Is Positive Psychology effective at treating depression? Positive Psychology emphasizes personal strengths, acknowledging blessings, identifying things for which you are grateful and feeling gratitude, and building resiliency. In many ways, Positive Psychology is akin to Humanistic Psychology wherein the interest is in the whole person and focuses on growth, freedom, creativity, and responsibility. While research on the effectiveness of the positive psychology approach varies, one thing is certain: there is an increasing amount of research on happiness, what contributes to happiness and how to increase your happiness. More research means we get closer to what might be useful and true about Positive Psychology.
Here are some findings from the research in this area (researcher in parens):
1) People who have healthy long term relationships tend to be happier. (Veenhoven)
2) People with close friendships tend to be happier. (Veenhoven)
3) People who balance work and free time and engage in activities that interest them tend to be happier. (Veenhoven)
4) About 50% of how happy we are is genetic (Tellegen, et. al), however, other studies (Tomarken, Davidson, et al) suggest that although there seems to be a happiness set point in our brains, that point can move with certain activity, such as meditation.
5) While we live as though money and possessions will increase our happiness, this is not the case once a basic standard of living is reached. Experiences, not stuff, tend to increase our happiness. (Howell)
So what might we gather from all of this? That there is a lot we don’t know! We are not even sure what leads to depression. Genes? Environment? Situations? Brain chemistry? Diet? Some combination of these factors? And is it possible for us to change some of the ways we think and act so we might prevent depression or even help ourselves out of it should we become depressed? Well according to the above studies, connection with other people, creating work/life balance, practicing meditation, and having pleasurable experiences can all contribute to increased happiness. By evaluating your life, you may find ways to increase you own happiness.