I am very excited to welcome Dr. Donna Marino to Therapy That Works as a guest blogger. I find her area of expertise, Positive Psychology, to be an exciting, evidence-based approach to wellness, as I’m sure you will as well.

Dr. Marino:

While Positive Psychology is not exactly new (it’s been around for almost 15 years now, started by Martin Seligman, in 1998, during his APA presidency), it is still considered new to the field of psychology.  It is a new perspective on mental health that research is demonstrating, can lead to “a new you.”

Now, will you wake up singing like Beyoncé or swimming like Michael Phelps?  Well, no, but research shows that it will make you happier.  In fact, Positive Psychology has been referred to as the “Science of Happiness.”  The key difference between Positive Psychology and Self-help or Pop Psychology is its grounding in research. It is considered an evidence-based treatment.

So, what is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is essentially the study of what is right, instead of what is wrong.  Where the main focus of traditional psychology has been on pathology, sickness, and the “negative outliers,” what’s abnormal; Positive Psychology focuses on health, wellness, success, and happiness or in other words the “positive outliers,” those that are functioning at the top of the curve.

Positive Psychology is interested in studying those people who are functioning best, so that we can learn from them and how to apply their skills and strategies in order to increase our own functioning.  Positive Psychology is about studying what we want to replicate, not what we want to deter or avoid.  It focuses on the positive of life and has created real world strategies to be implemented into our everyday ways of being to improve the quality of our life.

“Does this mean that Positive Psychology just ignores the negative, the down-side of life?”

“Isn’t this just a Pollyana way of living?”  Well, the answer is no.  Positive Psychology does not pretend that negative emotions or experiences do not exist.  It does not ignore them or say you should just look on the bright-side.  The point of Positive Psychology is balance.

As a field, we have spent so much time looking at what’s wrong; we need to also look at what’s right.   A Positive Psychologist won’t ignore your pain or depression, but instead will also ask, when/where do you still feel joy, peace, and contentment and then look for ways that you can create that in other areas of your life.  Behavioral Psychologists have always known that what we put our attention on grows.  If you want a behavior to increase, pay attention to it, reward it even, and if you want it to decrease, ignore it.  It’s the same idea.  Put your attention on what’s positive, what’s working, and you will watch it grow.

So what does this mean for you?

You can start implementing Positive Psychology strategies right away, for yourself or with others, to improve one’s quality of life.  One such strategy started by Seligman himself and based on his research, is to write down 3 things each day that you are grateful for (3 good things).  A little tip here is to make sure when you do this exercise, be sure that it comes from your heart and not your head, its effects are greater when you really mean it.

Other strategies may include, evaluating your daily and weekly activities and finding ways to sneak in some positivity.  Do you love your morning latte’?  Well, then, savor it.  Do you love walking the dog?  Make sure to make time for it.  Whatever brings happiness and joy into your life, make a conscious decision to do more of it, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.  Just putting your attention on what makes you feel good, will make you feel good.   As Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar says, “Appreciation, appreciates.”

How else can you experience more positivity in your life?  Take care of yourself!  These are known as positivity enablers because they allow us to soak in the benefits of our positive experiences.  They are things like, proper rest, proper exercise, and proper nutrition.

So, in short, as we begin a new year, look at your life, see what is right now and act on it, create more of it, and celebrate all that is working well for you.

Many Blessings in the New Year,

Donna Marino, PsyD is a licensed clinical psychologist, a certified yoga teacher, and a positive psychology coach. She practices psychology in Oak Park, IL. Read more about Dr. Marino at http://www.drdonnamarino.com.

Thank you to, Dr. Marino for this inspiring guest post.  May we all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013!

…Dr. Deibler 

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