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Practice tip of the Week: Happiness

Monday, February 13, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Nadia Tamez-Robledo
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By Ellen Martin, PhD, RN, CPHQ

Director of Practice

Texas Nurses Association


“Our habitual thoughts are the riverbed and our emotions are the river.  Instead of suppressing negativity, which can backfire, we can be open to it and change our relationship with it.  Necessary negativity helps us face facts. Gratuitous negativity gets us nowhere.”   - Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD


One of the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation domains is quality of life which relates to stress, resilience, and overall happiness.  Research in the field of positive psychology reveals that external factors account for only about 10% of long-term happiness. Our world view and thinking patterns have the most influence on happiness and mental well-being. The good news is that science of positive psychology has shown that we can make a difference. The “broaden and build” theory, developed by Barbara Fredrickson shows that we can broaden our awareness and build on positive emotions which strengthens relationships and encourages new ways of thinking. Increasing positive emotions is much more than trying to “turn that frown upside down.” In fact, 100% percent positivity is Pollyanna and has no connection to the reality of everyday life. Constant positivity would deny our humanity. However, by  taking some deceptively simple steps to retrain the brain we can capitalize on positivity to improve productivity, performance, and contribute to overall health and life satisfaction.


Negative thinking can focus our mind in a way that narrows our ideas about possible actions or solutions. This plays an important survival role when safety is at risk and urgent dangerous situations demand quick and decisive action. However, chronic negativity increases stress levels and is harmful to health. For example, rumination is focused attention on negative thoughts and feelings, which are symptoms of distress, rather than focusing on solutions. Persistent examination of negative emotions in an attempt to “think things through” can lead to a rut of endless questions and eventually cause a person to become overwhelmed and demoralized. This way of thinking can fan the flames of negativity in a vicious cycle.


 Simple Strategies to Increase Happiness  


Sometimes activities to improve health and quality of life are time-consuming or costly. The activities listed below are free and only take a few minutes. From “The Happiness Advantage” Shawn Achor  (TEDTalk)


  • Three Gratitudes – Write 3 new things you are grateful for and why, be specific and no repeats.
  • Doubler – For 2 minutes each day, write down the details of something meaningful that happened the day before.  By “reliving” the experience you get double the positive effect.
  • Fun Fifteen – Add 15 mindful minutes of joyful movement to your day.
  • Ripple Effect – Consciously add 3 smiles a day to spread the joy that starts the ripple effect.
  • Battery Charge – Take 2 minutes to write a positive note to someone in your support network. 


“The goal of positive psychology is not just to increase well-being but to flourish.” – Martin Seligman  


What do you do to increase your happiness? How might nurses use positive psychology principles in practice?  Start the conversation by leaving a comment. Positive Thinking Day is Sept. 13  so you have some time to practice! If you have ideas for future practice tips, please email

Texas Nurses Association

Texas Affiliate of ANA | 4807 Spicewood Springs Rd., Bldg 3, Suite 100, Austin TX 78759

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