It was an honor to lecture on How to Increase Happiness with Positive Psychology Tools at the paramedic school in Israel. I was grateful for the opportunity to share scientific studies and practical tools to help first responders be happier and healthier.
After defining happiness and positive psychology, we discussed the importance of being happy. Extensive research by Sonja Lyubomirsky demonstrates that “happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health.” Research shows that the relationship between success and happiness is reciprocal – happiness leads to success and success contributes to happiness. According to Tal Ben-Shahar, “happy people have better relationships, are more likely to thrive at work, and also live better and longer.”
We also discussed studies by Martin Seligman and others indicating that positive mental health and optimism influence physical health. Did you know that optimism is robustly associated with cardiovascular health, pessimism with cardiovascular risk? Positive mood is associated with protection from colds and flu, and highly optimistic people may have a lower risk for developing cancer? Seligman demonstrates that “healthy people who have good psychological well-being are at less risk for death from all causes.”
Perhaps the most critical step in creating lasting change is understanding why it’s important. After the paramedic students were fully onboard with their whys, we were ready to dive into the research and applications of 10 tools to increase happiness:
- Happiness boosters
- Gratitude jars
- What went well?
- Celebrating success
- Using strengths
- Physical activity
- Self-care and recovery
With much of their work being carried out in teams, we touched on how to incorporate some of the tools into groups or even family life.
Of course, my goal wasn’t only to share research and information. It was to equip the soon-to-be paramedics with practical tools to start using almost immediately to help them increase their happiness. The best way to make sure one follows through with a new activity or tool is to create a routine – to schedule it and make it a habit. Research shows that stating an intention may be a good start, but scheduling time for execution will lead to better fulfillment. With that in mind, we looked at a sample routine and discussed how they could schedule at least one tool in the coming days.
I was humbled to see the feedback about the lecture – ranging from “very good” to “magnificent!” More importantly, I hope the experience makes a difference in their lives.