By Lorena Guerrero, UWO Peer Wellness Educator
At the positive psychology center at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers define positive psychology as “the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.” There are many different ideas that are connected to positive psychology, especially when you compare the individual to a group. Individuals focus on positive individual traits such as the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, perseverance, and originality. Whereas groups focus on civic virtues and the institutions that move individuals toward better citizenship such as responsibility, nurturance, moderation, tolerance, and work ethic.
One way to use positive psychology is by starting a gratitude journal. Writing about something you are grateful for everyday can help you feel more content with your life. Statistics show that the more grateful a person is the happier, energetic, and hopeful they become. Another alternative could be to picture your best possible self by imagining your most important and deeply held goals, by picturing life after you’ve accomplished them, in as much detail as you can. Laura King, professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia, who researched this “Best Possible Self” intervention, found that participants who imagined/wrote about their visions for twenty minutes, four days in a row, had immediate increases in positive moods, were happier several weeks later, and had reported being sick less often than participants who were asked to write about other topics. Lastly, a personal favorite of mine, is to incorporate mindfulness meditation. Life can be busy and stressful, but with 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation, as well as the other options I provided, you should begin to feel a change within yourself.
According to research results by the American Psychological Association (APA), benefits from mindfulness include stress reduction, increased working memory, increased ability to focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, and relationship satisfaction. From my own experience, doing guided meditations at the UW Oshkosh counseling center has profoundly helped me relax throughout a busy day. In particular, their “Just Breathe” room provides many activities that promote positive psychology, including written directions to meditation. More information can be found on their website.
With all of the findings behind positive psychology, there are plenty of benefits for such a small commitment. This has had such a positive effect on my life and it can for you too. If you are interested in learning more about positive psychology there are many sources and articles out there that will provide you with several ways to boost your positivity in life!