As a psychologist, Positive Psychology is a natural discipline for me to study. When I first heard of it I felt like I was at home, everything made sense and fitted together. The main reason for this is its overlap with Humanistic Psychology, which has always spoken to me as a true way of understanding human behaviour. By focusing on each individual’s unique experience and understanding that we are all different, we begin to gain insight into the real person, and by being non-judgemental we provide a safe nurturing space for them to grow.

Scientific Studies

This echoes Positive Psychology’s aim of studying those who thrive, to gain knowledge and skills about what they do in order to pass this on to others. However, the methodology of Positive Psychology varies greatly from that of Humanistic Psychology. Positive Psychology uses scientific methods to collect empirical data. Large-scale studies collect quantitative data about people’s resilience, positive emotions and gratitude, to name but a few topics.

I am a big fan of qualitative data, it tells us so much. I love the deep insight it gives into people’s experience. I feel privileged and sometimes humbled to be sharing in someone else’s life. However, the effective wide-ranging techniques developed through Positive Psychology are only effective for many people because they are based on the large-scale studies. For example, techniques such as gratitude journals have been tested with large groups of people and they have been shown to have a significant effect on improving well-being.

Positive Psychology brings robust scientific methods to the study of flourishing. It gives us quantifiable results. Now the advantage of quantifiable results is that big numbers can be used to influence policy. Whether at a national level, such as including Positive Psychology exercises in the NHS, or at local levels such as including these exercises in schools and communities.

Financial Savings to the Economy

If we measure the effect these exercises have, we can translate that to money, which is a language many organisations understand. For example, the benefits of resilience training are well established and are used by the military. Now we need to quantify the domino effect of this training. If we can measure the lack of visits to the GP, the lack of days off work, the lack of mood swings and negative impact on family and friends, I’m sure we would see a massive financial saving. We could also focus on the positive contribution resilient people make, often inspiring others and giving to their community. These may seem broad concepts to study, but it is possible. Please let me know if you would like to take this further.

About the author: To find out more about Bryony Shaw MAPP, please click here.


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