Five Joyous Habits

Human beings are moral animals. According to Dr Martin Seligman we each exhibit six virtues common across cultures and traditions. They are wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, spirituality and transcendence. These virtues encapsulate the notion of good character. The way in which we each achieve the virtues is dependent on our individual strengths of character. Using our strengths produces good consequences and positive emotion, not only in yourself but in those around you who witness the display of a strength. This can include joy, satisfaction, pride, fulfillment, and even harmony. Seligman says when we identify our signature strengths and use them every day in the main realms of our life we experience more abundant gratification and authentic happiness. And for me that has meant more joy!

My top five signature strengths as determined by Seligmans VIA Signature Strengths survey have become my five most joyous habits.

In his book “Authentic Happiness” Seligman isolates 24 strengths which are curiosity, love of learning, critical thinking, ingenuity/originality, social/emotional/personal intelligence, perspective, courage, valor/bravery, perseverance, integrity, kindness, justice, teamwork. loyalty, fairness, leadership, temperance, self control, humility, appreciation of beauty/excellence, gratitude, optimism, spirituality, forgiveness/mercy, playfulness/humour and zest/passion/enthusiasm.

Mine are in order of strength:-
1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
2. Capacity to love and be loved
3. Creativity, ingenuity and originality
4. Humour and playfulness
5. Kindness and generosity

Irrespective of where I am and what I am doing when I stay connected to these strengths I experience more joy and more harmony irrespective of money or circumstance. These are innate qualities and in hindsight I see evidence of their influence in my most significant life experiences.

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

This strength is the essence of the notion stopping to smell the roses. It has a requirement that we need to be present in order to appreciate. It covers all domains of beauty, excellence and skill and when intense brings a sense of awe and wonder. Human moral beauty strikes me and brings me periods of what Seligman calls elevation. On my trip last year with Patch Adams I felt this most strongly in a moment when I communed with Patch and a two year old with cerebral palsy. The beauty of Patch’s naked soul, the art of his clown persona and his willingness to be vulnerable has been the most stark act to which I have contributed. As he played the compassionate clown, so did I and I saw the mirror of my soul reflecting back.

Capacity to Love and be loved

In this strength lies the essence of valuing close and intimate relationship with others. A quick check is to ask if people feel the same way back to you? This is not just about sexual relations or romance, but about an ability to connect and love and allow love in. Trust is integral to this association, and I recall recently a new friend who was about to have her second mastectomy asking me to help her create a photographic journey of her body as it was before surgery. In that creative union was absolute love and trust in an extremely vulnerable and painful time and the creation of Healing Art.

I am honoured to have always had people share intimate things with me, even on just meeting me. I met the father of a young boy who had fallen to his death and he shared with me as a virtual stranger his grief and loss. I felt his pain like I have felt no-one else’s in my life, and his story was actually the pre-cursor for the Joyologist’s journey! My business now is about championing intimate communion, transforming global pessimism, and transforming individuals to reveal inner spirit and witnessing the joy of transformation.

Creativity, Ingenuity and Originality

This is creativity in its broadest sense, not just limiting it to the pursuit of the fine arts. It is about being outstanding in how you find novel and appropriate ways to achieve your goals. Conventionality does not picture in here ! It can also be called practical intelligence, common sense or street smart. I believe fortune favours those who dare and have used my creativity often in times when a tight budget might otherwise have constrained me. My mentor for a number of years was Mike Hutcheson ( former Saatchi and Saatchi Md ) and in my initial approach to him when I began the Joyologist journey I had no budget to make my pitch for support. And so I wrapped a make up sponge, a bottle of Dettol, 2 cotton buds and a bandaid in cellophane and gifted it to him with the following sentence “ Mike I am not here to sponge off you, but I do have the germ of an idea, it has a couple of applications and I don’t want it to be bandaid job”. I asked for his support and he said yes.

Humour and Playfulness

People with this strength enjoy making others laugh and bringing smiles to peoples faces. They are optimists and see the bright side of life. In my experience they believe themselves to be resilient and so they are. I am resilient and I attribute much of my resilience to the optimism that lies inherent in my persona. In the last four years as the worlds first Joyologist I have made it my business to know more about the theory and practice of being good-humoured ( I am not a comedian) and I have sought ways to help others find more humour and lighten up. I have given over 300 presentations in this time all with a humour and health focus. The World Health Organisation statistics tell me that depression is currently World Health Burden number four. By 2020 they predict it will be World Health Burden number two. My prediction is that by 2020 we will have an intimacy revolution and the key to creating that will be the creation of high trust environments where people perform to optimum having fun doing what it is that they love.

Kindness and Generosity

Empathy, sympathy and compassion are useful components of this strength. Typically epitomized in this strength is the notion of giving to others and recognizing and acknowledging their true worth. The interests of others has always consumed me and my highest points in life have been around ventures or projects where I have had the opportunity to positively influence the life of another. Sixteen years nursing supported me to develop this strength and skill and combined now with full creative expression I can exemplify the person of the compassionate clown – whether in costume or not. My greatest single act in this expression was fulfilled on my tour with patch Adams through Russia in 2004. For 16 days I was in compassionate clown persona, in the moment and just being. I was the essence of who I really am, totally representing each of these five strengths. I have never felt more vital and alive in my whole life. Full creative expression, totally responsive to each environment we entered and absolutely present for each orphan child I met. This was a feeling sustained for 16 consecutive days

These strengths feel like the real me. Over the years, especially in times of loss or upheaval, I have failed to use them to full effect. Now that my focus is harnessed habitually on these five strengths, I feel a predominant sense of excitement, my capacity to learn has accelerated, I am consumed by a sense of yearning to use my gifts, I am invigorated and constantly developing projects, and I experience more joy, zest and enthusiasm!

Author's Bio: 

Pat Armitstead, New Zealand’s leader in the Science of Positive Psychology and Humour in the Workplace has a CV that’s not to be laughed at! Included in her giggliography are some ground breaking achievements, testimony to her ability to successfully combine her business acumen, creativity, and wit.

Initially a Registered Nurse she worked for 34 years in Education Management and communication roles in the health sector and in business. In 1989 she founded her own Advertising Agency, Take One Productions and won 11 awards including the NSW Tourism Award, Media Section and an award from Cacharel in Paris. She has presented over 11,000 hours of keynotes, workshops, seminars and lectures reaching an astounding 55,000 people throughout Australasia.