by Dana Mrkich
You may have heard the term ‘Positive Psychology’ being increasingly used within corporate wellness programs, school education and now even military training, but what is it exactly?
Most people hear the word ‘psychology’ and associate it with something that helps those who need mental health support or therapy. A couple of decades ago, however, then-President of the American Psychological Association (APA), Martin Seligman, had become increasingly frustrated by what he perceived as psychology’s limited focus. Rather than dwelling on ‘fixing’ people, he wondered why psychology wasn’t being used in a more pro-active way to help everyone thrive and flourish, minimise mental health lows and maximise general life fulfilment. He wondered why psychology wasn’t being used to teach people effective strategies to nurture and maintain good mental and emotional health, in the same way that we are encouraged to maintain our physical health. Seligman wanted to re-direct psychology, so it could be used to teach people how to build physical/mental/emotional skills to:
- increase resilience;
- develop strengths;
- achieve goals;
- manage stress and emotions;
- improve relationships;
- foster wellbeing; and
- cultivate happiness through strategies like gratitude, mindfulness and learned optimism.
In 1998, he used his APA Presidential platform to call for a sea-change toward “flourishing” as a new focus for psychology, and so modern-day ‘Positive Psychology’ was born.
“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of wellbeing that enables individuals, organisations and communities to thrive.” – The School of Positive Psychology
Since 1998, thousands of studies and research papers have explored the benefits of Positive Psychology tools and strategies. Some of these studies have specifically sought to look at the measurable benefits within workplaces and other organisations.
Findings by the world’s leading HR and People Management companies have shown that workplaces who practice Positive Psychology have:
- 33% higher profitability (Gallup);
- 43% more productivity (Hay Group);
- 37% higher sales (Shawn Achor);
- 300% more innovation (Harvard Business Review);
- 51% lower turnover (Gallup);
- 50% less safety incidents (Babcock Marine Clyde);
- 66% decrease in sick leave (Forbes); and
- 125% reduction in burn out rate (Harvard Business Review)
In a nutshell, this means healthier, more present and creative employees, contributing to a more successful workplace on multiple beneficial levels.
If you would like to apply some Positive Psychology strategies to your workplace but aren’t sure where to start, here is a list of some of the most popular angles you can approach it from:
- Stress Management
There is a great deal of research to suggest that an effective way to deal with stress is through cultivating positive emotions, and this research has given rise to several Positive Psychology-based intervention strategies. One approach in this regard is called “Strength-Based Therapy”, which involves focusing on strengths and reducing negative self-attitudes. (For more information, see “Positive Psychology to Overcome Stress and Improve Mental Health”).
Research indicates that resilient individuals have an optimistic approach to life, are characterised by a high positive emotionality, and rebound from stressful encounters by enlisting positive emotions. This is something that some people seem to have naturally, but can also be learned. (See, for example: “Resilient Individuals Use Positive Emotions to Bounce Back From Negative Emotional Experiences”)
- Work-Life Balance
According to the National Stress Survey undertaken by ABC TV’s StressBuster Program, 65% of Australians believe that work contributes considerably to their stress. Whether, however, that stress led into a feeling of “distress” (such as anxiety or depression), depended on whether people felt they had an appropriate work/life balance (Source). Positive Psychology interventions have been used successfully to address work/life balance skills, for example, in cultivating authenticity, assertive communication, and self-care training (see: “Promoting Work-Family Balance Through Positive Psychology: A Practical Review of the Literature”).
Mindfulness is a key component of Positive Psychology, as it focuses on increasing self-awareness which is critical for a wide range of work-related skills. The first study to research the effects of mindfulness training on attentional focus during the workday showed reduced work-life conflict, increased job satisfaction, and an increased ability to focus (participants) attention. Source.
Studies have shown that meditation is beneficial for personal and mental health, improving social relationships, and the alleviation of conflict, as well as benefitting organisational innovativeness and development, with a direct flow on effect to increased productivity.Source.
Gratitude research has shown that mindful gratitude practice helps us feel more in control of our lives, experience increased positive emotions, less stress, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs and co-workers. Source.
- Shifting your Attitude and Perspective
Research shows that when people work with a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level — productivity, creativity, as well as engagement, — improves. Source.
- Relationships and Social Connection
For employees to perform at their highest levels and be dedicated to the collective success of the organisation, they need to feel a sense of engagement at work, in other words, they need to feel an emotional connection. According to Gallup research, having friendships at work increases fulfilment, productivity, and even company loyalty; on the flip side, loneliness in the office can affect both professional and personal well-being. Positive Psychology techniques can help to promote a sense of engagement by improving authentic relating and healthy communication skills.
In these times of almost constant change and uncertainty, Positive Psychology is one of the most valuable, effective tools you can use to keep your team members feeling inspired and truly engaged – which in turn allows your whole workplace to thrive.
Holistic Services Group provide a wide selection of workshops on all of the above topics, which can be tailored to suit the needs of your organisation. Please contact us for more information.
About the Author
Dana Mrkich, HSG Wellbeing Consultant
As a workshop facilitator, keynote speaker, and holistic coach/mentor, Dana Mrkich has worked with thousands of people all over the world, encouraging and guiding them to live a more fulfilling life. She is dedicated to supporting individuals and groups who want to achieve greater states of wellness in all aspects of life.
Dana is passionate about work-life balance, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence as powerful tools for a more meaningful, fulfilling life.