Traditionally, psychologists have focused their attention on what makes depressed people depressed. Yet recently, a small group of scientists has turned the question on its head. Now they are asking: “What makes happy people happy?”
According to a wide-ranging international study, depression is the most disabling disease in the world:
Nearly twenty percent of U.S. citizens experience some form of depression during their lifetime. Americans are taking so many antidepressants that, according to the New York Times, the water supplies of major U.S. cities are now contaminated with traces of these drugs.
The problem is not limited to adults. The American Psychological Association reports that “as many as 9% of children will experience a major depressive episode by the time they are 14 years old, and 20% will experience a major depressive episode before graduating from high school.”
Statistics show that children who have suffered from depression are more vulnerable to depression as adults.
Depression, anxiety, and other negative psychological experiences have been researched from almost every angle. So we know a lot about what causes negative psychological responses, but not a lot about what might cause positive psychological effects. Positive Psychology has shifted the focus toward such research.
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
If perspective is reality, then a positive perspective could be a game-changer. Research shows that engaging in techniques for positive growth and change can help:
Buffer against, manage and overcome problems
Improve your relationships
Enhance health and overall well-being
How Do I Get Happy?
Working with a licensed therapist can be beneficial in order to explore one’s life experiences more fully and from a trained clinical perspective. Below are some examples of techniques that can be done on your own to promote positive growth and change.
Clear Mind Procedure
Write down everything that’s on your mind on one piece of paper (use more than one piece if you need).
Create three columns on a second piece of paper, and label them: To Be Done; Maybe Later; and Delete. Sort all the items on the first piece of paper into the three columns on the second piece of paper.
Take each item from the Delete column, send it off into space, and tell it never to return (with a corny little ceremony if that helps).
Take the items from the Maybe Later column and put them on a Maybe Later list. (If you don’t keep one, start one).
Take the items from the To Be Done column and put them into your planning system. (If you don’t have a planning system, get one).
Gratitude journals can be extremely beneficial when attempting to shift one’s perspective; however, many clients find it a daunting task to journal at length and often do not follow through long enough to see real results.
Build in gratitude “moments” throughout the day:
Recognize moments of joy, thankfulness, comfort, and peace.
Acknowledge both the positive emotion and the positive effect.
Say out loud a statement of gratitude. For example, “Thank you for this moment” or “I feel joyful” or “That was nice.”
Repeat as often as possible.
Art Promotes Happiness Too!
Art and expressive therapy have also been shown to demonstrate healing and happiness. Stuckey and Nobel (2010) reported: Use of the arts in healing does not contradict the medical view in bringing emotional, somatic, artistic, and spiritual dimensions to learning. Rather, it complements the biomedical view by focusing on not only sickness and symptoms themselves but the holistic nature of the person. When people are invited to work with creative and artistic processes that affect more than their identity with illness, they are more able to create congruence between their affective states and their conceptual sense making. Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing. The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts.
At Art It Out, we believe in the positive impact art, color, and creativity can have on a person’s outlook and wellbeing.