3 Positive Psychology Tools
PREMIUM CONTENT for MEMBERS ONLY
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1 in 5 US adults live with a mental illness and over 1 in 5 youth have had a debilitating mental illness. While mental health can be in a constant state of change throughout our lifespan, there is a need to prevent it from becoming chronic. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to nurture mental wellness, but by understanding the three pillars to positive psychology, building a mental health practice may become easier to achieve.
“… a way of “behaving, thinking, or feeling” that is unique to their development and performance.”
Strengths are oftentimes recognized as a person’s skills or talents. While someone may possess strengths within their skills or talents, a person’s strengths can also be defined as a way of “behaving, thinking, or feeling” that is unique to their development and performance. Using our strengths has been linked to higher levels of well-being and happiness. However, researchers have found that most people may not even be aware of their strengths. In positive psychology, strengths can be identified within a context area (work, school, relationships, etc.) and then rating them on a scale from 1-10 based on their current use and the room that exists to use them more (scope). For example, let’s say someone believes one of their strengths is gratitude, but at work they rate “3” as their current use and “8” as their scope. This indicates that there is plenty of room to use this strength more at work. As a result, this can help the individual find ways to start using this strength more in this particular context.
“ Behaving in a way that aligns with our values can increase overall well-being and fulfillment.”
Values help us understand our direction in life. Once identified, it becomes clearer to understand which behaviors are going to align with our values and which are not. Behaving in a way that aligns with our values can increase overall well-being and fulfillment. While values are certainly important in life, our actions may not always align with them. For example, someone who values spending time with family but is consistently going on vacation during family gatherings may lack awareness of the discrepancy they are creating between their values and their lifestyle habits. One way to increase more awareness of our values and the extent to which we live in line with them is to use what is called the “Bull’s-Eye Survey.” In this survey, there are four value areas: 1) work/education 2) leisure 3) relationships 4) personal growth/health. The goal is to describe our values within each of the areas to better understand how our actions may be affecting them. As an example, say within “relationships” someone values being a loyal, affectionate, and loving partner. However, when marking this value on the bull’s eye chart they actually mark it quite far from the bull’s eye, indicating that there are obstacles that may be preventing this person from being a loyal, affectionate, and loving partner. They would then write down a few obstacles that are standing between them and their value and rate the power of that obstacle on a scale from 1-7, seven being the most powerful and completely preventing them from living in a way that aligns with this value. This exercise can have the power to shed light on the discrepancies between our values and the way we choose to live our life, helping us make decisions that bring us closer to achieving our goals.
“[Self-compassion] involves self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness.”
The ability to practice self-compassion is invaluable to our health and well-being. It can be described as treating ourselves with care when it comes to mistakes, failures, and difficult life situations. According to research, it involves self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness is when we care and understand ourselves rather than being harsh and critical to ourselves. This may look like practicing self-soothing exercises such as journaling or meditating instead of trying to fix a problem during a stressful life circumstance. Common humanity recognizes that humans are imperfect, naturally making self-compassion easier to achieve. Mindfulness on the other hand, is being aware of the thoughts and emotions that accompany painful experiences.
Together, these three pillars of self-compassion can help us address unhealthy, self-defeating patterns. To bring self-compassion into action, there is a technique known as “chair work” that can be helpful in shifting our perspective on the way we treat ourselves. In this exercise, there are three parts 1) express self-criticism 2) express how it feels to receive the self-criticism 3) confront the critical voice from the perspective of a friend or counselor. This practice can help us understand how we think, and how to change our inner dialogue in a way that supports our well-being.
Research demonstrates that positive psychology tools can be effective for improving quality of life, and even depressive symptoms. By identifying our strengths, values, and practice self-compassion, we can use positive psychology tools to feel inner peace, deeper meaning, and greater enlightenment.