Positive psychology (PP) is a relatively new area of scientific research that can be defined as “the science and practice of improving well-being”, (Lomas, Hefferon & Ivtzan, 2014).
PP is also described as the ‘science of the positive aspects of human life such as happiness, well-being & flourishing’ (pp1, Bonniwell, 2006).
It is fast becoming a popular influence in everyday life and is now part of government policy in the UK, championed by Lord Richard Layard. PP focuses on mental health rather than mental illness, strengths rather than weakness, on ‘building-what’s-strong-not-fixing-what’s-wrong’ and the factors which promote happiness and optimal health in individuals and communities.
The ‘backbone’ of positive psychology is centred on signature strengths & virtues, (‘character strengths’) that are valued by people from all cultures. These 24 strengths are grouped into 6 categories:
To discover your personal strengths go to: VIA survey
Focussing on positive emotions not only makes you feel good, it broadens attention, promotes flexible thinking, increases your creativity & playfulness.
Positive emotions also ‘undo’ negative feelings, enhance resilience & trigger an ‘upward spiral’ in growth & development.
Negative emotions are also useful sometimes; (they can keep you safe).
It’s all about getting the balance right!
Is this glass half full or half empty?
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
Whilst there are many benefits to being an optimist such as having less anxiety, depression, better coping skills in negative events such as heart surgery & breast cancer, better physical health & greater productivity at work…
Pessimists adopt less risky behaviours such as reckless driving or unprotected sex and are better prepared for disappointment & misfortune. Realistic pessimism may be better than ‘blind optimism’ but pessimism generally is still more highly correlated with unhappiness. Learn how to build your optimistic ‘muscle’ through ‘a conversation about positive psychology’.
A Conversation about Positive Psychology is an opportunity to discuss how PP might help you to manage your health and wellbeing: it does not equate to receiving professional psychological therapy. Positive psychology can support individuals and communities in a ‘non-clinical population’ (those not receiving medical treatment but who may be a focus for health education) to live a happy, healthy and meaningful lives! Having a conversation on positive psychology is an exciting new approach to promoting flourishing health and well-being.
As with holistic medicine, PP is tailored to each person’s unique needs so is different for each client. It may take the form of simply discussing a PP approach to specific aspects of your case during your consultation, completing simple activities either during a consultation, or in your own time: I prefer to call this home play rather than homework. Activities might include completing a character strengths questionnaire, mindfulness / meditation, or keeping a gratitude journal for example.
Positive psychology intensives involve more regular sessions (weekly / two weekly for 3-6 appointments) focussing on specific areas on which to build positivity. (For charges, see consultations). According to Frederickson (2011), positive emotions not only make you feel good they change how your mind works, broadening your outlook on life and even ‘undoing’ negative emotions.
You may also wish to borrow PP books from the practice library, use suggested online resources, or enrol in PP courses if you want to learn more.
Frederickson, B., (2011). Positivity: Groundbreaking research to release your inner optimist and thrive. Oneworld Publications.
Lomas, T., Hefferon, K. & Ivtzan, I., (2014). The LIFE Model: A Meta-Theoretical Conceptual Map for Applied Positive Psychology. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(4), DOI 10.1007/s10902-014-9563-y
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