My experience with 2 positive psychology interventions

As my coaching is based on positive psychology, I often assign positive psychology interventions (PPIs) to my clients. They are science-based exercises that I use to support my clients to use their positive emotions and strengths to improve their wellbeing.

I’ve just finalised my uni module – Perspectives on Wellbeing – and my task for the assessment was to measure aspects of my wellbeing, try 2 different PPIs to see for myself how they work, then when appropriate, measure the aspects again afterwards to see if there has been any impact after the intervention.

So, to help you better understand how it is to actually do a PPI, I thought to share with you the experiences that I had.

‘Best Possible Self’ (BPS) PPI

The intervention
Simply plan some quiet time and think about your life over the next 5 years. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realisation of all of your life dreams. 
 
Now spend 15-20 minutes writing about what you imagined, for 4 days in a row.

My experiences
I have already experienced visualising my preferred future, and therefore found this intervention pretty straightforward. I did however find it challenging to do the exercise without any clear structure or detailed instructions, so I found that I had to set my own structure – I set my visualisation to be for in 5 year’s time and main themes of content did emerge eg. work, family, study, etc. 
 
After completing the intervention, the aspects of my life which are most important to me were very obvious and a natural prioritisation of actions I can take to meet my goals also became clear. I noticed that my mood was much more positive, which lasted a couple of weeks! And I felt overall much happier. I also started to see my challenges with a more positive and hopeful perspective and as a result have felt an increase in my optimism. 
 
To prove the positive impact, I had measured my optimism levels before and after the intervention on a research-based scale, and my score had more than doubled after the 4thday!
 
So because of these really positive results, that only require a relatively small time investment, this is definitely an intervention that I’ll repeat when I feel that my optimism levels are getting a little low.

‘Boost a Lower Strength’ PPI

The intervention
Start with doing the VIA Character Strengths assessment, choose one of your lower strengths that you feel you’d enjoy to work on, think about 7 different activities you can do over a week to boost it (the VIA website has some good tips to get you started), and get going! I’d advise you to journal about the effects to capture the positive changes. 

My experiences
 If you’ve been reading my newsletters or you are one of clients you’ll know how important I believe it is to be working with our strengths! Actually using the VIA Character Strengths assessment and developing specific strategies to utilise strengths is what I recommend for all of my clients because it can result in: increased happiness; improved physical health; reduced depression; reduced stress levels; goal attainment and academic accomplishment; increased productivity and engagement at work; etc…. So many wonderful and scientifically proven benefits of working with our strengths. 
 
For this assessment I chose the character strength of zest, which is defined by Niemiec as “vitality, energy, vigor, enthusiasm for life” and is “a dynamic strength that is directly related to physical and psychological wellness. This strength has the strongest ties to overall life satisfaction and a life of engagement.” (VIA website)
 
The PPI is simply to apply a lower strength in a different way each day for a week. This intervention challenged me to consider what zest meant to me, and how I can best apply it in a way that benefits me and suits my lifestyle. I therefore planned a few days of exercise activities that I hadn’t tried before (yoga, longer and more complicated HIIT sessions) as well as attending an Oktoberfest party, cooking, and taking a midday nap (yes, a nap has been shown to increase vitality!).
 
I found this PPI attractive as it is simple, requires creativity to select the actions to be completed and can be applied to any of the lower strengths. This simplicity and flexibility also makes it attractive to use with clients, which I propose when it’s appropriate for the individual. 
 
I very much enjoyed this PPI, and I appreciated the accountability it gave me to persist in doing something with zest each day, as I have observed in winter that I can experience a low mood and tend to avoid doing activities that increase my energy. After the week, I noticed that I had much more energy, felt more vital and I even wore coloured clothes more often. I also felt I could concentrate better, I was more positive and capable of handling my challenges. In terms of relationships, I felt more appreciated, connected to others and more willing to be social. I also felt my self-esteem improved. Sounds pretty good, right?! These boosts to my wellbeing are reflected in research that has already been conducted.
 
A very positive side effect of this week-long PPI is that it has now evolved into a consistent exercise programme. I still exercise most days of the week with high levels of motivation and I feel awful when I haven’t worked out! Which motivates me to be consistent. 

Overall impact of the PPIs

The combination of increasing my optimism from the first PPI and developing a lesser strength, has resulted in me feeling more positive, energetic and engaged in working towards my goals. In general, I feel like much more is possible in my life than just a few weeks ago.
 
