The Positive Psychology of Diwali (or Deepawali)

Feeling good this festival season of Diwali?…. It’s Positive Psychology interventions at work!!

In India, the festival of Diwali is marked with fireworks, decluttering and decorating homes, visiting friends and relatives, exchange of sweets and gifts, praying for material wealth. As I looked closely into some odd (& some not so odd) rituals and ceremonies I was asked to perform all my life growing up in India, I found that the ancient wise sages already knew the secrets of what helps us flourish. Buried in the rituals and traditions we see cleverly applied what we know today as the scientifically tested Positive Psychology interventions for human thriving. Lets look at a few..

Praying to all your Material Possessions:

On Dhanteras ( Dhan- wealth) which actually means the day of wealth, you are literally required to collect all your wealth/assets ( yes including your car, machinery, jewelry and in todays day all your i-gadgets I suppose) in front of you and pray to them. This is done for you to be reminded of all that you have been provided for. It signifies feeling a sense of abundance and having the faith that whatever I need will be provided for. Its’ a time to remind us to count our blessings and feel the gratitude.

Gratitude interventions- have consistently produced psychological benefits that appeared to last for several months (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005). Gratitude Interventions used – grateful self-reflection, counting blessings, and gratitude visits.

Burning firecrackers:

During Diwali we burn firecrackers to bring our mind to the present. Have you noticed, when your mind is disturbed with too many cravings and aversions, you feel as if your head will burst, isn’t it? That is why when you burst crackers, the burst on the outside settles something inside, and you feel light and more alive. Only way to become more present is to become more mindful. It’s a reminder to time to apply more mindfulness in your everyday life. “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”

Mindfulness interventions- have been used both in clinical and non-clinical settings to promote wellbeing. (Zindel et al., 2002; Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Shapiro et al., 2006; Walach et al., 2007; Shonin et al., 2013)

Lighting Lamps :

On Deepawali (Deepa- light) which is a time to remind you that you too are a light. It is the commemoration of the light of wisdom in our lives. Lord Buddha said, “Aappah Dipo Bhavah”. One should not think that one has really celebrated Diwali simply by lighting oil lamps in the house. The real essence is that you too should shine with the radiance of knowledge, so that you can illumine the path of many others in life. This you do by meditating daily and practicing spirituality. “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.”– Brené Brown

Spirituality/Meditation Interventions-Read this blog post in psychology today about the surprising health benefits of spirituality

Visiting Friends and Family

You need to take time out to make those social visits you have been meaning to for a long time. Dropping all grudges and with forgiveness we are to open our hearts and doors to all visiting friends and family. Past research has found that people report having happier feelings when with others (Pavot, Diener, & Fujita, 1990).

Forgiveness interventions- are useful for healing minds and bringing reconciliation to families, groups, and communities. It helps people broaden their scope and build new resources and promote flourishing. (Worthington, Witvliet, Pietrini& Miller, 2007)

Exchanging Gifts and Tipping (Baksheesh)

Diwali is a time to be generous and go visiting friends and family with gifts and sweets. Also all workers in India are supposed to be given a gift, or ‘baksheesh’, in the spirit of the season. So you are supposed to pay an annual tip, of sorts, to every person who provides some service for you – be it your domestic help, your cook, your watchman, everyone. Research has found that human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others. They analyzed data from 136 countries, and found that pro-social spending was consistently associated with greater happiness (Aknin, Dunn & Norton, 2008).

This festival of prosperity is the time to throw light on all that you have gained, forgetting the regrets and negativities and start each day with a new beginning of positivity that comes shining from within..

“For the one who doesn’t live in positivity, Diwali (prosperity) comes once a year, but for the positively wise Diwali is every moment of every day” (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

Have a Happy & Prosperous Diwali All!!


Emmons, R. A. (2009). Gratitude. In S.J. Lopez & A. Beauchamp (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology. (pp. 442-447). New York: Oxford University Press.

Aknin LB, Dunn, EW, Norton MI. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319, 1687- 1688.

Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8, 425–429.

Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111– 131

Worthington, E. L., Jr., Witvliet, C. V. O., Pietrini, P., & Miller, A. J. (2007). Forgiveness, health, and well-being: A review of evidence for emotional versus decisional forgiveness, dispositional forgivingness, and reduced unforgiveness. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 30, 291– 302.

Zindel, V., Segal, J., Williams, M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse. New York: Guilford Press.



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