As a person who loves delving into all things mental, psychology has been one of the biggest loves of mine when addressing fields associated with creative processes, as a passionate creator myself. I have countless topics I could dive into when it comes to the meeting of words and the mind, but today I would like to focus on the simple meeting of two—writing and positive psychology.
Founded in theory by psychologist Martin Seligman, positive psychology can be defined as the scientific study of what makes life worth living. Pinpointing three specific criteria (experiences, states, and institutions), positive psychology is all about focusing on your own strengths by forging healthier—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—armor for yourself via the positive emotions you mined from the above three criterion.
So how does this relate to writing? At its core, positive psychology emphasizes appreciation of ourselves, regardless of any tangible accomplishments we could breathe into being. Given that historically, psychology as a study has had a negative bias in terms of studies and theory-building, positive psychology is meant to be a counterbalance to that.
As such, just like how psych researchers who write up findings on the detrimental implications of new discoveries, writers often fall into pitfalls that cause negative mindsets to sink into their subconsciousness, entwining themselves so deeply with their own flaws, that it serves challenging to remember the positive elements of the writing process itself.
Therefore, I hope to list a few findings from professionals in the positive psych field and tie in a few thoughts on how you can better incorporate positivity into your mental health while writing!
1. Gratitude is a big contributor to happiness in life.
We’re all faced with moments of doubt in the writing process, whether its via seeing other people we perceive to be more ‘recognized’, ‘talented’, or ‘appreciated’ that ourselves. And that doesn’t make the potential jealousy, disappointment, or other negative emotions that surge from our darkest parts any less valid. Nonetheless, studies show that keeping tangible records of things tends to promote stronger recollection of the thing itself, and that memory—the memory of all the good you have to offer—can be a strong combatant ally in the battle against your own inner demons.
Therefore, consider keeping a gratitude journal. As cliché as it sounds, spending time to write up things for the future is an investment in self care. The world has always been full of daunting things, and given the current situation of the world today, sometimes it is best to salvage the small things in a private collection to remind yourself of the light when you are surrounded by darkness. Consider writing things you are grateful about outside of writing too, as on the days where you do not feel good enough, you will have receipts of reasons for all the many more reasons you are worthy of love beyond your current writing capabilities.
2. Happiness is contagious, especially when shared with people.
Sometimes it’s just nice to spend time with your loved ones, however you define the term, and to remember to live life to the fullest. As fun as it is to spend your hours lost to worlds of your own creation, your health is perhaps the most valuable thing you should consider investing in, and happiness has shown to improve the varying elements of your health (physical, mental, and emotional). Humans crave connection, whether it is via the validation of others, seeing parts of themselves in external sources, there is always an ingrained importance to the power of connectivity.
Consider setting up hangouts with the people you love. Granted, it’s harder to see each other in person currently, but even so, the Internet is full of websites that enable you to do same-time activities while bonding over source material. Consider binging Netflix together (via Netflix Party, they have a chat room you can watch things real time in) or playing games online (Tabletopia and Board Game Arena are two such places) if you want to socialize without being able to see your friends. Furthermore, reserve time to call and/or text them and talk, because sometimes, by materializing words into reality, you’re building deeper bonds with people you're connecting with, and leading to reflective moments that could help with your writing.
3. Focus less on monetary material value, and more on experiential values instead.
No writer—and I’d also debate, no creative—has ever not entertained the idea of being famous. Of being beloved and recognized and valued by the world, for the work we place parts of ourselves into in order entertain, connect, and emote, to say the least. However, in a culture where there’s an iron grip on the concept that perfection and utter accuracy are highly valued, we tend to give ourselves a harder time whenever we make mistakes. Therefore, for the sake of your emotional health, forgive yourself for your failures. Your shortcomings and your misgivings, and how every mistake and choice you make is a way to shape your life uniquely, and because of how every path in life is so distinctively yours, the story of your life will be the only thing that will be entirely yours.
So consider adding flavor to it. Go out and try new things, things that your characters would love—if you wish to connect your art to your life more deeply—and desire to achieve or learn, and document it. Find solace in taking pictures, vlogging, or journalling to track your progress in picking up new skills (YouTube is a void of an archive of content to learn), traveling to new places (faraway or a new part of your home town/city), or making memories with your loved ones (no matter big or small).
In order to improve the way you write humanity is to fully experience it, and at the end of the day, we all crave recognition, whether from others or the stories the world has given us.
With all of those in mind (haha), dear writer friends, I hope you consider the above ways to soothe those troubles that linger around in your head, given that each of you have a beautiful story to tell, in your own way, and that alone is worth the happiness you should give yourself.
Follow Astraeia on Instagram: @astrawrites.