Mental Health

Mastering big life changes with positive psychology

November 30, 2023

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I'm Michelle — health coach for women who want to escape diet culture and find the health they deserve.

Meet Michelle

Change is a constant in our lives, a force that shapes our journey and propels us towards growth. I am no stranger to change myself, having gone through many transformations over the course of my life. While the focus is often on how hard change can be, today I want to look at how we can actually get through it, and the reason it’s worth the struggle. 

To help me gain more clarity on this topic, I recently spoke with Kirsten Beske, a mindset and transformation expert, who shared her insights on what is required for transformation and how we can begin to connect with our value system to drive the change that we’re looking for. In this blog, I’ll be sharing her wisdom about the value of making space, the importance of journaling (something I love), plus we’ll dig into the definition of positive psychology and how it’s applied in our lives. 

The Process of Change

Change manifests in various forms—sometimes as a result of external circumstances beyond our control, and at other times, as an inner yearning for something more aligned with our values. Understanding the dual nature of change, whether it be a shift in circumstances or a change in mindset, is crucial. The lens through which we perceive change, and the thoughts we cultivate, play pivotal roles in shaping the narrative of our lives.

Change often brings tension, a palpable force urging us to move into the next phase of our lives. Addressing this tension directly, rather than avoiding it, offers an opportunity for self-reflection. It requires a courageous examination of our values, aspirations, and the life we envision. It’s common for humans to feel reluctant about confronting this tension but that often leads to avoidance through various numbing behaviors, whether it’s food, alcohol, or scrolling through social media.  

Sometimes we don’t want to accept the answer that might start to change how that tension is appearing in your life. It can mean big transformations like changing jobs or changing partners or moving house. Yet, acknowledging the discomfort and seeking clarity through self-reflection are stepping stones to growth.

Radical Acceptance and the Value of Making Space

It’s not necessarily easy for me to be a physician right now, operating in a broken healthcare system, but one of my mentors is always encouraging me to practice radical acceptance. We still have to come to work and function in this broken system and it’s much more difficult if we’re constantly fighting against what it is, instead of just trying to work through what it is. 

When we acknowledge the reality of our circumstances and understand that resistance only intensifies the struggle, we can reduce the tension. Amid the rapid currents of life, finding moments to come up for

air and check in with ourselves is vital, especially for women who are in the daily grind of fulfilling multiple roles.

You can’t always grant yourself space to take that step back and look at the big picture. But I think it’s a great gift if you think of it as a priority and start looking for the space to take some time to assess your values and your purpose. The research all shows that if you are discerning about your sense of engagement in life, what’s lighting you up, what your purpose is, and the overarching impact you want to make, you will feel more fulfilled.

If you have something that gives you a sense of achievement instead of just living life on a hamster wheel, if you have positive thought patterns in your head that are able to get you through hard times, and if you practice gratitude, you will combine the factors that bring together a sense of wellbeing.

Having a morning journaling practice can be a fantastic way to practice gratitude and give yourself time to sit and reflect. I love journaling because it is where most of my ideas come from, and it’s a place where I can say things that I can’t necessarily say out loud to anyone else yet. 

Having a dialogue with yourself every morning allows you to try out ideas for fun and see how they feel. It really is such a beautiful way to explore and I also combine that with a little bit of breathing practice, which has really been beneficial for me. It has given me the space to make decisions and let things go in my life. 

How can Positive Psychology Help us with Change?

There’s a misconception that positive psychology is what people think of as toxic positivity, aka ‘think good thoughts and everything will go!’ In reality, positive psychology offers a refreshing perspective on well-being and is essentially the research and science behind how people thrive.

There are five pillars of positive psychology: positivity, engagement, relationships, achievement, and purpose—and these all provide a holistic framework for thriving. It encourages a shift from focusing solely on what is wrong with us to exploring what is right. By combining these pillars and emphasizing vitality and feeling physically healthy, positive psychology becomes a blueprint for a fulfilled and purposeful life.

Practical Strategies for Transformation

Trying something new, slightly outside our comfort zone, fosters a sense of mastery and engagement and can be a great way to support you on your journey towards transformation. When you try something new and you’re learning and you’re on that upward happy curve of getting better and improving, whether it’s a new language or a new instrument, you incorporate the achievement and engagement aspects of positive psychology, which can have a wonderful impact on wellbeing.

A Fresh Perspective on Food

Thoughts around food often carry significant weight in our lives. Shifting from avoidance goals to approach goals, such as giving yourself permission to eat what the body craves, contributes to a healthier relationship with food. Repetition of positive affirmations and connecting them with behaviors reshapes neural pathways, altering our self-concept and fostering a more positive outlook on how we nourish our bodies. 

By rediscovering pleasure and embracing moments of flow—where we become fully immersed and joyous—dissolves the power food holds over us. If we allow ourselves to find pleasure beyond eating, we can break free from our self-imposed limitations.

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of our lives, intentional choices, self-reflection, and a commitment to well-being can guide us on a continuous journey of growth and purpose. When we understand our values and we know what we want our impact on the world to be, we can keep moving forward with that in mind, know that we’re doing the right thing, and find peace on the other side of change.

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