Activities: Empirically tested Interventions

{Biswas-Diener, 2008. Invitation to Positive Psychology: Research and Tools for the Professional. A 6-week Course.}

3.1 Reflection: Positivity in Your Own Life

Consider a time when you felt helped by another person. Perhaps it was during a troubled period or when you had experienced frustration or set-back. It could be related to a personal issue, such as a friendship problem or a health concern. Possibly it was related to the workplace. Perhaps you needed help with an important objective or had difficulty with a coworker. It could be something seemingly minor provided for you by a stranger. Regardless of the specific helper or type of help, what gave you the boost you needed to power through that difficult time? Freely write your initial thoughts:

Now, look over your answer. Consider how complete it is. As I suggest other mechanisms that may have been instrumental in helping you at that time: encouragement, a new point of view, a boost of self-confidence, hope to go on, the use of new resources, a tip or piece of advice, a tool for some new behavior or activity. Reconsider your answer above. We often overlook how complex the help we receive is and on how many different levels it works. As you rethink your answer, what would you add? What else was instrumental about the help that was provided to you? Write your thoughts:

Now, think again about that time. There was likely a problem, and the help was likely associated with a solution. Think about how the help was offered. How was it framed? Did you or the helper focus on removing or overcoming the problem? Did you simply see a new way of getting to the desired outcome bypassing the problem entirely? Was there more talk of problems or more talk of solutions? Where was your focus, and where was the focus of the helper? Freely write your answers:

3.2 Reflection: Gratitude at Work

  1. A) Expressing gratitude might be great for husbands or appreciative students, but is it appropriate for the workplace?

Consider how you might use the various gratitude exercises or variations thereof in your work.

How might managers use gratitude authentically and strategically to cultivate relationships and motivate workers?

How does gratitude fit into your business model?

When do you use gratitude with your clients if you are a therapist, coach, or consultant? What is the effect? Freely write your answers:

  1. B) Even as powerful a tool as gratitude is, it does not come naturally to everyone, nor is it the traditional way businesses have been managed.

Whether you are an executive, HR professional, teacher, or therapist, consider the potential problems you foresee with introducing gratitude exercises into your workplace.

How might you overcome these obstacles or frame gratitude exercises in a way that makes sense locally? Freely write your answers:

3.3 Activity: Best Possible Self Exercise

Set aside ten full minutes to do this. Get a timer or stopwatch to help you.

Think about your life in the future.

Imagine that you have gotten most of the things you wanted and performed how you would have liked.

Spend your time writing about what this life would look like.

Do not worry about grammar or punctuation; rather, try to express your thoughts and feelings on the page in an expressive way.

Do this exercise now.

Read this when you are finished: Now that you have finished, reflect on how you feel.

What is the effect of having done this exercise?

To what extent is the effect emotional rather than how you see yourself or your life?

Do you feel inspired or motivated? Do you feel like making changes? How did this activity affect you? Freely write your answers:

3.4 Reflection: Your Kindness History

If your parents were anything like most people’s, they taught you to be kind to others. Although you might not realize it, your life is a stunning litany of kind deeds done for others. From when you first shared a toy with a fellow toddler to when you held the door for a stranger, your life has been a series of kindnesses, large and small.

Take a moment and reflect on all you have done.

Don’t worry; no one is watching. No one will feel like you are bragging. Permit yourself to pat yourself on the back.

Take this time to write those examples that stand out, the kind deeds you feel especially good about:

3.5 Activity:

Try translating some of the so-called “soft” terminology of positive psychology into language that the people you work with will receive well.

For each concept below, think of work-appropriate synonyms:

Positive Psychology Concept Work-appropriate Synonyms






3.6 Reflections

We have all experienced tough times and times when everything seemed to go just right. It can be helpful to access your wisdom, gained through experience, as you approach the topic of positive intervention.

What interventions helped you through your dark periods, and what may have facilitated those times when you were flourishing?

Consider a time when you were at your absolute best. Maybe it was when you had your work and home lives balanced well. Perhaps it was a productive time at the office.

What was going on for you during that period that helped you to succeed?

What factors were in place that greased the wheels?

Which of your strengths and resources were you using?

What outside support did you enjoy?

3.7 Exercises

The best way to learn about the power and effectiveness of positive interventions is to experience them for yourself.

In addition, by trying interventions on yourself, you can practice their administration before delivering them to your clients.

Try the three blessings exercise.

Get yourself a journal or notebook exclusively for this purpose (have fun with it, don’t just write on the back of your grocery list!).

Try to write at the same time each day to develop the habit. For example, you may want to do this activity when you wake up to give the day a positive start, or it might make sense to do it when you go to bed so that you can take stock of the day.

Each day, write down three things you are grateful for. They may be large or small.

Do this assignment each day for a week, but not necessarily longer.

Notice how this task affects your attention and attitude throughout your day.

Be aware of your moods and emotions.

Pay attention to why you think this exercise works or doesn’t, as the case may be.