Positive Psychology and Helping

Posted on 10/09/12 by erynwicker No Comments

Happiness is a goal of positive psychology – should probably be for all of us too! And Positive Psychology describes several pathways—major dimensions of our lives – that get us closer to this goal. If we expand and build on each of these areas we can bring ourselves closer to that goal as each dimension plays a role in driving happiness.

  • Creating more positive emotions in our lives as a means of building resiliency (a buffer or bounce-back power against everyday challenges). Positive emotions also reduce stress and allow us to be more curious, creative, and better able to problem solve.


  • Maintaining a sense of meaning and purpose can act as a stabilizing force during times of change and transition. It can serve as an anchor to keep us balanced during life’s inevitable ups and downs.


  • When we are surrounded by positive (loving and supportive) relationships, we are more trusting of others, can share ourselves with friends, family, and colleagues.


  • Building your life around your natural talents and performance strengths instead of obsessing on weaknesses. When we are able to use our strengths, we are satisfying our natural urges, and thus we feel good about ourselves: we thrive and feel invigorated, we perform better and are more productive, and we have greater contentment and satisfaction.

The goal is to alleviate suffering (by identifying what is causing and contributing to it) and increase well-being (by increasing positive emotion, engagement, and meaning in life). Possible and tangible ways to help incorporate positive psychology into our own life, and the lives of those you interact with include:

1.      Identify your top strengths and encourage others to identify theirs – great for friends, partners, and children. Then try to use these strengths daily.

2.      Start a Blessings or Gratitude Journal or have that conversation daily identifying three things (big or small) that happened that day and why. This can be done at the dinner table, at the office, and/or in the classroom.

3.      Write a letter of forgiveness to someone describing the situation and attached feelings, but don’t deliver it.

4.      Write a letter of gratitude to someone you would like to thank for something they said or did and deliver it or read it to them.

5.      Focus on the fact that “satisficers” (“This is good enough”) have better well-being than “maximizers” (“I must find the perfect partner, TV, or vacation spot.”) and encourage this thinking in those around you.

6.      Remember the role of optimism and hope in seeing that bad events are temporary and changeable. Remember what doors opened as well as what doors have closed.

7.      Build Positive Experiences – increase the intensity and duration of positive emotion by planning pleasurable activities and carrying them out as planned. Encourage your children and family members to do the same.

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