Would you like to try these for yourself?

I’d love to hear about your experiences if you decide to do these PPIs, please don’t hesitate to share them with me!
 

 

Why I do what I do: My journey to find work in which I can thrive

A few years ago, I was on the brink of a burnout.

… I was sick often and hadn’t been sleeping well for months.

… In the nights before work, it was not unusual for me to sleep for only 3-4 hours. I’d wake up and worry about everything.

… I was always depressed and anxious, often even the smallest worry would send me into a huge panic.

… I was unfocused and had lost all confidence in my abilities. This lack of confidence also impacted me outside work and I avoided social contact with friends.

(does any of this sound familiar?)

After failing to manage this on my own for months, I decided that I simply needed help and found a wonderful therapist. I had no idea how sick I was getting, but she assured me that we managed to catch my situation just before it descended into a full burnout, which would have taken months to recover from.

With therapy, I managed to pull myself out and develop strategies to prevent myself from getting to the brink of burnout again. And I never hesitate anymore to ask for help when I need it.

I also decided to share openly with my colleagues and friends what had happened. This was very hard! Mental health issues are still unfortunately seen as a weakness and I was already feeling so weak and a failure that I couldn’t manage the work I’d done for over 15 years!

Even though I’d never wish to go through this experience again, I’ve learned some very valuable lessons that have helped me both personally and professionally….

My 5 big lessons

  1. First, it does not need to get to the point of burnout in order to realise that something is wrong and needs to change. I know the warning signs and will take action when I need it. I will never hesitate to go back to therapy if needed, and I’m now always working with amazing coaches for different purposes and with their support can quite easily get unstuck and find new perspectives.
  2. The insights I’ve gained from coaching have helped me to see with absolute clarity that the work I was doing and the environment I was in were completely misaligned with my personality, strengths, values and interests. (In fact, my strengths were often criticised!). I was not living authentically! And now that I’ve reconnected with who I truly am, I make decisions so that I can live authentically every day.
  3. I learned through this process that living a life that is aligned with my values (one of which is authenticity) is not negotiable, it was critical for me to be open and honest about what I’d been going through. And I so absolutely didn’t want others to suffer like I did. If my story had just given one person awareness of the warning signs then it was absolutely worth me being vulnerable by sharing it. And I was so relieved and grateful to receive so much empathy and care (and hugs); but also very unnerved and very sad to hear about how many people had also suffered through something similar.
  4. Before I was able to find clarity with my therapist, it was very difficult to have a clearer perspective, more of a helicopter view, to see what was most important to me – my health and my family – not a job that made me fundamentally unhappy. I was so caught up in doing the ‘right’ thing, by being a good employee, pushing myself too hard, using the master degree that I had just completed and moving up the ladder in my long-standing career, that it completely clouded my view of what really matters.
  5. Another huge learning from my situation is that not all work situations and jobs are (always) suited for everyone (yes, even after 15 years in a career and recently completing a master degree in that field!)! Our passions, interests and life circumstances can change, and sometimes our work needs to change as a consequence. My husband shared an analogy with me at the time that a rabbit would thrive in a running race, but when in the water will never beat a fish! I was that rabbit in the water – I had no chance of thriving in my work environment.

So… I made the best (and only) decision possible. I left my well-paid career behind and retrained as a coach to help others who are also feeling unfulfilled and want more from their work.

So, this is my Why…

… My Why is to connect my clients back to who they truly are and support them to find jobs / careers and work environments that are aligned with their personality, strengths, values and interests… so that they can thrive at work.

I am a qualified & certified coach* and I use coaching and psychometric assessments to help my clients reconnect back with their authentic, true selves.

I now implement my natural strengths, personality, passion and interests every day in my work. I’m now the fish IN water! Exactly where I should be!

I’m committed to continuous learning to always be improving how I can support my clients. I’m working towards my MSc Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology (which I’m enjoying so much) to hone my coaching skills and help my clients integrate the latest evidence-based wellbeing practices to help them manage their feelings and stress.

Looking back on my experience, I can now see it with gratitude. I learned so so so much and have made many very positive changes as a result, including finding work that fundamentally helps others… which is totally aligned with my values, I absolutely love, and in which I can truly thrive.

How about you?

Have you experienced something similar?
Can you relate to the lessons I learned?
Is your work in alignment with your personal values?
What’s your Why?

*it is important to state that I’m not a therapist and I don’t work with serious mental health issues