What would happen if you improved your mental health by setting some goals in 2023 involving tested and trialed positive interventions or tools from the world of positive psychology?
What is positive psychology?
Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study and development of human strengths and virtues such as resilience, creativity, courage, empathy, optimism, and wisdom. Positive psychologists seek to promote well-being by studying what makes life most worth living. This includes research into topics such as happiness, life satisfaction, meaningful work, family life, relationships, and physical health. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and positive psychology can help individuals develop healthy coping skills to manage stress and anxiety. Positive psychology can also be used to increase levels of happiness and contentment by focusing on experiences that bring joy, such as spending time with friends or engaging in a favorite activity, as well as achieving goals. By cultivating positive emotions, individuals can create meaning and purpose in their life.
What are positive interventions?
Positive interventions are a primary focus of positive psychology. Positive interventions is an umbrella term for the variety of approaches used to promote well-being, reduce distress, and foster resilience in individuals. These approaches range from techniques aimed at helping people cultivate more positive emotions, such as gratitude, to those aimed at helping people identify and build their strengths. Research suggests that positive interventions can increase psychological well-being, reduce depression symptoms and improve emotion regulation. They can also support resilience in the face of challenging life events and help individuals cultivate greater meaning in their lives.
The science of setting goals using positive psychology
The most important researcher in the world of positive psychology in relation to goals is Dr. Gabreilla Oettingen, who wrote the book: “Rethinking Positive Thinking.” Her field of study started with the question: “When you want to an achieve an outcome, should you consider the obstacles or not.”
WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan) is a technique developed by Oettingen. WOOP is an evidence-based tool used in positive psychology to help individuals achieve their desired outcomes. It combines goal-setting with creative problem solving to help individuals overcome obstacles and reach their desired goals.
The WOOP technique involves four steps:
1. Wish – the individual identifies and clarifies a desired outcome. Examples of wishes could be achieving work-life balance, developing better relationships with loved ones, or starting an exercise routine.
2. Outcome – the individual identifies what they will gain from achieving their desired outcome. This can involve envisioning themselves having achieved the goal, and how it would feel to have successfully accomplished it.
3. Obstacle – the individual must identify potential obstacles that may stand in the way of achieving their goal and plan strategies for overcoming them. Examples of obstacles could be lack of time or resources, feelings of guilt or shame, or fear of failure.
4. Plan – the individual develops a plan for achieving their desired outcome, taking into account any potential obstacles and strategies for overcoming them.
What are 3 small goals you could set using the science of positive psychology?
Positive intervention 1: best possible self
For 2 weeks, spend 15 minutes daily writing about the best possible life that you can imagine. Consider areas like your career, finances, personal development, spirituality, physical health, mental health, the environment you work and live in, what you do in your spare time, your relationships etc. Try to be as specific as possible.
Increasing your positive emotions facilitates your mental health.
This intervention was created at the University of California by Dr. K.M. Sheldon and Dr. Sonya Lyubomirsky in 2006. Students who did this exercise daily for 2 weeks showed an increase of positive emotions immediately after the exercise. Incredibly, one month after the study was over their mood was still elevated as a result of the exercise!
Positive intervention 2: using your strengths
Set 15 minutes or so aside to think about personal strengths you may have, such as creativity, resilience, kindness etc. Pick 1 strength daily to play with.
Pick one strength daily for a week (you can repeat the same one), where you write down a list of activities you can use using this strength. And then do it.
At the end of the week reflect and write down what you did, what you learned and what you got out of the exercise.
Increasingly improving your shortcomings & using our strengths is important to cultivate mental health and well-being.
This intervention was created at the University of Pennsylvania by Dr, Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson in 2005. There were two control groups one who did this exercise and another who wrote about positive memories. The outcome was that the respondents reported an increase in happiness, and decrease in symptoms of depression which still persisted 6 months later. All of this – based on a one-week experiment!
Positive intervention 3: affirming positive values
Write down a list of values you have, and put them in order of importance. Think of values like: honesty, trust, kindness, joy, spirituality, love, connection etc. Determine what your number 1 value is.
Write 1 – 3 paragraphs why your number 1 value is important to you, and write down when it played a pivotal role in your life.
This exercise is particularly good to use to reduce stress due to receiving critique or negative feedback.
Researchers have found that writing about our intrinsic values help us experience less tress, decrease defensiveness, make healthier choices, and more openness to new information.
Dr. D. Tang and B. Schmeichel determined in 2015 that cardiovascular rhythm became less pushed doing this exercise when critique was was given. It has also been proven that increasing the understanding of the resources that are innate to us broadens our perspective and increases our self-image.
Are you an NLP Master Practitioner who trained live or online with Global NLP Training? Use the values you learned how to elicit during the NLP Master Practitioner training.
Attention (NLP) Coaches!
The positive interventions described below are ideal to use on your coaching clients, particularly the ones who would benefit from increasing their mental health. I would recommend doing only one of the below exercises at the time. This is a format you could use in terms of coaching sessions:
Coaching session 1:
Frame that the oppositive of mental illness is mental health. The benefit of mental health is that you are less likely to become mentally il and travel to a place of ill-being. You can mix this with the life wheel, or some other coaching related topics.
You could consider setting doing all these exercises as a goal.
Coaches using the methodology of NLP should consider meta modeling the life wheel, and doing a values elicitation. Use the NLP goal-setting tools, like the Well Formed Outcomes process, or goal setting on a timeline where each intervention is one mile stone. Set as an outcome completing the exercises, rather than claiming full and complete mental health, as that really depends on the person.
Give them the first intervention.
Coaching session 2:
Discuss the exercise they completed, their goal, and how they are going to take the concept forward into their lives.
Give them the second intervention.
- If you are an NLP coach consider using both the Meta-Model questioning as well as Meta-Program (NLP Master Practitioner) questioning.
Rinse and repeat for all exercises.
Positive interventions can play an important role in helping individuals improve their sense of well-being, increase mental health and achieve their goals. These evidence-based interventions are a way to promote positive emotions, foster resilience, and help individuals build meaningful relationships with others. What more can you ask for?!