happiness

Photo of crocus in garden


Are you flourishing?

What does it mean to flourish? Dictionary.com defines flourishing as growing vigorously and thriving. The origin of the word flourish dates back to 1250-1300 from the Middle English florisshen, and Middle French floriss meaning long stem, the Latin florere, to bloom, which is a derivative of the word flos, meaning flower.

In order for a flower to bloom, it needs a favorable environment in which to grow. This is also true for any human, animal, or other living organism.

Are you flourishing in your life? Are you experiencing good health, happiness, and success? Do you have what you need to really thrive?

Just as plants, animals and other living things need nourishment to support their growth, humans also need nourishment and the exposure to the right types of environments to support their continued growth.

As adults with dyslexia and other types of learning issues, it helps if we are aware of the areas in our emotional lives in which we are feeling depleted, those areas which need to be recharged.

Our past struggles in school, work and life may have sapped us of our energy, and in turn, influenced the way we currently see ourselves in the world. The negative experiences of the past may affect our present level of self-esteem, our motivation, and our desire to keep moving forward. Negative self-talk narrows our view of what is possible for us in our lives, and it keeps us stuck. Some individuals choose to give up before they’ve even gotten started.

Nourishment is not just about food and nutrition for our bodies. It's not just food that we need to survive and thrive. Psychological and spiritual nourishment are equally important for our continued health, growth, personal well-being, and happiness.

Making the shift – The Importance of Self-Exploration, Small Changes, and Positive Connection

How can we begin to make some changes in our environments and in ourselves to encourage our positive growth?

First, It’s important to know where you are at in your journey, before you decide where you would like to go next. Taking the time to get in touch with yourself, your emotions, and your current situation will help you to decide what you want out of your life, and also help you to evaluate what changes you may need to make along the way as you travel.

Are you experiencing unhappiness in work, school or relationships? Are you feeling out of sync? Are you unable to reach your full potential? Is something missing? Have you been isolating and keeping things inside? If you could change one aspect of your environment which you feel is inhibiting your ability to flourish, what would this be? Would this change be situational or would this be one that needs to occur inside of you?

If you are dissatisfied with an area of your life, whether it be at work, at school or at home, consider making some small changes and mind shifts to disrupt your status quo. One way you can improve your satisfaction is by being open to, and seeking out others in work or school environments who seem to be supportive, interested in, and understanding of you.

If you feel that you can trust other people, you are more likely to make a connection with them.

If you have disclosed your dyslexia or other learning disability to co-workers or to your employer, take some time to reach out to them to strengthen your connection so they can get to know you better.

If you are in college, reach out to classmates, and consider joining activities and clubs to meet others. If you feel comfortable sharing about your dyslexia, then do so. If you’ve declared your disability to the college Office of Disability service, consider asking how you might start your own campus dyslexia/LD group at your university as a way to meet others, to give and get support and make positive connections.

If you follow social media, there are a number of groups for dyslexic adults and others with LD on Facebook in which you can find understanding and support. Some are closed groups and others are public pages like the Headstrong Nation Facebook Page . These online pages and forums are generally dyslexia/ LD friendly, inclusive places where differences are embraced and whose members are supportive. Typing “Dyslexia” into a Facebook search will yield a number of results to choose from.

Are you in a job that you once enjoyed but the enthusiasm for it has waned? Are you feeling stuck and unable to switch careers? Do you want things to be better for you on a daily basis? Do you desire more variety in your work? Do you feel valued? If you don’t speak up, no one will know what you need.

If your employer seems approachable, request a meeting to discuss whether you could branch out in your current position in a way that takes advantage of your specific skill-sets and passions. You might also ask your employer if he would be open to providing you with some additional training, specific software or productivity tools which may help you to be more efficient and less stressed in the workplace. Asking your HR manager at work about the ability to obtain productivity tools may help too.

Are you able to clearly articulate the skills and values that you bring to your job? What are you proud of? What are your signature strengths? Those who are doing what they love and getting compensated for it are very fortunate. Making small changes and adopting a “Take this job and love it” attitude may help you to get through some rough days in the workplace and may also help you to view your job through a new lens. If you cannot find any positives in your work environment and you wake up each morning dreading your job, perhaps it’s time to consider why you continue to stay and what might be preventing you from moving on"

How is your life outside of work or school? What do you look forward to in your off time? Do you have any hobbies or leisure pursuits you enjoy? Do you have support from family and friends?

