Xav: Applications of Positive Psychology

This is Part 2 of our March Theme of Positive Psychology.  Make sure you read the first post as well: An Introduction to Positive Psychology

As mentioned briefly in the previous post, positive psychology has been applied to other specialised psychological fields such as clinical psychology and educational psychology.  In this post, we explore how positive psychology theories and interventions have been adopted in some fields.
1.  Clinical Interventions
Clinical psychology traditionally looks on the abnormal aspects of human personality and behaviour, focusing on alleviation of these behaviours that deviate from societal norms.  However, the integration of positive psychology into clinical psychology shifts the focus beyond negative functioning onto both negative aspects and human positive flourishing.  According to Wood and Tarrier (2010), choosing to focus on positive aspects of behaviour, emotions and thoughts can improve the prediction of disorders and act as a cushion for traumatising life experiences.  Wood and Tarrier recommended that positive functioning should be integrated into clinical psychology to make it a more holistic field in treating disorders.  Their findings have been supported by earlier and recent research that found that happiness interventions lead to sustained levels of happiness and lowered depression (Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson, 2005; Germer and Neff, 2013).

2. Educational Psychology
With increased stress and competitiveness in the global world, some educational psychologists acknowledge the need to teach students happiness skills (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivish, and Linkins, 2009).  According to Seligman and colleagues, these happiness skills increase “resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning” to school children.  In Waters’ (2012) research, she reviewed 12 positive psychology interventions in schools.  Her study reflected significant relationships between these interventions and student wellbeing, interpersonal relationships and academic results.  Optimism is also more common amongst better performing students in schools (Pajares, 2010) and associated with better coping (Reschly, Huebner, Appleton, and Antaramian, 2008).
3. Workplace Wellbeing
Industrial and organisational psychologists are concerned with improving an organisation’s success through members’ job satisfaction, motivation and health. Researchers have dwelled on this and studied the use of positive psychology in the workplace. Based on Turner, Barling and Zacharatos (2002), using positive psychology in work practices can make work enjoyable for employees and cultivate greater resilience and optimism in them. Positive psychology strategies have also been adapted into I/O theories to boost productivity and motivation in the workplace (Martin, 2005).

4. Wellbeing and ageing
With ageing population growing across the world, researchers are increasingly interested in studying how to improve the wellbeing of the elderly.  Ramirez, Ortega, Chamorro and Colmenero’s (2013) programme found that using interventions that seek to strengthen support for happiness help to increase welfare and quality of life amongst the older adults.  Using mindfulness, it has been found that there is a reduction in negative affects amongst participants over the age of 55 (Banos, Etchemendy, Castilla, García-Palacios, Quero, and Botella, 2012).  Longitudinal studies found that optimism and positive emotions play a role in decreased frailty and depressive symptoms amongst the elderly (Giltay, Zitman and Kromhout, 2006).
With positive psychology’s increasing application on to other fields, it may very well pave the way for how future research is conducted.  While more research has to be done to further support the strengths of using positive interventions, one can be hopeful and anticipate more contributions from the field of positive psychology.