So many quotes and proverbs strike a chord within us. Advising us how to become or stay happy many of these ‘sayings’ have been around for decades, centuries even. This adage, penned over one hundred years ago suggests making sweet and delicious lemonade, after life throws you a sour lemon. It is arresting in its simplicity. Don’t dwell on an unpleasant turn of events, it calmly encourages. Take control of your misfortune and turn it into something that will eventually make you happy.

Inspiring, philosophical and promotional words have been written using scores of quotes across cultures all over the world. Personally I have numerous books full of these positive, reassuring and inspirational messages. Invariably when life throws me one of those lemons, I find myself seeking solace within these messages so I can go ahead and start making that lemonade. However, do these positive affirmations work for everyone? Are they just fads that drop in and out of fashion? Does their longevity suggest they offer the wisdom of ages?

Were these the start of positive psychology?

Positive psychology has come to the forefront of scientific research in recent years through the fantastic work of Martin Seligman and others. They have been looking into what makes people happy. Seligman purports that the seven habits of happy people include:

  • Relationships – maintaining one or more close friendships and being able to share personal experiences and feelings.
  • Acts of kindness – volunteering, giving to others, reaching out to others, not for any other reason than just to do this without expecting a return. The Dalai Lama explains with a profound simplicity ‘my religion is simple, my religion is kindness’.
  • Exercise and physical wellbeing – working on maintaining a sound body helps lead to a sound mind.
  • Flow – becoming so deeply involved in doing something that space and time seem not to exist. So absorbed that even if it is work, it seems effortless. This is the fascinating work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
  • Spiritual Engagement and Meaning – having a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
  • Strengths and Virtues – focusing on personal strengths such as persistence, and virtues such as humanity and using these for a greater purpose than personal goals.
  • Positive Mindset – Optimism, Mindfulness and Gratitude – being grateful for what you have, being optimistic about the future and being mindful about both.

These are the seven habits that have been proven to reduce depression, enhance wellbeing and to improve the quality of life, including psychological happiness and contentment.

If we take the proverb named in the title of this blog, we can see that the act of turning that undesirable and unwelcome lemon into lemonade includes so many of these positive psychological habits; flow, engagement, meaning, personal strength, optimism, mindfulness and even gratitude.

I can see that surrounding yourself with positive quotes and optimistic people may certainly play a role in helping to develop these habits. Especially with meaning and mindset. Putting these inspirational quotes in places where you might frequently see them can be a great reminder of their valuable messages. It can make a difference to the quality of our lives if we take time to really think about how to incorporate their insights into our thinking and behaviour.

I personally recall one such saying from so many decades ago that it doesn’t even feature on Google! A short verse from a wall hanging in my childhood, so often read, I still recall it. I am not sure who wrote it but I suspect it might have had something to do with the in vogue Holly Hobbie at the time…

The sunshine in the morning,
The pleasure of a smile,
The simple joys of everyday,
All make life worthwhile.

Beautiful words. Please enjoy!