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Baylor Psychologist Promotes 'Positive Psychology'

Nov. 25, 2008

This holiday season, thank everyone for everything.

That's just one of several very simple ways Dr. Michael Frisch says positive psychology can help improve everyday lives.

As feelings of generosity and kindness increase during a holiday season, Frisch notes that keeping that spirit with us throughout the year can improve emotional and physical health.

Positive psychology, the science of human virtues and strengths, has been associated with greater happiness, meaning, and contentment in life along with fewer mental health problems, less drug and alcohol abuse, and healthier, longer-lasting marriages.

"Every day should be thanksgiving in order to nurture our relationships that so often are taken for granted and deteriorate without constant attention much like a plant needs water and sunshine to stay alive," says Frisch. "We need to concretely show our gratitude by doing behavioral favors for loved ones and work-mates that mean a lot to them rather than things we might like or enjoy. This is essential for maintaining relationships which I regard as the holy grail of happiness--close, loving relationships and friendships are consistently seen in what Sonja Lyubomirsky calls 'chronically' happy people."

Other aspects of positive psychology include:

Serving Others: Most spiritual traditions stress service to others, giving those who serve both a life meaning to pursue and an avenue to reduce painful self-consciousness and self-focused attention, which is endemic to a materialist culture in which few of us measure up to the ideal. Self-consciousness and self-focused attention are also endemic to depression and anxiety problems, making it a relief to focus on helping others, in one's spiritual community and in one's religious practices instead of the self.

Favor Bank of Good Will from Good Deeds Principle or Favor Bank Principle: This is a founda¬tional relationship mindset and skill in Life List coaching and quality of life therapy or qolt. Tom Wolfe (1988), in his novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, talks about the "favor bank" system, in which Irish cops, judges, and lawyers do favors for each other with the understanding that when they need a favor their friends will come through for them because everyone has a full bank account of favors from each other. A full bank account of favors means that others have done so many helpful and kind things for us, that we are more than willing to return the favor.

Feed the Soul: A religious or spiritual life complete with beliefs, activities, and a spiritual community of like-minded friends can greatly enhance our satisfaction with life. Life list coaching defines spiritual life broadly as spiritual or religious beliefs or practices that you pursue on your own or as part of a like-minded community. Our spiritual community can provide support during tough battles and support us in loss, betrayal, and disappointment. This may be one of the few constants even in those with highly disciplined spiritual practices and lives, according to studies of the spiritual path. For this reason, a spiritual community may be key to getting us through the tough times.

Thank Everyone for Everything Principle: This is a gratitude practice or ritual. Anytime someone does something special or helpful for you, say thanks in a sincere and kind way. It can help to send an e-card or just to jot a note or e-mail. The idea is not to just get something back. The act of saying thanks is service to others and is its own reward. Nevertheless, such acts of kindness for those with whom we work and see every day, certainly builds up a bank account of good will such that those we thank will help us when we need it in the future.