Posts

,

The Science Behind Positive Psychology and Well-Being

We study psychology to better understand the human mind and use our findings to improve the human condition. The brain is a complex organism — one that we hardly understand, relatively speaking — but psychology helps us better understand how it affects the way we feel, act and think.

Psychology is not a new practice. In fact, psychology practices date back to ancient civilizations such as India, Egypt, Greece, China, and Persia. Of course, today, it has become a discipline that can be quite refined.

One newer school of thought is positive psychology.

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is a humanistic approach to psychology that focuses on factors that contribute to happiness and well-being. It is designed to be complementary to other schools of psychology that typically focus on problematic behaviors and thought patterns and fixing them.

According to leaders in positive psychology, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positive psychology is, “the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.”

One may use principles of positive psychology to improve their self-esteem and self-confidence towards their inherent characteristics and events that have made them who they are. The goal is to foster acceptance and optimism about one’s future.

The PERMA Model of Well-Being

After working through initial theories, Seligman developed an acronym (PERMA) that represents his well-being theory:

  • Positive Emotions — such as satisfaction, awe, excitement, pride, and others typically translate to positive outcomes in other aspects of life. Positive emotions give us hope of a positive future.
  • Engagement — such as with activities that put us in “flow,” where we find ourselves passionate for and heavily concentrated on a task at hand. When we are really engaged, nothing else matters and we can lose a sense of the negative realities around us.
  • Relationships — through bad times a good times, help us strengthen positive emotions. And, many positive emotions are experienced in groups. Even introverted people need relationships, as they are fundamental to one’s well-being.
  • Meaning — or purpose, gives us drive. Meaning gives us context to why we may be engaging with our lives the way we do, through work, school, community, or any other aspect of life.
    Accomplishments — which can be work-based, hobby-based, community-based, etc. Having a sense of accomplishment gives us pride and positive emotions.

These elements of well-being are an end in themselves and are pursued for one’s own sake.

The Benefits of Positive Psychology and Well-Being

The goal of positive psychology is to improve one’s well-being. Positive well-being not only helps us feel good, but these positive feelings can translate to other benefits.

Benefits of well-being include:

  • Improved performance at work, school, and with hobbies
  • Improved satisfaction with relationships
  • Improved psychical health and stronger immune system
  • Improved cardiovascular health and longer life expectancy
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved emotional self-regulation
  • Improved social ability
  • Decreased depression and anxiety

Putting Positive Psychology to Practice

There are endless ways to practice positive psychology in your life and work towards achieving any of the five elements of PERMA.

Some more common examples of positive psychology interventions include:

Writing in a Gratitude Journal

Writing down what you’re grateful for is one of the best ways to find appreciation for life. If can keep you thankful for what you have and act as a buffer against negative thoughts and emotions. Rather than focusing on what could be, a gratitude journal keeps us focused on the present gifts we have in life.

Do this every day, or every other day, and take notice of how it makes you feel over the course of a month. You can always adjust the frequency, template, or focus if you need to change things up. If you’re having a hard time coming up with things to be grateful for, start looking for the smaller things in life that spark joy.

Expressing Gratitude

Has anyone had a positive influence on your life? Let them know.

Sometimes called the “gratitude visit,” expressing gratitude towards someone who has ever gone out of their way to support you — or anyone you’ve felt had a positive impact on your life — can be a powerful exercise. Making other people feel good about themselves, helps us feel better about ourselves.

State in detail what this person has done for you and express your gratitude in tangible ways.

Best Possible Self

Write down a narrative about your “best possible self.” Contemplate the satisfying possibilities for your future self and think about different areas of your life.

This practice can unlock your deeply rooted goals that you may have had a hard time defining. Revisit this practice and make your vision clearer and clearer through at least four revisions.

You may want to ask yourself questions such as:

  • What would I be doing?
  • Where would I be living?
  • What does your average day look like?
  • Would you feel fulfilled?

Measure Your Strengths and Virtues

Measuring your strengths and virtues is a great way to self-examine yourself, discover more about yourself, and reflect on what motivates you.

Seligman and Chris Peterson studied virtues across major religions and cultures to classify them into a system that can be used in positive psychology. The result was 6 classes of virtues with 24 character strengths.

The Science Behind Positive Psychology and Well-Being[Image Credits: PositivePsychology.com]

Try using a template like the one below to measure your strengths and virtues:

Date Activity/Exercise Experience/Emotion Enjoyment Level
(1-10 scale)
Energy Level
(1-10 scale)
Strength(s) used in
the activity

Mindfulness Meditation

Directing attention to one’s own immediate thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations and experiences can help you focus on the present moment. This is exactly what mindfulness meditation aims to achieve.

Meditation is a practice that dates back to early Buddhist practices but has had a resurgence in recent decades. With this resurgence, studies have largely proven meditation and mindfulness to be an effective tool to improve one’s well-being.

