Reading this article is only the second best thing you could be doing right now. Since you are already sitting let’s see what the best thing you could be doing with your time could be.
Positive psychological interventions (PPIs) are exercises, which have been shown in lab experiments to increase positive emotion, satisfaction with life or other desirable states. They usually state how often you should be doing the activity and for how long.
What separates PPIs from common sense or regular self-help exercises is that PPIs have been tested and that their design needs to be based on scientific reasoning. Now this doesn’t mean 100% of PPIs work for every person. Different strokes for different folks is also true when doing PPIs. In more scientific terms this is called person activity fit.
Some exercises just don’t sit as well with our being as others. One aspect that has been found to be crucial here is time: if you are a very future oriented person it is possible (though not always the case) that you will not enjoy interventions which include reminiscing about the old times. Sin, Lyubomirsky and their team have developed five criteria to determine the right fit.
The Right Positive Psychology Intervention For You
- does it feel natural?
- do you enjoy the activity?
- do you value doing it (or the results it produces)?
- would you feel guilty if you would not engage in the activity?
- are there situational factors that will motivate you to do something?
You can rate each of these aspects from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much). Feeling guilty and situational factors are then subtracted because true fit does not come from guilt or external forces.
One of the good old classics is using your strengths in a different way for one week. Let’s say you are a curious person here’s what your next week might look like…
Positive Psychology Intervention Week
- Monday: try a food you have never tried before
- Tuesday: do your morning routine with closed eyes
- Wednesday: read a magazine you have never read
- Thursday: try to isolate a sound you have never heard before and find out what it is
- Friday: watch a documentary
- Saturday: find out what it’s like to walk around with something you never carry with you (a wig, a child or a pumpkin)
- Sunday: ask someone a meaningful question and really listen to their answer
Another more recent intervention is taking meaningful photographs in order to savour your surroundings:
- twice a week spend 15 min taking pictures of an environment you spend lots of time in
- ensure that you don’t just snap away but try to take the most beautiful, creative and meaningful photo possible
This can also be modified to be a gratitude intervention if you take pictures of things that make you feel grateful.
Important points for you to consider:
- it doesn’t count as a PPI if it’s something that you are doing already, unless you would significantly increase how often you do it or change the quality of the activity by doing it more mindfully for example
- if you implement the PPI over a longer period of time the benefits usually stay with you longer
- more often is not always better (people who wrote gratitude journals every day reported less enjoyment and were more likely to stop than those which did it 1-3 times a week)
- variety is key (don’t repeat the three good things that happened to you or that you are grateful for, even if you are grateful for your loved ones on most days)
- being specific beats being general (being grateful for your family is not as powerful as being grateful for your husband doing the dishes last Tuesday without being asked to do so)
- the effort you put in counts
If you would like to try out PPIs I highly recommend The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. You can read about different interventions, do the person-activity-fit test to see which ones would suit you best and then get started. Reading about positive psychology is good but to really benefit from its effects you got to get cracking with some positive psychology interventions.