When we think of our mental health, we typically think about identifying and treating triggers, flaws and symptoms. That’s why many of us have Googled keywords like “depression” or “insomnia” or “burnout,” before coming face to face with questionaires that probe us about the quality of our sleep, our appetite, and whether we’ve been experiencing little interest or pleasure in doing things. This can be daunting, but it’s understandable at the least: we do this so that we can find out what’s wrong with us to nip the problem in the bud.
But is that all we can do to take care of our mental health?
Image by Brett Jordan, from Unsplash.
Enter Positive Psychology. It is fundamentally different from the diagnosis-treatment nature of traditional psychology and posits that paying attention to our mental health isn’t something to liken to trimming weeds or fixing a leaking pipe.
Instead, visualise taking care of a houseplant. Watering it, changing its soil and ensuring it has the right amount of sunlight are just some of the actions we have to periodically evaluate for or even routinise. This is so that the houseplant can, depending on its present state, 1) get what it needs to grow or 2) continue its steady growth or 3) maintain its peak form.
In other words, whether we consider ourselves to be thriving, well or struggling, there are actions we can incorporate as part of our lifestyle towards bringing out the best parts of ourselves. These include the positive things within our control and our strengths so that we can build a life of meaning and purpose. Instead of asking what is wrong with us, Positive Psychology empowers us by asking, “What are the already great things about you that you can improve to make you a more mentally healthy person?”
Image by Bruce Mars, from Unsplash.
How can seeing the positivity in our life and our character help us to be more resilient, better versions of ourselves, you might ask? When we do so, we are essentially honing our awareness of ourselves, our surroundings and our experiences. Seeing the bigger picture becomes easier, which in turn helps us to see the available options in problem solving. Additionally, these positive qualities are intrinsically motivating. They help us to make our life worth living. Only when we know what positivity looks like can we become equipped with defining, quantifying and creating it.
And the end goal? A balanced as well as emotionally and socially healthy life.
Recognising and celebrating positivity and our strengths may seem intuitive, but they are very much learned experiences. How good are you at acknowledging and celebrating the positivity within you? We’ve prepared a flowchart to paint a picture of what Positive Psychology may look like in practice and for you to do a self-check here:
How did you fare? If you ended up with…
…a fuller heart, it looks like you naturally use many components of Positive Psychology! Continue reading to learn more about the different components you are already making use of to hone these capabilities further and get new ideas!
…a little piece of heart, don’t lose heart! Pun not intended. We’ll introduce plenty of ideas you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle towards being your best self.
In any case, different people may have different responses to the various scenarios, and it’s probably easier to see what the more positive choices are when they’re presented to you hypothetically. How then can we internalise the the positivity behind these choices and put them into practice?
In the remainder of our six-part series, we provide clear, easy-to-follow examples of things you can start to do as you go about your daily life to practise Positive Psychology. Read on as we delve into some components of Positive Psychology and how they can work hand in hand with the process of diagnosis and treatment to make us happier, more resilient people.
Thank you to Alexandra, our contributor in the psychology field, for your expertise!
To find out more about Positive Psychology, read the other parts of our Positive Psychology series:
Sherrie is the resident writer, programmer, marketing wizard and snack curator of Co.'s community team. Her favourite things about being at Co. include sharing calories with community members, meeting new friends in the Duxton neighbourhood (and sharing more calories) and getting lost in Littered with Books across the street.
Alexandra is a vibrant Mental Wellbeing Psychologist who graduated with BSc (Hons) in Psychology from Michigan State University and a Master’s in Counselling (Distinction) from Monash University. She has more than 10 years of experience, including extensive training in various positive psychology, mental resilience and counseling techniques. Alexandra’s diverse work is driven by her firm belief that humans have far more that can bring them together than should bring them apart.