According to the American Psychological Association, benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Improvement in working memory and insightful thinking
  • Reducing negative cyclic thinking
  • Improved concentration and less mental distractions
  • Better emotional stability and regulation
  • Improvements in neuroplasticity
  • Enhanced relationships

Final Thoughts

Living an intentional life, understanding ourselves, and treating both ourselves and others is a key component of a happy life. If we practice positive psychology and strive for positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments we may begin to find our lives more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Practicing positive psychology does not come naturally to most people, and we must actively counteract negative patterns to do so. But in time, and using some of the practices listed above, we can make our minds work with us and not against us.

If you or a loved one is struggling to maintain their well-being, consider talking to a therapist or psychologist that can provide the professional guidance you need.

Solara Mental Health in San Diego County is here to help you. Our mental health clinic is available to answer your questions at 844-206-9722.

Sources

  1. Al Taher, R., MSc. (2021, August 17). The Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/classification-character-strengths-virtues/
  2. Lino, C., MAPP. (2020, September 01). Positive Psychology Examples: 5 Ways to Put it Into Practice. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/positive-psychology-examples/
  3. Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 5-14. doi:10.1.1.183.6660
  4. Davis, D. M., PhD, & Hayes, J. A., PhD. (2012, August). What are the benefits of mindfulness? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
  5. University of Pennsylvania. (n.d.). PERMA™ Theory of Well-Being and PERMA™ Workshops. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/learn-more/perma-theory-well-being-and-perma-workshops
,

How to Curb a Busy Mind: The Ultimate Meditation Guide

It’s estimated that the average person has more than 6,000 thoughts every day.

This being an average, it means that some of us will have fewer thoughts. Some of us will have many more.

If you find that your mind is becoming overactive, it can cause a lot of stress. A busy mind can leave us unable to fully switch off or relax, which isn’t good for our health.

If this sounds like you, then read on as we look at some simple but effective ways to curb a busy mind.

What Is a Busy Mind?

A busy mind can be a mixture of thoughts, worries and anxieties, emotions, doubts, and other thought patterns.

We all have these types of thoughts on a daily basis, but when the sheer number of these thoughts begins to get too much, then you’re suffering from a busy mind. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about things, but when you start overthinking and aren’t able to control the number of thoughts you’re having, then you might want to consider ways to curb your busy mind.

How to Curb a Busy Mind

There are some simple but effective exercises you can try which can help to calm your busy mind. By incorporating these exercises into your daily life, you can begin to calm your mind and remove the stress that a busy mind can cause.

The Power of Pause

The modern world moves at a relentless pace, and it can feel like it’s not going to stop to give you a chance to catch your breath. Even if the world doesn’t pause for a second, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Take a moment to pause and focus your attention on your senses, allowing you to refresh and renew yourself without any other concerns. One of the simplest ways to do this is with a body scan.

  • Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap
  • If you can, close your eyes
  • Bring your attention to your feet and feel the sensations as they interact with the floor
  • Bring your attention to your legs and how they feel against whatever you are sitting on
  • Now bring your attention to your chest and focus on your breathing, noticing the rise and fall
  • Bring your attention to your arms and hands, noticing any sensations within them
  • Open your eyes and feel how a short pause has made you feel refreshed and renewed

If you find your busy mind starts to think about other things during this exercise, don’t allow this to cause tension within you. Just acknowledge what has happened and redirect your attention to your body.

The power of the pause doesn’t have to involve taking a long break from your day. Try to incorporate short pauses into your daily life to slow things down a little. You could take a short pause:

  • After completing your current task and before moving on to the next
  • If you are interrupted, before dealing with the interruption
  • If your phone rings or you get a message or email, take a short pause before checking your phone

By building these small pauses into your day, you break up the relentless pace of daily life and allow yourself room to breathe.

Mindful Listening

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you suddenly realize you didn’t take in a single thing they said? Sometimes our minds are racing so much we fail to give attention to the person speaking.

Mindful listening involves bringing your full attention to the conversation you are having. Follow these steps:

  • Stop whatever else you are doing and focus solely on the conversation
  • Take a breath to give yourself time to process what you hear
  • Focus only on the content of what is being said rather than how it makes you feel
  • Ask yourself if you understand what has been said and if not, ask for clarification
  • Reflect back on what you have been told to confirm your understanding

It can be harder to practice mindful listening when you’re on the phone rather than face to face. During phone calls:

  • Put down anything you are holding so you’re not tempted to fiddle
  • If it helps, close your eyes so that you’re not distracted by anything in your field of view
  • Try to sit as still as possible to remove any distracting physical sensations

Connecting With Your Senses

A busy mind usually stems from thinking or worrying about things that have happened in the past or things that will happen in the future. A simple but effective way to pause those thoughts is to focus on the present moment.

One way to do that is to connect with your senses and bring your attention to what you are feeling in the here and now. The beauty of this technique is that you don’t have to take time out to do so; you can perform this exercise whilst going about your day. For example:

  • When you’re eating, focus your attention on the sensations in your mouth and on your tongue
  • When you’re getting dressed in the morning, bring your attention to the feeling of your clothes against your skin
  • If you’re in bed at night, listen to the sounds in your room and outside
  • If you’re driving, notice the sensations of your hands on the steering wheel
  • If you’re out walking, notice the different smells around you

By bringing your attention to the present moment, you stop your brain from worrying about the past or the future, giving your busy mind a break and allowing yourself to reset and recharge.

