In the past few years, an entire new field of psychology has sprung up known as Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology “is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive”. It focuses on what’s right with people instead of what’s wrong. Positive psychology research has identified numerous practices that can help make people more emotionally resilient:
- Exercise: Research shows that aerobic exercise (3 times a week for 30 minutes) has the same affect on depressive symptoms as antidepressants. In addition, regular exercise can reduce anxiety by 20%
- Be thankful—keep a gratitude journal. Science backs it up: research at Kent State University found that regularly writing expressions of gratitude improved happiness.
- Meditation: Dr. Marsha Lucas writes and blogs about how meditation actually “rewires” the brain to improve relationships and develop emotional resiliency. Recent research also shows that meditation can thicken an area of the brain involved in pain sensation—decreasing pain sensitivity.
- Apply chocolate (of course)—and if anyone gives you a hard time, point them to research on chocolate’s benefits here, here, and here.
- The University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center’s website, Authentic Happiness, offers questionnaires to measure depression symptoms and to assess your current happiness, overall happiness, and enduring happiness.
- Signal Patterns offers numerous web- and mobile-based applications for inserting positive psychology practices into your life, including my favorite, the Live Happy application for iPhone.
- On The Happiness Project website, author Gretchen Rubin explores what does and does not contribute to happiness. She also offers The Happiness Project Toolbox to help readers create their own Happiness Project.
- Numerous free how-to-medicate podcasts are available through iTunes, such as Lisa Dale Miller’s Mindfulness of Breath Meditation for Beginners. Dr. Lucas also offers a free meditation download on her website.
The bonus to many of these activities is that they boost creativity as well as fending off depression. I’m much more likely to take up a positive habit than to kick a bad habit, and the evolving field of positive psych helps us do just that.
What positive habit can you add to your life?