Posts in positive psychology
Positive Psychology 101 - The Science of Gratitude

Instead of focusing on maladaptive patterns and behavior, positive psychology focuses on helping people function at an optimal level. Positive psychology aims to better understand and apply factors that help individuals and communities thrive and flourish (Seligman & Csikszentmihay, 2000).

Well-being can be achieved or increased through deliberate interventions.

One of the earliest documented interventions involved guiding people to adopt traits present in happy people (Fordyce, 1977, 1983).

To date, many interventions have been developed that have been shown to increase well-being including:

Practicing forgiveness (McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen, 2000)

Participating in happiness training (Goldwurm, Baruffi, & Colombo, 2003)

Keeping a gratitude journal (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)

Thinking about positive experiences (Burton & King, 2004)

Writing a gratitude letter (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005)

Engaging in acts of kindness (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005)

Counting one’s blessings (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005)

Engaging in productive activities (Baker, Cahalin, Gerst, & Burr, 2005)  

 Reliving positive events (Lyubomirsky, Sousa, & Dickerhoof, 2006)

Nurturing relationships (Lyubomirsky, 2008),

Participating in goal-setting (MacLeod, Coates, & Hetherton, 2008).

seligman quote

One of the first things that comes up when you start researching Positive Psychology is GRATITUDE! Gratitude is strongly correlated with greater happiness and better relationships When we tap into a state of gratitude, we elevate our functioning and see improvement in a variety of areas.

This is a summary of over 40 research studies on gratitude. Click the picture to link to the source.

This is a summary of over 40 research studies on gratitude. Click the picture to link to the source.

A simple thing we can do to tap into gratitude is to create a gratitude journal. Just write down 5 things that you are grateful for. You can start a notes page on your phone, or can write these down on a piece of paper. Take a moment to rate your sense of well-being before writing down your gratitude list. Write down your list, then re-rate your sense of well-being.

P.S. This can work even if you go through the list mentally, but better if you write it down.

What's Up With Meditation?

I was introduced to meditation in 2002, by my mentor Dr. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson. She taught us how to lead guided imagery sessions with caregivers of dementia patients, to help promote relaxation and to relieve stress. Caregivers tend to be an extremely stressed-out population, who are particularly vulnerable to mental and physical illnesses. We emphasized that one must prioritize self-care, in order to better care for others. (This is true for anyone!) I saw first-hand how quickly these techniques worked, and how powerful they were to help promote a sense of well-being. We taught a different meditation tool each week. There are various types of meditation, not every method works for everyone. I’ve used the techniques from our caregiver research with many clients over the years, and for myself. I also use various apps and web based recordings/videos. I love, love, love, how meditation affects me personally. For one thing, I notice that after I meditate, I feel a sense of calm, and I have a little more, mental “space” before reacting. This is so helpful as a parent. This is true even if I only do a, “signal breath.” There is so much research out there that champions the benefits of meditation to help everything from: stress-reduction, improved cognition, better sleep, pain reduction, decreased inflammation, disease prevention, anxiety, to lower blood pressure… the list goes on. Click the Buddha to read some of the research. The benefits of building a meditation practice seem endless. It’s also so, “mainstream” now, Jimmy Fallon even meditated on television.

Please don’t be discouraged if you try it and don’t like it. Try a different method! I really like the Insight Timer app because there are thousands of teachers, it’s free, and you can sort meditations by the length of time you have to practice. You can try for a minute a day and build up!

Click the pictures below for more info.

Science of Meditation - Research

Science of Meditation - Research

As always, if you are in crisis, experiencing any suicidal or homicidal ideation, please seek immediate medical attention.

CBT Part 2 - Untwisting Your Thinking

The other day, I wrote a little about cognitive distortions. These are unhelpful thoughts that we all tend to have, that are not rational, and can likely cause negative feelings. Most of us do not pay attention to the way we are talking to ourselves; our internal dialogue. Identifying these unhelpful thought patterns is a first step in feeling better.

Today, I present an antidote. Check it out and check yourself!

David Burns is arguably the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and has some amazing books and resources to help people with various mood related concerns. Check out his website, blogs, articles, and podcasts to learn more!

As always, if you are experiencing severe distress, any suicidal or homicidal ideation, or anything you need help to cope with, please call 911 or seek professional support as soon as possible.

As always, if you are experiencing severe distress, any suicidal or homicidal ideation, or anything you need help to cope with, please call 911 or seek professional support as soon as possible.

Growth Mindset

Mindset = the underlying beliefs people have about intelligence and learning. There is a lot of research on growth mindset and it’s relationship to praise from parents and teachers. After studying thousands of people, Dr. Carol Dweck discovered the tendency for people to have either fixed or growth mindsets, and that people with a growth mindset will learn more, learn faster, and more thoroughly if they believe that intelligence is not fixed. This has huge implications for parenting and teaching!