Shifting focus: What is RIGHT with us

Gratitude, happiness and strengths – not symptoms

- By Tony de Gouveia, clinical psychologist and resilience coach practising at Netcare Akeso Alberton

Thursday, November 30 2023

Newer approaches to psychology present a compelling departure from psychology’s traditional focus on what is ‘wrong’ with a person’s mental health, instead emphasising enhancing life’s joys, gratitude and strengths.

Too often, we spend time thinking about the difficulties in our lives or what is ‘wrong’ with us, and not enough energy is focused on what is right in our lives, or how we can embrace the wonderful things in life to experience greater happiness and fulfilment.

Conventional wisdom suggests that we learn from our mistakes, but this is not helpful when it sets us up for depression and anxiety through an overemphasis on failure that can shatter our self-image and self-esteem, and our mental wellbeing generally.

Positive Psychology is a whole new ball game, redirecting the narrative from asking ‘what is wrong in us’ to focusing on ‘what is right with us’. Appreciating the good in the world and in ourselves, nurturing our strengths and embracing optimism not only brings a deeper sense of satisfaction to daily life but also helps to develop our resilience.

Change or future hardships are more bearable when we fortify ourselves with the strength of positivity and tools of mindfulness, gratitude, and actively welcoming moments of delight into our daily lives that can help us ‘bounce back’ and cope with a negative situation more positively.

For a decade, I have been hosting a Positive Psychology Group (PPG) at Netcare Akeso Alberton where interested members participate in a practitioner led psycho-educational support group. Here, we explore how our lives can be enriched through consciously changing our thought processes in line with the principles of positive psychology.

Here are some basic examples of concepts we have explored in over 100 sessions held since the PPG started, which can be easily incorporated into daily life to help transform our perspectives to help us flourish.

Gratitude: Reflecting on thankfulness makes life and relationships more satisfying. Enjoy life more through conscious appreciation. From a drink of cold water on a hot day to really appreciating your partner, your home and each mouthful of food you eat. When we stop to reflect, we have so many truly wonderful gifts that should never be taken for granted.

Happiness: When we focus on what went or is going well in our lives, we are happier. Research suggests that we need at least three positive comments or thoughts to offset every negative one, ideally a ratio of five to one, to shift to this flourishing state of being. 

When you notice something that makes you feel grateful, contented, or joyous, write it down or take a photo to celebrate it and commemorate it to look back on in future. Getting into this habit of saluting the good wherever we find it can help you see the world and yourself differently.
Strengths. Many of us draw a blank when asked this classic interview question, either because we struggle to identify them or find the words to describe them, or we may be uncomfortable about verbalising strengths in a society that is usually more focused on finding fault.

If we do know what our strengths are, they are often couched in vague or bland terms. Strengths are not only what you are successful at already, consider also what you are passionate about and what makes you feel strong. Talk to others who demonstrate their strengths. See this as a continuous process, growing your strengths from this foundation.

Kindness: Have you ever noticed that doing something kind or altruistic for someone else gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside? This is supported in psychology literature, and it’s the perfect time of year to try the benefits of random acts of kindness. I challenge you, think of one totally unexpected kind thing to do – and just go for it!

Happiness is where you find it; look closer to home and seek opportunities in the here and now to make the most of our time on earth.


About Netcare Akeso 

Netcare Akeso operates a network of private inpatient mental health facilities and is part of the Netcare Group. Netcare Akeso provides individual, integrated and family-oriented treatment in specialised inpatient treatment facilities, as well as certain outpatient services, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and substance use conditions. Please visit or contact [email protected] for further information. 

In the event of a psychological crisis, call 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day for emergency support. Psychiatrist consultations can be made through Netcare appointmed™, online at or by calling 0861 555 565.   For media enquiries, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by:   MNA on behalf of Netcare Akeso Alberton
For media enquiries contact:    Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, and Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone:   011) 469 3016
Email:  [email protected][email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]