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By: Sohana Farhin/SHEC

An experiment conducted at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the single biggest contribution to leading a happy life is showing gratitude to yourself and others in life. Being present in your experiences, taking in all the moments and pausing to show thanks is a significant factor in what makes life worth living. Keeping a gratitude journal to write down what you are thankful for each day is one of the ways in which you can show what you appreciate in life. This finding reflects many of the principles of positive psychology, which is a way of controlling your outlooks, perspectives, reactions and expectations in order to achieve happiness.

Buddhism has greatly inspired the field of positive psychology in western countries, including Canada. Central to Buddhism and positive psychology is the Eightfold Path, also referred to as the Middle Way or the Middle Path. It is an approach that proposes that nothing should be deprived, or taken in excess, but rather that we should strive to maintain a middle ground. Maintaining this “golden mean” is said to be the root of all happiness.

The Eightfold Path consists of eight interconnected “right” elements: view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and contemplation. Right view is a way of seeing things for what they are, and not for what you hope they would be. With right intention, one consciously attempts to get rid of negative qualities. Similarly, by working towards abandoning hurtful thoughts and habits, one is embracing the pillar of right effort. Right speech and action refer to speaking the truth with compassion and engaging in respectful actions while refraining from harmful actions, respectively. Engaging in a career that is virtuous reflects the principle of right livelihood. Right mindfulness is a mental state of presence and awareness of your body and environment. Complementarily, right contemplation is being able to fully concentrate your attention towards something. Much research supports many of these elements as integral to health and happiness. For example, a recent study from Harvard found that relaxation-response techniques, such as meditation reduced the need for health care services by 43%. We can employ elements of the Eightfold Path to live life with a positive attitude.

As we grow weary of winter, let’s do our best to remain positive and keep the hearts of others and ourselves warm during this cold month of February. Certainly we can take a tip or two from the field of positive psychology to practice positivity in our daily lives.

Photo Credit: Burnjo

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