Bliss Steps: positive psychology helps Hungary go with the flow

Photo : Hungry 4 Learning
Bliss Steps: positive psychology helps Hungary go with the flow

Putting it lightly, Hungarians are not generally characterized as exuberantly optimistic, and sometimes the dour attitude that can be prevalent here even seeps into the minds of foreigners who choose to live in Hungary for an extended period of time. Recent research indicates that a pessimistic attitude towards life can actually cause people negative physical effects on a microbiological level, which inevitably damages the well-being of every individual inflicted with negativity. Fortunately, Budapest-based consultancy Hungry 4 Learning provides several innovative services to help people identify their psychological hindrances and overcome them in a way that fosters life enjoyment and flourishing at work, and many of these techniques will be presented to the public free of charge during next month’s inaugural Budapest Happiness Week.

Considering the stereotype of Magyars being inclined to negativity, it is somewhat ironic that the world’s leading researcher on positive psychology is Hungarian-born professor Mihály Csikszentmihály, who emigrated to the United States in the 1950s when he was 22 years old. During an esteemed career focused on the study of happiness and creativity (including a period as head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago), Csikszentmihály developed the theory that people are happiest when they achieve a state of flow – a condition of concentration on a given activity that is so intense that nothing else in the world seems to matter. After completing a task in this optimal state of mind, individuals experience a natural sense of elation and fulfillment that improves their mental well-being in such a way that their entire life is improved with a more positive perspective.
Learning how to tap into the state of flow can be difficult, especially when life presents challenges that overwhelm the psyche and seem insurmountable – even if this is only a matter of personal perception. When British psychologist and former karate champion Paul Pahil first arrived in Budapest a decade ago, he was confounded by how beautiful this city is while counter-intuitively being filled with an environment of high negativity and low resilience. Within hours of being in the city Paul decided to establish Hungry 4 Learning, a groundbreaking consultancy dedicated to spreading the modern practices of positive psychology inspired by the work of Mihály Csikszentmihály, who has long been Paul’s primary mentor.
“Social well-being and environmental well-being are commonly neglected in Hungary. People are too self-centered and into individualism,” Paul says. “Budapest has so much talent – it’s important for people to interact and start to believe in each other more.”
The multilingual services offered by Hungry 4 Learning – including individual coaching and group workshops – encourage people to identify the factors in their lives that hold them back from appreciating their own talents and positive traits, and also how to interact with others in such a way that their relationships provide a mutual boost in everyday life, both at work and at home. Paul explains that recent research indicates that when someone is perpetually in a negative state of mind, that dark energy impedes bodily functions on a cellular level, which in turn causes exhaustion and health problems that reinforce the fundamental pessimism and cause a downward spiral into depression and physical disorders. While people in these circumstances may be able to succeed in their work and personal life, they are not flourishing – and they are much less likely to enjoy a state of flow in any of their activities.
“Some people are doing well at the expense of their well-being; they’re in the process of being burnt out,” Paul says. “They can’t enjoy the fruits of their labor, they can’t share their success… People know that they’re getting tired, but don’t know why.”
To help individuals break free from the whirlpool of negative emotions, Paul and his associates work to encourage happiness by assessing the state of mind of every client and identify factors and detrimental activities that are preventing them from achieving an outlook that encourages flourishing. These procedures include defining each person’s purpose and meaning in life, and to assist them in recognizing their own talents and potential – as well as recognizing these positive elements in others. 
“People need to identify what they’re good at and what holds them back,” Paul says. “After acknowledging their talents, they need to harness talents with others.”
By pursuing an active regimen to improve psychological well-being – including taking care of the body, savoring life’s joys, expressing gratitude, cultivating optimism, avoiding social comparisons, practicing acts of kindness, committing to the right kinds of goals, learning to forgive, and using strengths in new and different ways – Paul finds that people soon feel better mentally and physically, and discover that it is easier to achieve a state of flow in their work and personal pursuits, which improves their momentum in life towards a goal of flourishing while increasing their resilience to withstand life’s inevitable difficulties. Altogether these practices reduce stress, improve health, and enhance excellence at work – which has a greater impact on society as a whole.
“Well-being is not just good for us – it makes good business sense,” Paul says, noting that many nations that have established comprehensive programs to boost happiness are rewarded with lower suicide rates and an improved economy. “Happiness is not a laughing matter!”
With this in mind, Paul is currently organizing the first-ever Budapest Happiness Week to take place during September 15-21, aiming to promote positive psychology in the Magyar metropolis with free events to foster well-being provided by Hungry 4 Learning, along with related activities to promote personal excellence like yoga sessions, professional coaching, sports programs, and many other diverse experiences offered by varied professionals. To find out more about these events and the services of Hungry 4 Learning, check out, and look for upcoming Happiness Week coverage on We Love Budapest in early September.