Positive Psychology -a talk by Jolanta Burke Psychologist

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at PCI college as part of Mental Health week. The talk was by a psychologist Jolanta Burke (www.Jolanta Burke.com) who is a hugely enthusistic speaker and a firm believer in the value of taking a positive approach to our mental health . She believes that problems and negativity have dominated our lives for too long and that we can all do particular things to directly improve how we feel. Whilst acknoweldging that at times people do just feel low and that we may have had difficult issues or traumas in the past that there are things we can do to make us feel a little (or a lot!) better very easily!

She refers to Positive Psycholgy as the new science of well being and here is an extract from her website  about this new field.

Positive psychology is a science of well-being and uncovering people’s strengths as well as promoting their positive functioning. While traditional psychology focuses on individuals’ shortcomings, positive psychology emphasizes their potential. Based on extensive research of people who thrive in life, it offers over 100 evidence-based interventions aimed to improve individuals’ mental health, boost their energy levels, creativity and immune system, foster better relationships, fuel higher productivity at work and even lead to longer life.  Although initially they have been designed to help people who are well, to excel their well-being, they have been since introduced to those suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Studies suggest that positive psychology interventions may speed up the process of recovery in comparison to some traditional therapeutic interventions, such as CBT. 
At the talk she mentioned some exercises which have been proven to help us feel better. Whilst there were no real surprises I thought it was great that there was now research to back up their efficacy.
Writing was one of the exercised she mentioned and she believes  that it can be particularily helpful for some people to write about their “deepest thoughts and feelings” about a traumatic experience or about how they might like their life to be in the future. Expressing gratitude she also mentioned as also helping us feel better, as does writing a forgiveness letter .
For further information on these exercises check out her website or other websites she referred us to were: www.jumpp.ie
I really enjoyed the talk and thought that perhaps at times as psychotherapists we do tend towards “what is not working” rather than seeing  peoples strength and resilience and build on this.  In practice I know writing isn’t for everyone and often those who come to psychotherapists need time  to slowly work through past experiences and the associated feelings in  a trusted therapeutic relationship. However I do think positve psychology has something to offer the field especially when people do have less time and money and yet  want to feel better. I also use writing, journalling and encouraging gratitude as exercies which can indeed help clients feel better.