BILL MERRINGTON says we need appreciate our achievements

OVER the last four weeks we have been looking at positive psychology and what leads to a more fulfilled life. We have now reached A for Achievements in our PERMA approach to well being (PERMA representing Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievements).

Every one needs to feel they have or are achieving something in their life.

This leads to positive self-appreciation. We all view and construct the world not as it is but as we choose to see it. We can be someone who always undermines others and ourselves or be a person who appreciates one's achievements and affirms others in their effort.

A positive healthy outlook is essential if we are to remain healthy. We can choose to learn optimism. We need a WWW approach where we choose to look at What Went Well.

This is about remembering our best memories, having gratitude and counting your blessings. Unfortunately, only about 20 per cent of the population would say they are flourishing. Many would express that they are stuck in a rut wanting more to life, but would not be diagnosed with mental illness.

We need to begin with realistic affirmation. Being able to say: “I am quite loveable, I am worthy, I have some good qualities, I’m reasonably healthy, I have a sense of humour", is a good beginning. Next, regular strengthening of these beliefs with positive daily affirmations will build confidence.

John Lennon wrote the song Beautiful Boy in 1980, which was based on Emile Coue’s hypnotherapeutic suggestion, "beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy, before you go to sleep, say a little prayer, 'every day in every way, It’s getting better and better'".

Coue at the turn of the 20th century believed that if your repeated this simple phrase four times every day it would have a positive impact upon your life framework.

We then need to find positive achievements in life. It is best to have a shotgun approach here with interest in a range of things rather than just one major interest. Achievements need to be both short and long ranged to gain the most benefit.

It doesn’t matter what the achievements are, provided you give yourself the credit and appreciation of what you have completed. It could be simply writing letters, emails to friends.

It helps if the goals are SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely).

Research has been carried out in nursing homes to try to increase positive attitudes in the residents. By finding out what people have been previously interested in aids the carers to put on specific events to bring a sense of achievement to the elderly. One women said she couldn't do anything, but during a conversation she mentioned she could ‘just about’ knit a scarf. So she was encouraged to knit, knit, knit. Creating simple scarves gave this woman her self-respect back and a sense of achievement brought a smile to her face.

Here, a glass that was half empty had suddenly more life put into the glass.

Even at times of illness, a situation can be refocused. A person can experience post-traumatic growth by recognising that they have survived cancer and have learned a lot about life through their experience.

This is a form of psycho-education in which we are learning to reconstruct the world we see into a more positive framework. We as a society have a strong view against the cruelty of animals but seem to ignore the tendency to be cruel to ourselves. We need to be creating a plausible self-image where we affirm our daily achievements. So when you get a certificate for a course, why not put it on the wall and accept your achievement daily.

When you are talking about yourself give yourself a positive presentation. We live by ‘small talk,’ so lets turn it into an uplift. So when asked, "what do you do?" have a positive script ready that includes a statement about the future. Remove the "I don’ts" with a truthful description of self. Emphasising positive hopes for the future. So, if you are not working at the moment, explain that you are having break but busy, perhaps learning a new skill. If you are a housewife, explain what you do that captures the fact that you are busy shaping the lives of your children’s future by being around for them etc.

Children are generally good at saying what they are good at. As adults we need to regain that childlike freedom to express ourselves confidently. If you can see your life achievements more as a calling, it can bring great gain. A refuge cleaner that sees his job as keeping the community clean and hygienic, can find more satisfaction in his job, than someone doing it just for the salary.

People with this orientation experience life more meaningfully.

So having considered all aspects of PERMA, how would you rate your PERMA? Give yourself a score out of 5 and see what you can do to increase the lowest score to head to a healthier life style.

Dr Bill Merrington is a private therapist and chartered psychologist working in the York district ( or contact