“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
There has been a great deal of research the past several years on positive psychology, well-being and happiness. It is probably one of my favorite topics to discuss, read about, and sure enough, now write a blog post about. This is likely because it makes me happy. Also, I have personally gotten a great deal out of the practices that increase my very own thriving.
Dr. Martin Seligman is known as the father of positive psychology and his body of work on the subject is impactful and fascinating. The main idea behind positive psychology is to look at how people thrive versus just attempting to avoid suffering. For example, walking in the park sounds a lot more fun than just trying to avoid getting hit by a bus on the way to the park. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to avoid the bus or that would make the trip to the park pretty pointless, but I digress.
These positive researchers – I suppose I should say researchers of well-being, I have no idea if they are positive themselves, but I’m pretty sure they are – have identified some key exercises that can build our “positivity muscle”, if you will, and there is one in particular that I find most interesting and fun: the practice of capitalization.
Capitalization means responding positively and with great interest someone shares their good news with you and also being willing to share your good news with those close to you. This seems like something a naturally happy, confident and sane person would do, right? Researcher Dr. Shelly Gable has not only found this to be the case but has also identified that this is a key practice that supports thriving relationships.
When looking at the naturally occurring processes that happy people demonstrate, scientists discovered that happy people instinctively capitalize on any positive event that a person shares with them by responding positively. Fascinating! But is this the cause of their happiness or a byproduct of already being happy? And is that all I have to do to be happy? Shout my good news from the rooftops? What if I don’t have a rooftop? Is that a problem? No, it isn’t. All you need is some really simple good news and a friend or two that has some to share.
Scientists found that capitalization actually does cause happiness. Capitalizing amplifies the pleasure of the good event and creates an upward spiral of good feelings.
Here’s how to practice the skills of capitalization and in doing so, increase your own happiness and well-being:
1. Ask someone to share some good news that has happened to him or her with you or to share something they are excited about. Yes, they may think you are weird at first.
2. Ask them more questions about the event, what makes them the most happy about it and how they felt during that moment. (This is called active-constructive responding, if you’re interested in knowing the official term.)
3. After they have shared all their good news, thank them for sharing it.
4. Then, ask them if they would be interested in hearing any good news that you have to share.
5. Establish this as a regular practice with another person, a significant other and with your teams at work. You can even start meetings off like this. Yeah, actual meetings.
It’s that easy to have a powerful impact on your relationships and teams. Now, grab your friends, share the great news you’ve just discovered and show them how to capitalize on it!
What good news do you have to share today? I would love to hear it! Be sure to post your comments so I can capitalize on your good news!
The Leadership Weekly
Weekly wisdom from the DS Leadership Life team.