Do you have any goals for the future? Would you describe yourself as generally happy?

In the Happyologist Happiness blog by Suzanne Halonen, Halonen lists three ways that an individual can flourish, based on research from The Happiness Institute -

"Top 3 ways to flourish in life:

  • Be yourself. Accept who you are and be proud of it. You’re at your best when you are yourself. There’s always ways for you to improve yourself and be the “best you” you can be. But it’s got to start with accepting who you are and understanding what’s important to you.

  • Believe in yourself. You can do it if you choose to believe in yourself. You have all the power you need to achieve whatever you want in life. It’s going to be a bumpy road but that’s a part of the fun. Go for it.

  • Choose to be happy. Yes, you can choose. You are in control of your own happiness so choose to act on it. Cherish each moment of joy as it comes along. And you can always look at identifying the good parts of unhappy moments. Though challenging, they all have them hidden in there somewhere."

Positive Psychology and Flourishing

Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson is an author, and researcher in the area of Positive Psychology, who developed a theory on positive emotions entitled the Broaden and Build Theory. Fredrickson’s research involves the study of positive emotions and how the practical application of Positive Psychology can help individuals live full and meaningful lives. By increasing the amount of positive moments in one’s life, the individual can begin to create an optimal emotional environment for continued growth and happiness.

Frederickson and her team at the Pep Lab study the effects of positive emotions on individuals’ thoughts, behaviors and physiological well-being. One of the goals of her ongoing research is to understand how positive emotions may accumulate or broaden in individuals and subsequently build to change their lives for the better.

Negative emotions narrow our focus and cause our minds to be fixed which prevents our ability to be open to new experiences, ideas, and people. They stunt our growth.

Positive emotions help us to be more open to new experiences, ideas and people, and to what is possible for us. They help us to flourish.

In Fredrickson’s Coursera course Positive Psychology – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frederickson uses the imagery of the Water Lily to explain her theories. “Just as Water Lilies retract when sunlight fades, so do our minds when positivity fades.”

She uses another analogy on how plants flourish to describe what we humans also need in our lives to flourish. Like sunlight, positive emotions are beneficial to us. Plants need sunlight, as it is necessary for them to live. Plants know this and therefore turn towards the light so that they may soak up all they can. This is called the heliotropic effect. Frederickson believes that humans have a similar heliotropic effect where positive emotions represent the “sunlight” which is crucial for the life and ultimate survival of humans.

According to Fredrickson, it takes three positive emotional experiences to cancel out a negative one. These positive experiences don’t need to be “over the top” ones, as different degrees and types of positive emotional experiences may serve to build our positivity resources.

If you are an adult with dyslexia and LD who has experienced great negativity and setbacks throughout your life, you may be operating at a deficit, with your positive resources depleted. Consider reflecting on how you perceive life in general, and how you react to the environment and others around you. Are you able to see the positive in situations, to let yourself relax and experience periods of joy in an otherwise hectic day? How connected are you to others? In what ways can you begin to broaden and build these “micro-moments” of positivity resonance into your daily life? Barbara Fredrickson’s course can help you to discover the value of connection in relationships, of being other-focused, and how applying the principals of positive psychology on a daily basis can make a difference in your ability to flourish.

Positive Psychology concentrates on what is possible for us. It helps us to focus on our strengths and our ability to experience happiness and growth through positive connection with others. It encourages us to engage with and stay open to those micro-moments of positivity in our daily lives, so that we may become the best versions of ourselves.

Stay open, and reach toward the sun! Go ahead, flourish!

To read more on the value of positive emotions, read Dr. Fredrickson’s article HERE, visit the PEP lab website Here, or consider enrolling in her Coursera video course, HERE. Enrollment for this session ends on March 19, 2016.

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Headstrong Founder Ben Foss recently spoke at a TEDx talk in Sonoma about shame and what we can do to put it down. Watch and learn how to end isolation, use your strengths, and help others.

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