How to Amplify PP Practice

I have recently become poignantly aware of how practicing and living not just one of the positive psychology principles in isolation, but combining and blending a handful of exercises (what Martin Seligman calls a ‘package of positive interventions’) [1] can have a powerful impact on well-being.

Inspired by Mindfulness guru, Mark Williams [2], I’ve been practicing Mindfulness meditations for several months now, particularly enjoying mindful walking and exercises that focus attention on the senses. They are incredibly effective ways of grounding myself in times of stress and help bring my mind back to the present, out of worries about past difficulties and concerns over future events.

At a recent Positive Psychology Masterclass, having just shared a story of ‘me at my best’, a colleague flatteringly described me as a ‘Master of Savouring’. In the context of PP, savouring is “noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life” and involves “conscious attention to the experience of pleasure” [3] (see also Lynn Soots’ blog on The PPP – The Art of Positive Savouring). Reflecting on the compliment, I realised the Mindfulness exercises I enjoy most tend to involve indulging in appreciation of the object of my focus, whether this be a chunk of rich, melt-in-the-mouth, dark chocolate, high in cocoa, lower in sugar, full of fruity notes and firm to the bite, OR, a stunningly beautiful cherry blossom tree in full Spring bloom, its scented pale pink blossom blowing in the breeze and floating through the air like confetti…….

I believe the reason these activities have such personal power, is that not only do they blend both Mindfulness and Positive Savouring, but they also play to my Signature Strength of ‘Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence’ (signature strengths are the top 5 character strengths derived from Seligman and Peterson’s Values in Action Inventory) [4].  Those PP practitioners who work with Strengths (e.g. Alex Linley at CAPP, James Brook at The Strengths Partnership, and The Positive Psychology People’s very own Dan Collinson), remark upon how we are more authentic, energised, and feel higher levels of well-being when using our strengths. I certainly feel more ‘alive’ when using mine.

Research by Sonja Lyumbormirsky and colleagues (2011) [5] investigated the effectiveness of 2 PP exercises combined (the ‘gratitude letter’ and ‘best possible self’). Results showed that there was a lasting positive increase in felt happiness when individuals were motivated to complete the exercises frequently and over an extended period of time.

A practical recommendation for anyone wishing to amplify the benefits of PP practice, could be to experiment with a few practical techniques and exercises developed by experts such as Sonja Lyumbormirsky, Shawn Achor, Barbara Fredrickson and Carol Dweck, and to find the blend of 3 or 4 which are most powerful and effective for you. Then commit to keep doing them. And enjoy!
[1] Seligman, M.E.P., Steen, T.A., Park, N. and Peterson, C (2005). Positive Psychology in Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions.
[2] Williams, M and Penman, D (2001). Mindfulness – a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Piatkus
[3] Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
[5] Lyumbormirsky, S., Dickerhoof , R., Boehm, J.K., and Sheldon, K.M. (2011). Becoming Happier Takes Both a Will and a Proper Way: An Experimental Longitudinal Intervention to Boost Well-Being. Emotion, 11, 2, 391-402.

‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

Nikki Ayles 30th May 2015



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