There is much more to the new field of Positive Psychology than the self-help therapy Calgary residents read about in popular literature. What is the difference between Positive Psychology and what has come to be known as “Pop Psychology?”
While there may be some exceptions, few of the self-help strategies in the Pop Psychology literature have been subjected to any form of scientific research. Instead, the measure of success is testimonials from the general public who have tried the strategies.
On the other hand, many therapeutic approaches consistent with the principles of Positive Psychology have been the focus of empirical research. Results have been promising but there are still skeptics who believe Positive Psychology does not apply to all people, especially those with a high predisposition towards negative thinking.
The July 2009 issue of Time Magazine highlighted the results of a study originally published in the scholarly journal, Psychological Science. The authors of the study — Joanne Wood, John Lee, and Elaine Perunovic – claim that emphasizing positive thinking can, in some cases, actually make respondents more unhappy.
Rather than engage in a scientific debate over whose research is superior, let us apply the old-fashioned technique of common-sense evaluation. If it works for you, who cares what the scientific literature has to say?
There are two specific Positive Psychology interventions easily employed as self-help therapy. Calgary residents are encouraged to try them both. Here are the two exercises, both of which have been the subject of scientific research:
- Gratitude Visit
- Three Good Things in Life
In an Internet study conducted in 2005, Positive Psychology researchers Martin Seligman, Tracy Steen, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson, found these two exercises had a beneficial positive impact. Both can be put into practice without professional help. Here is how each works.
The Gratitude Visit
We all have people who have done good things for us to whom we have neglected to express our appreciation and gratitude properly. Think through your social network and identify such a person. Then sit down and write a letter expressing both what the kindness did for you and your gratitude for it. Meet with the person face-to-face and read your letter to him or her. Allow a natural reaction and then share your memories of the event.
The Three Good Things in Life
With this exercise, you need to sit down at the end of each day and write out three good things that happened for you during the day. Also record what caused the event and why it was a good thing for your life. Repeat this every day for a week.
You can find the original study in the July-August 2005 issue of the American Psychologist as well as directly on the Internet under the search term “Positive Psychology Progress.”
You can read the details of the study and the statistical methods used to analyze the positive results. Or you can simply reflect on how completing these two practical approaches to self-help worked for you. For more information on the Positive Psychology approach to therapy, Calgary residents have a wide variety of therapists from which to choose.
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