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Seven Steps to Flourishing: Plant the Seeds to Be Happier This Spring

07/04/2014 14:21 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 10:59 BST

As the winter blues and grey rainy days subside and we step towards the promise of blue skies and sunshine, it's the perfect opportunity to shake off the gloom and instead bloom with positivity. How? By taking steps towards living a flourishing life and making the most of every single moment - rain or shine.

Positive psychology has only been around for a decade. Before that, psychologists focused on alleviating human suffering, whereas positive psychology focuses on developing human flourishing. Instead of asking "what is wrong with you?", positive psychology asks "what is right with you?" Living a flourishing life is one in which you focus on what is right rather than what is wrong; on what you have rather than what you lack; a life where you engage in activities during which you lose track of time; surround yourself with supportive loved ones; pursue a meaningful purpose, achieve your goals and, crucially, enjoy the journey.

Here are 7 steps to flourishing this Spring

STEP 1 - MAXIMISING POSITIVE EMOTION

According to Barbara Fredrickson in her book, Positivity, it has been scientifically proven that the accumulation of positive reactions over time helps to bolster our resilience. So what better way to shake off winter and step into Spring than by filling our positivity reserves and equipping ourselves with positivity switches and levers.

  • Devote 20 minutes at the end of each weekend to the act of reminiscing by looking through photos or videos on your hard-drive. By first anticipating a happy event, savouring and enjoying it while it happens, then revisiting that happy moment, we amplify it and get more from our magical moments.

  • Go on regular gratitude walks, create a list of positivity switches to think about and focus your attention on when you're feeling down (such as looking at a photo of your child, stroking your dog, taking a hot shower, and so on).

STEP 2 - MINIMISING NEGATIVE EMOTION

Living a flourishing life doesn't mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us again. It will. It does. It's how we react and respond to that fan-hitting stuff that matters.

  • Declutter your external environment and your internal mind. Create a conducive environment in which to plant your seeds of possibility, restore your mental energy and save time by devoting time each week to decluttering an area of your home and being able to find everything. Declutter your mind by letting go of the past. Stop projecting past experiences onto new possibilities and opportunities. Don't assume history will repeat itself. Be open and receptive to ALL possibilities and experience things a new.

  • Switch off from the constant flow of negative news and media messages of misery. Stop watching or reading the news or violent or upsetting programmes. While anger can be productive if watching a documentary makes you launch a campaign to raise awareness about something you feel passionately about which makes a difference, but most miserable media leaves a nasty sense of negativity in our minds and doesn't serve us or anyone else. Replace miserable media with feel-good laughter inducing positive stuff - comedies, inspirational TED talks and so on.

STEP 3 - GOOD HEALTH

While you're on this journey it's critical to take good care of yourself so that you have enough energy to continue on.

  • Try out a few different exercises. Devote a month to trying out different activities, from group classes like Zumba, circuits or Bodyjam or team games such as netball to interval training work out dvds. Exercise doesn't mean going to to gym. Mix it up a bit and source exercise you enjoy.

STEP 4 - PURPOSE

Having a purpose strengthens your resolve to persist during tough times; it fills you with determination and bolsters your confidence. It is far easier to have the courage of your convictions if those convictions are woven into an overarching purpose.

  • Find your cause and identify your values. What matters most to you? What causes do you care about? What makes you cross? If you had a magic wand - what would you change in society? The glass ceiling? Fat cat bosses? Injustices? Untapped potential? Poverty? Taboos?

  • Define your purpose. If you knew absolutely that you couldn't fail, what would you aim to change or make happen in the world based on what matters most to you? What's your ultimate mission in life?

STEP 5 - RELATIONSHIPS

  • List three people who, after seeing or talking to them, leave you with a warm and happy feeling. These are your 'positive peeps'. Buy or make a bunch of cards and handwrite a message in each to those on your list who you are glad to have in your life. Tell them that and tell them why. Send them a card to thank them for no reason, just let them know you are grateful for their existence in your life.

STEP 6 - ACTION

  • Set reachable goals by using intention and reward. When you write down your goals, write down your chosen reward on achievement as an added incentive. Then consider the 'why' behind your goal. What's your emotional trigger? For example, an athlete's goals isn't merely to win, it's to make their family proud or to overcome adversity. It's easier to visualise yourself achieving your goals if you know the intention behind it.

STEP 7 - GROWTH

  • Practice mindfulness mediation to focus on how you feel right now as a result of taking these small steps toward flourishing. Pay attention to your breathing and watch and accept your thoughts float by.

Ultimately, you can't flourish without pulling out the weeds (negative emotion and bad habits), sewing the right seeds and watering them (purpose, positive emotion, goals and good health). That means focusing on small do-able daily actions across the 7 steps to flourishing.

There are hundreds more of these mini 5-30 minute tasks included in The Flourish Challenge. To get started right away on the 7 Steps to Flourishing Journey, sign up to the 90 Day Challenge at http://www.FlourishChallenge.com

Cheryl Rickman is author of The Flourish Handbook.