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Archive for the ‘postive psychology interventions’ category

Positive Psychology focuses on helping individuals cultivate their signature strengths. You can discover yours by taking the VIA Signature Strengths self-assessment. Why  discover your signature strengths? When your signature strengths are developed and cultivated, you can develop a greater sense of self and accomplishment.

The VIA Signature Strengths Survey identifies 24 strengths. Two of these include Citizenship and Teamwork; and Fairness, Equality and Justice. If either of these are your signature strengths, here are some ways that you may want to cultivate these strengths:

To cultivate Citizenship and Teamwork:

  • Be socially responsible. Join events or rallies, speak publicly, and promote humanitarianism.
  • Volunteer at a community project, or pick up litter on the ground.
  • Actively participate in an organization you are part of.
  • Join in a neighborhood activity.

To cultivate Fairness, Equality and Justice:

  • Hear out another’s opinion without prejudice or pre-judgment
  • Be conscious of moments where you can stereotype or judge someone, and start to avoid those circumstances
  • Be the mediator in an argument between friends and set your personal beliefs aside for the time being.

For support and more information on how you can cultivate your Signature Strengths, contact Deborah Barnett at

Feeling hopeless or helpless? That you don’t have any control over your life? You can begin to feel more in control by utilizing one or more of your specific character strengths. You can take the Values-In-Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths to identify your individual strengths, and then by utilizing one or more of your strengths, feel more empowered.

Among the character strengths included in the VIA Survey are Social Intelligence and Perspective. Social Intelligence can also be termed as emotional or personal intelligence. It is described as the ability to be aware of the motivations and emotions of others and knowing what to do to adapt to diverse social circumstances. Perspective could also be viewed as “Wisdom”. It is an ability to see different points of view.

Here are some ways to cultivate each of these strengths:

To cultivate Social Intelligence:

  • Try to meet a new person every day.
  • Talk to someone at a gathering you might never expect to talk to.
  • Get involved in more social events.
  • Reach out to people who appear to be alone.
  • When conversing with someone, ask questions to understand what makes them happy and why they enjoy their particular interests and passions.

To cultivate Perspective:

  • Study a great quote everyday from great thinkers, writers, and philosophers.
  • Try listening to the opinion of someone with whom you do not entirely agree and stretch yourself to understand why they might have the stance that they have.
  • Educate yourself about historic people – their values, beliefs and their stand on prominent issues.
  • Have a mentor, someone you deem as a wise person, as a role model you can learn from.

Feel free to contact me with questions about your strengths and ways to creatively use them.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology counselling in Asheville, NC and Phone Consulting for Effectively and Positively navigating life’s challenges.

Developing Curiosity and a Love of Learning and help to Increase Life Satisfaction

In a previous blog post I referenced the Positive Psychology VIA Inventory of Strengths. Cultivating your strengths can be a source of increased satisfaction in life and a buffer against depression and anxiety. If you have not taken the VIA I encourage you do to so.
Here are two of the strengths from the VIA and some suggestions on how they can be cultivated:

Curiosity and Interest in the World
1.    Watch young children at play for tips on how to increase curiosity. Children are immensely curious and engaged in life.
2.    Browse the stacks at the library or peruse a bookshelf at a friend’s home. Find a book that looks interesting to you. Browse through it, check it out, or ask to borrow it.
3.    Watch the news or read about current events and find an uplifting news story about something positive that has recently happened in the world.
4.    Call someone you know and ask them about something positive in their life that you are curious about.
5.    Take time to listen to someone with 100% of your attention.

Love of learning
1.    Take a class at a community college or at a local community center.
2.    Invite a friend to go to an evening lecture with you.
3.    Take up a new hobby.
4.    Ask someone you respect to share a gem of wisdom by which they live their life.
5.    Study a new language or musical instrument.

Please contact me about how you can develop your strengths and enhance your life.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology counseling in Asheville, NC and Phone Consulting for creating positive, powerful results in your life.

The Values-in-Action (VIA) is a classification system and measurement of strengths created by Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., Martin Seligman, Ph.D., Katherine Dahlsgaard, Ph.D., and other prominent psychologists. Through reading philosophical and religious texts from around the world, 6 core virtues: Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Love and Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Spirituality and Transcendence, were identified. These 6 core virtues having been taught or praised by almost all spiritual and philosophical traditions around the world and throughout time.  The reason these 6 virtues are highly regarded is that when practiced they form the foundation for good character in individuals.

Seligman and his colleagues realized that by identifying and utilizing one’s personal strengths, or character traits, one could develop and cultivate virtues.

