Before everyone starts hating on positive psychology, I’m going to give you a bit of a break down of it. As some of you know, I’m doing my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology so I’m learning a lot about the different theories of counselling. Though I want to take an integrative approach in my practice, positive psychology is something that interests me. Here’s why:
- the focus is on strengths, positive experiences, positive emotions (i.e., what’s good in life, not just what’s bad)
- optimism and gratitude are encouraged (however, if you’re not an optimist then you shouldn’t be coerced into being one)
- unrealistic optimism isn’t healthy, and neither is too much pessimism
- emphasis on finding meaning in life and being authentic as it will lead to less stress and anxiety
- there needs to be balance between positive and negative feelings and experiences
- you can learn to shift your perspective from negativity to positivity
- focus is finding ways to foster hope in your life
Image from: https://condorperformance.com/positive-psychology/
So what does this have to do with physical illness. Well, if it isn’t obvious already, positive psychology can help us shift our view of our illness(es) from being something that is terrible and completely disruptive of our lives, to something that we can draw strength and resilience from. Regardless of whether we are sick or healthy, we all have strengths (I would say mine are perseverance, optimism, and communication). We all still experience good things (fun times with friends and family for example), and positive emotions (unless you’re truly unhappy 100% of the time, you do experience happiness, love, contentment, etc.). This doesn’t mean we can’t have bad days or be unhappy, it means that we can choose to acknowledge the good days and the good things that happen as well.
Engaging in self-care kind of goes hand-in-hand with positive psychology.
I like the idea of meaning making (if you read my post on existentialism you’ll know this about me). So my original goal was to make movies and entertain. As my health deteriorated, I sought out new meaning and found that I want to help and inspire people (thus this blog, my podcast, and my new degree). The other part of this is finding ways to foster hope. I think that for people who are very sick, finding hope is difficult. I volunteer at a crisis text line for kids and teens. One of the articles I often send texters is on fostering hope. Here are some suggestions from the article: positive thinking, focusing on the future (and changes that will happen), look at the big picture rather than the details that are easy to focus on, remember your successes (however small – did you go for a walk around the block today? that’s a success), be patient with yourself because you’re doing the best you can, and reach out for support when necessary.
Pursuing more education was an important step in finding my new life meanings.
Is positive psychology the only way to improve your mental health when you have a physical illness? Certainly not, but hopefully this was some food for thought.
Also, in case you haven’t heard, I have a podcast! It’s call Chronically Living and how to make the most of it. It’s available on Apple Podcasts! Check it out and please leave me a rating and review!