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Benefits of Positive Psychology

June 19, 2024 | Jessie Nolasco-Sandino, LMSW | 7 min. read

8 Dimensions of Wellness

This month we’re taking a look at Positive Psychology and the benefits it creates.

According to Charles R. Snyder, a specialist in the field, “positive psychology does not suggest that we should dismiss the rest of psychology or that therapists should ignore the very real problems people face.” Instead, positive psychology works like a lens in which all other psychology can be seen through. It’s not about answering the questions about how to treat diseases or ailments, rather it seeks to answer questions about what makes life good, or worth living. Personally, it helps me inform my therapeutic practice and begin to shift my focus with my clients. What brings them Peace? What little things each day do they find joyful? What are they grateful for? By refocusing clients through this more ‘positive’ approach, we allow other psychological benefits – such as gratitude, self-compassion, health and wellness to flow through. 

Furthermore, much of positive psychology is backed by scientific study and a large amount of supportive research that shows its great success in practice, and subsequently, positive results.

Can we cultivate skills that have us arrive at Life Satisfaction? It is essential in Positive Psychology to focus on the ‘positive’ or the strengths even if we may have faults, weaknesses or problems. This does not mean it replaces the traditional Medical Model; rather it supplements and complements it with ensuring mental health professionals pair their work with a redirection towards one’s strengths instead of problems or illnesses. 

Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:

  • Positive experiences such as happiness, joy, inspiration, and love
  • Positive states and traits such as gratitude, resilience, and compassion
  • Positive institutions such as applying positive principles within entire organizations and institutions

There’s plethora of benefits of Positive Psychology and the following findings support that claim: 

  • Oxytocin (i.e., love hormone) may provoke greater trust, empathy, and morality in humans, meaning that giving hugs or other shows of physical affection may give you a big boost to your overall well-being (and the wellbeing of others; Barraza & Zak, 2009);
  • Those who intentionally cultivate a positive mood to match the outward emotion they need to display (i.e., in emotional labor) benefit by more genuinely experiencing the positive mood. In other words, “putting on a happy face” won’t necessarily make you feel happier, but putting in a little bit of effort likely will (Scott & Barnes, 2011);
  • Happiness is contagious; those with happy friends and significant others are more likely to be happy in the future (Fowler & Christakis, 2008);
  • One of the benefits of practicing a positive psychological outlook is, to put it broadly, success! Not only does success make us happier, feeling happy and experiencing positive emotions actually increases our chances of success (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005);
  • An intention to express your authentic self and a sense of strong personal identity are linked to meaning, but not to happiness; if you are searching for meaning, try working on your practice of authenticity (Baumeister, et al., 2013).

As a field, positive psychology spends much of its time thinking about topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, wellbeing, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidencehope, and flourishing. Can you imagine what would happen if we spent as much time focusing on positive things in our life as we do the negative?

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