In creating a classification of strengths, Seligman and his colleagues realized that once strengths are identified, they can then be consciously cultivated and developed.  A strength takes conscious effort to utilize in one’s daily actions. This differs from a talent, which is more innate.  When a strength is used when taking action, the result almost is always virtuous.

There are 24 signatures strengths.  By taking the Values-In-Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths, your strengths will be ranked, so that you can identify your top character strengths.

The benefits of utilizing character strengths include:

  • By taking action that utilizes one of your character strengths you will likely experience an increase in positive emotion
  • You will feel a sense of excitement when using your strength
  • You will feel fulfilled and energized by using your strength
  • The more conscious you are in using your strengths, the more and more ways you will come up with ways to cultivate your tops strengths

Feel free to contact me with questions about your strengths and ways to creatively use them. In later posts, I look forward to exploring each of the strengths and suggesting some ways that you can incorporate them into life.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology counseling in Asheville, NC and Phone Consulting for Positive Results

Many people from time to time feel blue, depressed, or anxious. For some people these emotions are a common experience. Whether depression or anxiety is familiar to you or a rare occurrence, it is helpful to have tools to pick yourself back up when needed.

Positivity Portfolio

One way to increase positive emotion is to create positivity portfolios for yourself. A positivity portfolio is a collection of items of your choosing that represent and remind you of a specific positive emotion. Each portfolio you create will represent one positive emotion. One portfolio may be on “serenity” another on “love,” etc.

Your positivity portfolio “container” may be a manila folder, a folder on an MP3 player, or a special box. Once you decide what positive emotion your first portfolio will represent for you, you can then fill your portfolio with items that lead you toward that positive emotion when you look at the items. For example, if your positivity portfolio is about “love” you might have in your portfolio:
A copy of a sweet email that you received from someone you love
Photos of loved ones
Love poems
Video clips that represent love to you
A love song
A lotion with a sent that makes you feel loved

Tips for creating and using your Positivity Portfolios:
You will want to ultimately make several positivity portfolios, for the various positive emotions you want to generate for yourself.
Be creative! If an item reminds you of the intended emotion, than it is fine to include!
Take your time when creating your portfolios. The creation process itself feels good!
Pull out one of your positivity portfolios when you feel the slighted hint of a negative emotion
Let your portfolios evolve – add and subtract items when necessary
Engage with your portfolios mindfully and with an open heart.

James Pawelski, director of education for the Master of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, came up with the idea of a positivity portfolio. This idea has now been researched by Barbara Frederickson of UNC Chapel Hill. Feel free to comment below and share how you have used your positivity portfolio(s).

Here’s to feeling good!

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Tips can help Overthinking and Judging

We have all heard the expression “don’t be judgmental.” Yet the reality is judging, overanalyzing and overthinking is very difficult not to do. The media prompts us to judge all the time “Try our product; we are better than those guys.” The news is constantly highlighting who did what that was “bad” – e.g. this guy stole money from his investors – and who is doing well “this 23 year old made millions by selling his new software idea.” When we hear these statements it is easy to think to ourselves, “I am doing better than that guy, or I wish I was more successful like him.”

Social comparison, comparing ourselves to others, in only a very few instances is beneficial. One case might be if you are inspired by seeing a lovely painting and you decide to begin painting so that you can develop your artistic ability.

However, most of the time comparing yourself to someone else and judging yourself as “less than” (e.g. she’s is more beautiful than me, or he makes more money than I make), may make you feel inferior. Judging yourself as “better off” than someone (e.g. he lost his job – thank goodness I haven’t) can leave you feeling fearful or guilty.

Positive Psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky conducted social comparison studies of happy and unhappy people. In the studies participants were placed side by side in a high pressure problem solving situation and the participants were made aware of how they were doing in relation to the other participant next to them. Interestingly enough, happy people felt more upbeat after the task, and felt good about themselves, regardless of whether or not the participant next to them had out-performed them. Unhappy people, on the other hand, were very conscious of their performance in comparison the participant next to them and reported feeling sad, frustrated and anxious if the participant next to them had outperformed them.

Dr. Lyubormirsky suggests in her book The How of Happiness, that social comparison is a part of the habit of overthinking. Dr. Lyubormirsky and her colleague Susan Nolen-Hoeksema suggest the following strategies for overthinking and comparing:

1. Cut Loose of overthinking:
          Distract yourself by doing an activity that will catch and hold your attention.
          Tell yourself, “stop!”
          Talk to a friend or write out whatever is bothering you.

2. Take action by taking small steps to complete a task that may be bothering you.

3. Avoid situations that may prompt over thinking.

4. Put things into perspective and see the “big picture.” Ask yourself, “Will this worry, situation, person, etc. be a problem a year from now?”

I hope that these tips to avoid social comparison and overthinking have been helpful for you.

