Does positive psychology work?

Followers of positive psychology cite numerous studies that show that optimistic people are healthier and happier, more successful and live longer. Discovering individual strengths and focusing on the positive aspects of life bring valuable health benefits.


The concept of positive psychology is very comprehensive, including a variety of techniques to encourage people to identify and further develop their own emotions, experiences and positive personality traits. Psychiatrist George E. Vaillant, a pioneer in the field, perceives positive psychology as a way to encourage patients to focus on positive emotions and strengthen their powers as an additional alternative to psychotherapy which rather focuses on negative emotions such as anger and sadness.

Well-being therapy

As the name recommends, well-being therapy aims to promote recovery from depression or other emotional disorders through a patient-oriented approach and promoting the positive aspects as well as removing negative aspects of life. Well-being therapy is one of the latest treatments which, instead of beginning with what goes wrong, starts with what is good. Developed by Giovanni Fava from the University of Bologna, Italy, well-being therapy is based largely on the work of psychologist Carol Ryff and her model of subjective well-being. Ryff’s model has six dimensions.

1. Environmental Mastery: You are able to manage your daily life and get benefits from new opportunities. You can organize your life, work and family situations according to your own needs and values.

2. Personal Development: You have the ability to see yourself growing and progressing and feel that you fulfill your potential. You are open to new experiences and feel that you are growing continuously as you respond to challenges.

3. Purpose in Life: You set goals in life and have a sense of direction when working to achieve them. You have beliefs that support the development of your sense of having a purpose in your life and life in general.

4. Autonomy: You are independent and self-motivated. You make decisions according to your own standards and not as a response to social pressure.

5. Self-Acceptance: You feel good about yourself by accepting both your strengths and your weaknesses. You have a positive perception of your life.

6. Positive Relationships: You can create and maintain warm and trustful relationships and also have empathy and affection. You have the power to understand changes that relationships may involve.

When you have a positive perspective on your life, these six dimensions of well-being support each other. They can’t be separated because they are interwoven together, who are you and the way you manage your life experiences. When you’re depressed, these two components work dysfunctional and this keep your state of illness.

The question is where do you find yourself in this spectrum of the six dimensions? You feel like you’re making progress or can’t make any step further?

4 exercises to develop your well-being

1.Use your signature strengths: Identify your five strengths that really represent you and try to use them in a new way every day.

2.Three good things: Every evening, write down three good things that happened that day and think about what caused them.

3.Gratitude: Write a letter to someone to explain that you feel grateful for something that he/she did or said at some point for you. Read the to whom it is addressed, either in person or by phone.

4.Enjoying: Once per day take your time to enjoy something that you usually perform in a hurry (e.g.Having a meal, taking a shower in the morning, going to work, etc.) When you’re done, write on a sheet of paper what you did, the differences observed, how you felt different from the times when you were on the run.

LG Aspinwall and UM Staudinger, eds. A Psychology of Human Strengths (American Psychological Association, 2002).

Keyes CLM and Haidt J, eds. Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well lived (American Psychological Association, 2002).

CR Snyder and SJ Lopez, eds. Positive Psychological Assessment: A Handbook of Models and Measures (American Psychological Association, 2003).

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