Positive Psychology to Apply in 9 Ways
Positive Psychology was a new approach to well-being that was introduced at the turn of the new millennium. The American Psychological Association announced that there would be a revolution in academic psychology. No longer would psychological research purely focus on mental disorder and illness, but now it would also pay attention to ‘positive psychology’ and the topics of wellbeing, happiness, and productivity.
In the past 15 years, the field of positive psychology has flourished. Although the science of what makes us happy is still in its infancy, we have never known or explored more about the brighter side of the human psyche. Naturally, at positivepsychologydirectory.com, the spreading and sharing information about positive psychology is important to us and we wish to spread this knowledge further.
However, even though understanding of positive psychology is at an all-time high, the application of this knowledge is still lacking. The positive psychology movements suffer from a sharp distinction between theory and practice, with many coaches, therapists and other individuals with psychology-related acumen struggling to put their knowledge into real-life use.
This article hopes to address this issue by teaching you 9 powerful ways you can apply positive psychology, both professionally but also in your day-to-day lives.
Positive Psychology Top 9
Firstly, research has demonstrated that people thrive when they pay attention to their strengths[i]. Everyone has their own unique capabilities, but many individuals fail to recognize their own strengths due to poor self-image and self-esteem issues. Failing to recognize strengths undermines confidence and can stop people from settings goals and taking on new challenges, which is vital for personal growth.
Therefore, in both your own life, but also in your relationship with your clients, help people identify their own strengths. Try to see if you can come up with a list of five strengths that you or your clients feel strongly about.
Another way to apply positive psychology is to foster optimism. Research has shown that optimism has a variety of health benefits, including increased longevity and lower rates of stress, blood pressure and associated diseases[ii]. Optimism also helps people feel more secure about their lives and helps people tackle adversity, such as personal injury or the death of loved ones.
However negative thinking patterns can become ingrained and people can find it hard to break through a pessimistic lens, or even appreciate the value of doing so. You need to coax optimism out of yourself and your client by thinking about positive events that have happened in your lives. Try to reflect upon three positive memories or events and try to re-live how these moments felt, but also consider why these positive events occurred. Often, upon some retrospection, this activity will help people realize in an organic and sincere way that good things do occur in life.
Our third suggestion to cultivate positive psychology is to instill a sense of purpose in your life and the lives around you. People are most content when they are working towards a meaningful goal, but modern society can lead us devoid of a purpose or direction to aspire to. A good way to rekindle a sense of direction and purpose is to ask people to imagine what people would write in their obituary or biography after they died and what your client would like people to write in their obituary and biography. This activity helps remind people of their own mortality and finite nature and the sense of urgency involved in achieving goals. This in turn, fosters motivation to act now, but it can also help people envision a concrete goal and outcome to work towards.
Moving onwards, it’s also vital to develop gratitude. Gratitude works as an insulation about depression and depressive illness and contributes to the resilience needed to cope with life’s ups and downs. Gratitude has also been associated with better bodily health and longevity[iii].
A simple way to apply gratitude is to ask your client to write down and reflect on things in their life that they are grateful for. This reflection of gratitude can be done in numerous ways. A brief period of reflection in the morning before the day starts is popular, but so is writing down thoughts of gratitude when they occur and placing them in a cookie jar. The latter technique allows these genuine thoughts to be remembered and accessed at will.
Additionally, positive psychology can be applied through mindfulness. The research on mindfulness is vast and it has many reported benefits, including better concentration and improved emotional regulation[iv]. Mindfulness can be developed through meditation, but a less intense and beginner-friendly method is to encourage your client or yourself to slow down and savor their daily experiences. This can involve dedicating a period of time every day for your client just to be mindful of what they are doing. It doesn’t need to be particularly long – even 15 minutes can have a profound effect. Likewise, the activity itself doesn’t have to be special; eating a meal, walking to work, talking to friends and family – anything that can be savored is worth trying to be mindful of.
Positive Psychology To Apply Today
Next, you can also kick-start a positive mindset by helping your client develop flow. Flow is a special psychological state of heightened concentration, which is highly rewarding to experience and increases performance[v]. Flow occurs when someone is being adequately challenged when they are motivated to apply effort and when they are free from distractions. If an activity is too easy to be engaging, flow doesn’t occur, but neither will it be present if an activity is unbearably hard.
The intrinsic motivation associated with flow has connected the state to competitive sports and high-pressure careers, but it can be developed on any activity which can display mastery. Encourage your client to engage in a hobby they find rewarding, but pursue this hobby and challenge them to excel at it.
Our seventh suggestion is to help your client develop compassion. By our very nature, humans are social mammals and having a rich and vivid sense of compassion greases the wheels of social belonging. Compassion also helps people be gentler to themselves but emphasizing with their own faults and flaws. Try to get your client to imagine someone who they feel compassionate towards; this could be a friend or family member, but also a famous icon or even an animal – kittens and puppies are known to be especially effective. Focus on this person or animal, allowing feeling of unconditional love and support to arise. Once these feelings are strong, see if your client can apply these feelings to themselves, but also people they know.
Additionally, it’s also important to help your client develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset occurs when people understand that traits and skills are malleable; that you can improve and develop talent through hard work and persistence. By contrast, a ‘fixed’ mindset lingers on the belief that talent and competence are fixed and cannot be improved. A fixed mindset inherently leads to insecurity about whether or not you are good enough, a disdain for hard work and effort and rumination on one’s flaws[vi]. You can encourage a growth mindset by teaching your client that there is no such thing as failure or mistakes, only learning, and development. Ask your client to replace the words ‘mistake’ & ‘failure’ with words such as ‘growth’, ‘learning’ and ‘challenge’ to embed this idea in their psyche.
Finally, it is also valuable to help people learn to relax. Stress and anxiety sway our actions and decisions and they can stop us from tackling obstacles or reaching our potential. As a result, developing the ability to relax, wherever you are, is vital for overcoming genuine hurdles. To cultivate this ability, you and your client can practice deep breathing with your client, but also progressive muscle relaxation.
Positive Psychology Conclusion
There are many ways you can apply positive psychology in your professional and personal life. This article has provided you with nine techniques; recognizing strengths, fostering optimism, developing purpose, developing gratitude, applying mindfulness, cultivating flow, developing compassion, learning a growth mindset and practicing relaxation techniques. Try them and see whether you can apply your positive psychology skills in the real world.
Positive Psychology References
[i] Luthans, F. (2002) Positive organizational behavior: Developing and managing psychological strengths. Academy of Management Perspectives pp57-75
[ii]The pursuit of happiness. Mindfulness and Positive Thinking. Available at: http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/positive-thinking/ [Accessed 02 Sept. 2016]
[iii] Morin, A. (2014) 7 Scientifically proven benefits of gratitude that will motivate you to give thanks year-round. Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#1ae853566800 [Accessed 02 Sept. 2016]
[iv] APA editorial team (2012) What are the benefits of mindfulness. American Psychological Association. Available at: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx [Accessed 02 2016]
[v] Howel, R, T. (2012) Finding ‘flow’ this week. Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cant-buy-happiness/201202/finding-flow-week [Accessed 02 Sept. 2016]
[vi] Dweck, C. (201) What is mindset. Mindset online. Available at: http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/themindsets/index.html [Accessed 02 Sept. 2016]