Boston-based Pam Garramone teaches the Science of Happiness to everyone from corporate employees to educators and students. She’s the author of the book, “Be Happier: A Journal” that guides you to learn to be happier by looking for the good things in your day and gratitude. And, Pam has a new, online workshop, “Goal Pursuit is a Happiness Booster!” available on February 16 and February 18. We were delighted to talk with Pam about her unique practice…
Pam, how did you become a Positive Psychology Speaker and Coach?
I was the Executive Director of a Boston non-profit LGBTQ organization for 16 years. When I reached the age of 52 I started feeling what Gretchen Rubin, author of the book “The Happiness Project,” calls a midlife malaise.
I was bored with doing the same thing. Even though I got to help people and that was gratifying, there was a part of me asking “is this all I’m going to do for the rest of my life?” I felt uneasy.
One day I was reading The Boston Globe and there was a front page article on Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, who was teaching a class on positive psychology at Harvard. He became famous because more students wanted to take his class to learn to be happier than any other subject in the history of Harvard. Tal left Harvard and started The Wholebeing Institute, and I was fortunate to study with him for nine months. And I learned how to be happier.
That was six years ago and I’ve been practicing positive psychology and being happier ever since. At that time, I was going into schools and teaching how to make school safer for LGTBQ youth. So, I thought, I’m going to make this my business.
What is the Science of Happiness?
The Science of Happiness is a research-based, evidence-based practice that helps people get more of what they want and do what it takes to make themselves happier. The focus is on positive emotions, relationships, resilience, and so much more.
Psychology is mostly the study of what goes wrong with people. What if we got together and flipped psychology into the study of positivity – what does it look like when things go well. Even in the toughest circumstance, people can and do thrive. Positive Psychology focuses on what works; what’s going well even in tough times.
Science shows positive emotion is a big part in being happy. But we’re hard wired to go negative. We learned in prehistoric days you had to think the worst because there were things around you that could kill you any minute. We haven’t evolved much from that thinking. If we train our brain to look for good things, even in the hardest day, we will find something.
One positive psychology practice that I do is to write down three good things that happened to me every day. I was a four or five on the happiness ladder. Now I’m consistently a seven or eight, mainly because I practice gratitude and write down my three good things every day.
Is there a thread that runs through the age group of women 60+ who are still in the workforce? For example, is there a feeling that young colleagues don’t value our input?
The most common thread in the 60+ age group is that you think you’re running out time. I encourage people to recognize the negative voices in your head and say “I hear you, thanks for your advice, I’m going to do it anyway.” Be positive! You have a lot to contribute.
It’s all in the mindset. If you think young people don’t respect or value you, that’s a problem. We really don’t know what other people are thinking of us. It’s about retraining the brain. Look at your environment with wonder. Be curious and intrigued by the way younger colleagues look at things. Acknowledge their point of view, and you can create a relationship based on mutual respect, not based on what age you are. At any age we want to help people. If I’m young and helping you it has to feel good.
If you go into any relationship with a negative bias, thinking they don’t care about you, that’s normal. It takes practice and effort to get over these feelings. I was speaking to high school and middle school students, and over time I asked myself do they really care what I have to say? Do they really want to see me? And I decided to wean myself away from speaking to students. But the schools said the kids love you, they want you to come back. A lot of what we think is happening is because it’s what we tell ourselves. Let’s tell ourselves to look for the good in ourselves and others and see the good that happens around us.