For support in increasing your happiness and well-being in your personal and professional life, I am available for phone coaching sessions during which I can give you suggestions tailored to your specific situation and needs.

Here’s to your well-being and success!
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.

A Beautiful Day Visualization Helps with Decision Making

A Beautiful Day Visualization Helps with Decision Making

The other day I offered the “Beautiful Day” exercise. One purpose of this positive psychology technique was, after writing out what a beautiful 24-hour period of time would look like, to see what aspects of your beautiful day you could implement into your life now. Another purpose was to feel the enjoyment of imagining your Beautiful Day

Here is another way to use the Beautiful Day exercise when deciding between several activities or situations you might choose.

1. Clarify what the different options are that you are choosing between. For example, if you are choosing between several career paths, clarify the different career choices are that you are deciding between. For example, “Do I become a physical therapist assistant, teacher, or accountant?”

2. Get all of the details and facts about what each choice would involve: If I become a physical therapist assistant I will have to go to school for two years for an associates degree; if I become a teacher or accountant I will have go to college and get a B.S. degree, etc.  Sample, as much as possible, what each choice would entail. For example, if going back to college, sit in on some of the classes you would be taking.

3. Once all of the facts are gathered, write out a Beautiful Day exercise for each option. For instance, if you become a physical therapist assistant, write out what a Beautiful Day scenario might be in this profession. If you decide to become a teacher or accountant, write out a Beautiful Day exercise for each of these professions.

By writing out your Beautiful Day scenarios for each of the options you are choosing between, it will help you to live into each. By doing so, you can potentially have a sneak peak into the future and feel what each option might hold for you.

The benefit of this exercise is that you are using you head and heart in making your choices. By first gathering the facts and details you utilize your mind to analyze the different options. By then feeling into each option by writing out what and Beautiful Day would look like for each scenario, you allow your heart and inner yearnings to give you feedback. Which felt most exciting or fulfilling when you wrote about the Beautiful Day for that option? This is valuable feedback for making your decision.

Enjoy and let me know what decisions you were able to make using the Beautiful Day exercise.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Psychotherapy and Coaching for Business Success and Personal Thriving

"A Beautiful Day" writing exercise can increase your well-being

"A Beautiful Day" writing exercise can increase your well-being

 Here is a fun, simple, positive psychology intervention to help increase your well-being. I enjoy sharing this exercise with my Asheville psychotherapy clients and individuals who do phone coaching with me.

“A Beautiful Day”*

Instructions: write out what a beautiful, fun, ideal 24-hours would look like to you. Be as detailed as possible. Describe each activity in as much depth as possible. Would you be by yourself or with others? When you describe the meals you eat, what foods are you eating? The idea is to savor and live into what ideal 24-hours would be like to you.

Benefits of “A Beautiful Day” exercise include:
Enjoyment – savoring the enjoyable details of your beautiful day will be uplifting.
Enhanced Self-Awareness – writing about your beautiful day will help you to identify what is most meaningful and enjoyable to you.
Positive Change – Once you identify what is most beautiful and enjoyable to you, you can look at what aspects of your beautiful, ideal day you can implement into your life now. For example, maybe your ideal day involves being away from a cell phone or email. If this is the case, you could schedule a “technology free” day for yourself as a mini vacation.

Enjoy writing about your beautiful day. I would love to hear about your experiences.

*Many thanks to Dr Dianne Vella-Brodrick who introduced this intervention to me at the 2009 First World Congress on Positive Psychology.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychotherapy and Phone Coaching
for Business Success and Personal Thriving

A Blessing can be a simple as seing a Beautiful Rose

A Blessing can be a simple as seeing a Beautiful Rose

The “3 Good Things” exercise, also known as the “3 Blessings” exercise,  is a great Positive Psychology technique that has been well tested. It has been shown to increase well-being and decrease depression and anxiety. Martin Seligman, Ph.D., conducted a study  with 411 people using this exercise. The results were that 94% of very depressed people became less depressed and 92% became happier in 15 days. Furthermore, the results lasted for at least 6 months.

3 Good Things in Life Exercise

Each night before you go to bed, pick out 3 things that went well that day. Write down each of these events or experiences that went well and write about why they went well or what felt good about the experiences. Remember, the events you chose do not have to be spectacular or dramatic.
Here is an example:

Event:This morning on my way into work, I stopped and allowed an elderly lady enter the elevator before me.
Why: I took the time to slow down, notice what was going on around me, and by being kind and helpful, I felt good.

You can try this exercise for yourself and let me know what your experience is. I have used this exercise with my phone coaching clients and they have reported that it works very well.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Phone coaching and counseling in Asheville, NC for Business Success and Personal Thriving