  Having fun with others is typically more enjoyable than having fun on our own (Reis 2017).  3.)  ... and the same boost in enjoyment when done in company applies to engagement & flow activities too (Walker 2010).  4.)  Interestingly, although social media use can be associated with increased depression (Kross 2013), using image-based media with a high visual content (e.g. Instagram, Snapshot) is associated with greater happiness boosts than relying more on words (e.g Twitter) (Pittman 2016) ... and a recent major review (Verduyn 2017suggests that active use of social media is associated with increased wellbeing, while passive use links with decreases.  5.)  Try to be more emotionally expressive.  A recent important review (Cameron 2017reported "when individuals were more emotionally expressive during daily interactions, they experienced interpersonal benefits such as greater acceptance from others, greater relatedness and relationship satisfaction, and less distancing by others. Greater emotional expression in daily life also predicted increases in self-esteem and relationship satisfaction across time."  6.)  

Humour ... phoning/skyping/facetime/etc ... online/social media ... active much better than passive ... using pictures not just words ... 

sex:  Sex may at times lead to exploitation & suffering, but it can frequently be a source of great enjoyment, intimacy & pleasure.  1.)  Our old friend the ‘growth mindset’ applies to sex too – if we want to receive & give more pleasure in sex, then learn, explore, put effort into it! (Maxwell 2017).  Find out about your partner’s preferences & share your own – see this questionnaire2.)  And another old friend, mindfulness, can help a lot here too – to increase sensory awareness and sexual & relationship satisfaction (Khaddouma 2014; Brotto 2014) even in solitary ‘practice’!  3.)  It makes good sense to learn more about sex, for example see Guide to getting it on: unzipped’.  4.)  Couples typically have better sex lives if they have sex for ‘approach goals’ (enhancing intimacy and giving & receiving pleasure) than for ‘avoidance’ goals (not disappointing one’s partner) (Muise 2013).  5.)  Altruists have more sex (Arnocky 2017), so 6.)  Men – it boosts both your own & your partner’s sexual satisfaction if you’re doing a fair share of the housework (Johnson 2015).  7.)  Sometimes having more frequent sex can considerably increase overall happiness, probably particularly by enhancing couple affection (Debrot 2017).  8.)  Duration (and quality) of post-sex affectionate interaction strongly affects both sexual and relationship satisfaction – guys take note (Muise 2014).   

More to come ... !



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