Boost your optimism and strengths by trying these positive psychology interventions
I often assign positive psychology interventions (PPIs) to my clients to support them to meet their goals. PPIs are positive psychology-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
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.
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
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.
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!