Are You Looking to Curb a Busy Mind?

If you’re struggling to curb a busy mind and you find that these techniques aren’t sufficient to make a difference, then we’re to help.

We treat a wide range of mental health issues, from mood and anxiety disorders to trauma and personality disorders. We have the highest success rate of any comparable program based on published scientific outcome statistics. We also offer luxurious off-site housing right next door to our treatment center so that you can move seamlessly between your appointments and your accommodation.

We’re here to help; contact us today.

Can Cooking Help Your Mental Health? 9 Reasons to Try it Out

Can learning how to cook help your mental health?

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

“Cooking can help your mental health?” you wonder. Can you really manage your anxiety and/or depression by simply preparing your own meals? After a long day, maybe the last thing you feel like doing is putting together a meal, then having to clean up. But let’s take a closer look at cooking and how it can help your mental health.

For one thing, the process of chopping, stirring, tasting, and even cleaning can be meditative, introspective, calming, and just what you need to clear your mind. Maybe you’ve heard the zen instructive: “When you cook, just cook. When you wash dishes, just wash the dishes.”

Cooking has been described by aficionados as “therapeutic, cleansing, nourishing, centering,” and as “nothing else you will do at any other time of your day.”

Preparing a meal as a therapeutic exercise is also known as culinary therapy, therapeutic cooking, and culinary mindfulness. But at the end of the day, can cooking really help your mental health?

 

 

 

Here are nine reasons you might want to give it a try:

  1. Developing patience.

Patience may or may not be a virtue, but in a world where everyone needs to have everything right this minute, patience can instill a refreshing sense of calm in you. Think of patience as a super power, if you will. It means emotional freedom, allowing you to calmly observe, pause, and know when the ideal time to act is.

  1. Getting organizedYou might start with simple recipes, but eventually, a sense of what flavors go well together will become second nature. You will also learn another level of organization–when you start planning your meals for the week and go to the store, you’ll better know what ingredients you already have in the pantry, which will help you with the grocery budget, eating healthier, and staying organized.
  2. Helping you nurture a healthier relationship with food.

You might not have considered it, but learning how to prepare meals yourself can improve how you think about and approach food and eating. Teaching yourself how to cook not only boosts your confidence, but planning your meals in advance really gives you a victory over that feeling of not knowing what to do when it’s dinnertime.

  1. Exercising your creativity.

You may wonder what is so creative about cooking, but you’ll be surprised. Speaking of creativity, by getting your creative juices flowing, you not only refine those skills, you bolster your own mental health. Try it sometime. Drawing, singing, writing… cooking. You’ll see for yourself why creative people are happier people. As you prepare a meal, regardless of what recipe you’re using, try swapping out different ingredients, like substituting cauliflower for potatoes in this recipe for cauliflower mashed potatoes.

  1. Sparking that sense of accomplishment

Whenever you prepare a meal for yourself or someone else, you set a short-term achievable goal for yourself – then you accomplish it. This is otherwise known as behavioral activation, a method used to treat anxiety and depression by increasing a subject’s proximity to a “payoff” or reward.  Behavioral activation can also be implemented to overcome procrastination with reinforced goal-driven outcomes. You can try out whatever recipe or meal planner fits your skill level and voila! Dinner is served, and your self-esteem is boosted.

  1. Clean, healthy living.

Do you have health goals? Just start out cooking for yourself a couple of nights every week, then work your way up to more. Those who prepare their own meals tend to eat healthier than those who go out to eat more often. Keep in mind that 95 percent of your serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, your pain tolerance level, and your sleep) is generated in your gastrointestinal tract. Eating healthier also improves your mental health.

  1. Control over how you spend your time.

Nothing boosts your self-esteem more than feeling like you’re in control of things. Cooking for yourself will help you manage and allocate your time better, giving you a better sense of having a grip on your day rather than wandering without objectives through it.

  1. Sense of purpose.

You’re now on track to a feeling of purpose, direction, and determination, which is another way to feel more in control of your time and your day. No more wandering to the nearest fast food restaurant to get your dinner through the drive through. You know what you’re doing, and control how your meals come about.

  1. Better budget control.

Eating out less for dinner, and having leftovers ready to take to work the next day will help you keep more of a handle on your finances. It will also save you time and gas because you’ll be driving around less.

The truth is that culinary therapy is being used in treatment methodology for various mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, and eating disorders–the very process of mindfully preparing a good meal can nourish your psychological well-being.

Taking it a step further, preparing a meal with your partner can smooth communications and teamwork by setting aside differences in order to accomplish a mutual goal. It’s also a chance to work on conflict resolution skills when differences in taste and likes arise. Make it a date night!

Are you anxious about your lack of sleep? Is your lack of sleep making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.