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What Is Positive Psychology and Why Is It Important?

Positive psychology is the scientific approach to therapy and stress management, but does it actually work? Find out here at HealthyPlace.

Positive psychology is essentially a scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It focuses on psychological science with the aim of helping patients build on the best aspects of their lives rather than repair the worst. In therapy, positive psychology is the marriage between the science of psychotherapy and the research behind the practice of positivity. It helps people work towards identifying their strengths as well as their weaknesses while reducing symptoms of negative functioning.

Who Does Positive Psychology Help?

Positive psychology is founded on the belief that human beings are hardwired to focus on negative emotions and experiences rather than positive ones. This approach aims to bring a more balanced perspective and help you concentrate on the more positive aspects of your feelings, thoughts and memories.

Some studies show that a lack of positive outlook may contribute to depression, although this lack cannot cause mental illness. Positive psychology has proven to be "highly therapeutic" for some individuals while also encouraging development in character strength and coping skills. A 2006 study conducted by Martin Seligman (an American psychologist, educator and author) showed significant and long-lasting benefits to patients with depression.

Positive Psychology Exercises

Positive psychology exercises should be practiced with the help of a trained and educated professional in a therapeutic setting. These may include:

Values in action inventory of strength (VIA-IS)

VIA-IS is one of the most commonly used positive psychology exercises. It can help you identify your strengths in daily life instead of focusing on the areas in which you may be lacking. The VIA-IS questionnaire is free to use and scientifically-backed. You can find the link to the VIA-IS here.

Self-esteem and gratitude journaling

Journaling may be straightforward, but evidence has shown that this simple exercise can have a profound effect on your outlook and satisfaction with life. Your therapist may ask you to create a list of the things in life for which you are grateful for or the elements about yourself that you like. Over time, your brain will begin to focus more on the positive aspects rather than reverting to negative automatic thoughts.

Designing your best day

With the help of your therapist, you will discover what a "beautiful day" means to you. Not only does this deepen your self-awareness and understanding of what makes you happy, but it also gives your therapist a window into your subconscious.

When the day comes around, the idea is to focus on the small, simple pleasures and accept that the day may not be perfect, but it is still enjoyable.

Mindfulness meditation

This practice is typically explored in positive psychology exercises to encourage the client to remain in the moment and turn off automatic negative thoughts. A therapist may base whole sessions around mindfulness meditation, set tasks for you to try at home or include mini-meditations in your regular sessions.

Positive Psychology: Why It's Important

It is perhaps too soon to determine the long-term effects of positive psychology. However, this approach has been in the making since the 1970s and is now considered a pioneering evidence-based treatment. It could help remove some of the stigma surrounding mental illness and provide a life-affirming alternative to traditional psychotherapy.

The very fact that a type of therapy that deals with such difficult and serious subject matters could be considered "positive" is a step in the right direction to removing guilt, shame and feelings of low-self-worth that surround many of these conditions.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, September 19). What Is Positive Psychology and Why Is It Important?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/what-is-positive-psychology-and-why-is-it-important

Last Updated: October 15, 2019
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Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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