July 6, 2010

Positive Psychology Activity 3: Elevator Ride (“Goin’ Up!” and “Down Please!”)

Effective self-control is one of the two most important keys to success in many areas of life (intelligence is the other), and failed self-control may lead to forms of behaving badly (criticism, defensiveness, etc.) or more serious forms of disturbance: anxiety, anger, and depression; verbal or physical violence; substance abuse and addiction; masochism; eating disorders; etc.

Strong research supports that self-regulation operates as a limited resource, (akin to strength or energy) and can be depleted when you are stressed by too many challenges and stressors in your day. This leaves a person vulnerable to impulsive and undercontrolled behaviors (too much eating, drinking, yelling, spending, etc.). Cognitive and physical rest, and enhancement of positive emotions can restore these resources, which are also used for decision-making and active responding. This week, think of the things you do (or create new ones) that lift your mood, slow down your thinking, and relax your body. Practice one technique in each of the following categories:

  1. Goin’ Up: Strategies for lifting your mood/ increasing positive emotions (i.e., exercise, socializing, humor, reading, helping others).
  2. Down Please: Strategies for stopping or slowing your thought processes and physiological arousal as much as possible (i.e., meditation, prayer, counting the breath, hand/foot warming, yoga, imagery, massage).

Use these strategies at times when you are more vulnerable to negative emotions, negative thinking, problem behaviors, physical problems (pain, etc.), or negative circumstances.

(For other activities related to Life Satisfaction see Activity One: Gratitude and Activity Two: Savoring)