At a recent work conference, I found myself in an awkward situation.
‘Close your eyes and smell it. Place it in your mouth and roll it around…’
No, my career is not going down the path you think. I was in a positive psychology session, savouring my malteser.
The session was run by Karen Marangio from Monash University in Melbourne and Kerri Morey, a psychology teacher from Brauer College. It was aimed at psychology teachers of 12–16 year old students. The presenters discussed the rise of positive psychology in schools and in wider society over the last 15 years or so.
Positive psychology is about creating and relishing the happy moments in our everyday lives and one of its main pioneers is Martin Seligman – he explains the concept succinctly in this video.
Kerri talked about using positive psychology activities in class to refocus her students and improve concentration and enthusiasm – she called them ‘brain breaks’.
Why every trainer or workplace doesn’t use this strategy, I don’t know. Not only do we lose concentration in our day-to-day work, but longgg meetings and full day training courses are perfect opportunities to recharge.
As mentioned, one of the simpler activities we completed was to each take a Malteser and spend up to three minutes savouring it – the glossiness, the smell, the feel in our hand, the taste. It was great to reset the brain during a long conference, while also bringing up feelings of gratitude and activating our senses.
Other simple brain breaks might include :
• the ol’ tap your head and rub your stomach trick
• doodle time on a blank sheet of paper
• a quick game of noughts and crosses.
Basically anything that sends your brain away from your work completely.
8 tips for a more satisfying life
We also discussed some of the strategies students at Kerri’s school are using to try and create a more satisfying life. Developed by Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, there are eight steps they are implementing:
• Keeping a gratitude journal
• Practising acts of kindness
• Practising mindfulness
• Thanking a mentor
• Learning to forgive
• Spending time with people you love
• Taking care of your brain and body
• Developing strategies for managing stress
Psychology wasn't even offered at my high school, and I think these strategies are so important and could be really beneficial in both schools and workplaces today.
Are there workplaces out there employing any of these strategies? Let me know if you work for one or have heard of any.
Martin Seligman also gathers and compares happiness data via his questionnaires. You have to sign up but it’s worth adding to this important study here.