Misery may love company, but it also has negative repercussions on your physical and mental health.

In contrast, there are people who radiate optimism and whose positive energy seems to carry them through whatever life throws their way. Not only are they happier, but research shows they are also measurably healthier.

Greater good

Rick Amundson, a wellness consultant with Smola Consulting and a former school superintendent who actively works on optimism, says: “Personally, I make sure to hang around those who practice living a life of happiness and fulfillment. Debbie Downers drag you down and make you feel bad. I want to feel good.”

Amundson’s practice of positive thinking for improved, comprehensive wellness is rooted in science. One of his more valued sources for science- and research-based information, and which he has used in his role as an educator, comes from the Greater Good Science Center.

Established in 2001 at the University of California at Berkeley, the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) has been at the forefront of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds and altruism. In other words: The science of a happy, meaningful and healthy life.

The GGSC is a resource that can help you feel better, and it goes beyond research. It studies the psychology, sociology and neuroscience of well-being and teaches real-life skills to help people foster a thriving, resilient and compassionate society. If you want to be the change for greater wellness and a kinder world, the Center can help you do it.

“Positive thinking and happiness fit my personal philosophy,” Amundson says. “GGSC provides very uplifting, positive, upbeat information. That type of thinking, the kind of people who have that outlook are healthier.”

Practice makes perfect

The GGSC provides an array of free online resources. The Greater Good Magazine shares advice, insights and encouragement on timely topics in articles, videos and podcasts. There are quizzes for you to test your awareness on particular topics such as happiness at work, gratitude and connection to humanity, among others.

Information is valuable, but the GGSC wants people to put its advice into action. An online library of short activities helps you achieve wellness through leading a happier and more compassionate life. Activities are based on 12 key practices:

  • Awe
  • Compassion
  • Connection
  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude
  • Happiness
  • Kindness
  • Mindfulness
  • Optimism
  • Resilience to stress
  • Self-compassion

Each activity ranges from five to 15 minutes and can be performed at your desk or in your home.

Real-world applications

As a paid member of the GGSC, Amundson has permission to use all its information and is encouraged to do so. Each month, he emails the GGSC Happiness Calendar to wellness champions, wellness coordinators and school districts. The GGSC material has made its way into his wellness workshops, as well.

“Research shows that the primary reason people embrace wellness is so they can feel better,” Amundson says. “Having a positive outlook helps with eating, exercise, stress and sleep — the things you need for a healthier lifestyle.”

During his days as a school superintendent, Amundson often drew from the GGSC. One year, for his opening day address, he focused on the word “energy.” The next year, “elevation” resonated with him.

“Elevation means hopefulness, which is especially important for children in poverty,” Amundson says.

When the third summer rolled around, a teacher approached Amundson and asked what his “E-word” was going to be that year. Thus, a tradition was born in which he hooked each year’s theme on words starting with the letter “E.”

Thinking optimistically or feeling good is not easy to achieve if you’re not practiced. There may be another reason you want to start working on changing your mindset to a more positive outlook. According to Amundson, employers want positive people with a can-do attitude. Pessimism sabotages a team’s positive spirit, even if unintentional.

“I’ve been following the program for easily 15 years now,” Amundson says. “I’m absolutely a better person now because of it. There is a lot of good out there if you want to look for it.”

This article was originally published in Community Health for Ontario County Employee Wellness.