Positive Psychology Archive


How to stay motivated

Want to make a change but wondering how to stay motivated? Dr. Srini Pillay talks about the things that can impact personal motivation and the power of a sense of meaning to help you stick with your goals.

Tips for getting more energy

If you find yourself in a slump, Dr. Beth Frates shares what may be draining you and offers tips for getting more energy.

Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety

No one is "perfect." Yet many people struggle to be a perfectionist , which can trigger a cascade of anxieties. Striving to be a perfectionist may be a strong suit or a stumbling block, depending on how it's channeled, as clinical psychologist Jeff Szymanski explains. Dr. Szymanski is an associate instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the International OCD Foundation.

"The core of all perfectionism is the intention to do something well," says Dr. Szymanski. "If you can keep your eye on intention and desired outcome, adjusting your strategy when needed, you're fine.... But when you can't tolerate making a mistake, when your strategy is to make no mistakes, that's when perfectionism starts veering off in the wrong direction." In its most severe form, perfectionism can leave you unable to complete any task for fear of making a mistake.

Why conquering stress can help your heart

Learning to deal with stress can lower your risk for anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

The more we learn about women's hearts, the more we realize that they are different from men's. One of the most dramatic differences is a rare heart condition called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken-heart syndrome, that is nine times more common in women than in men. It has been cited as evidence that sudden emotional stress can actually cause death in some women.

Like a heart attack, takotsubo cardiomyopathy strikes suddenly with symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath; however, it does not involve clogged arteries. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is brought on by a surge of stress hormones that literally bend the heart out of shape. As a result, when the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) contracts, it balloons out, so it can't eject blood into the arteries effectively.

Happiness may not extend life

Although poor health can lead to unhappiness and a shorter life, unhappiness alone is not associated with a shorter life span, according to a recent report from the Million Woman Study. That investigation has followed hundreds of thousands of women throughout the United Kingdom beginning in 1996 and has tracked deaths among the participants.

In the third year of the study, the women were asked to rate their health, happiness, stress, feelings of control, and whether they felt relaxed. When the researchers looked at data from 720,000 women with a median age of 59, they found that 83% reported being generally happy and 17% said they were unhappy. During 10 years of follow-up, 4% of participants died. When the researchers factored out poor health, which was strongly associated with unhappiness, they found that the risk of dying was essentially the same for happy and unhappy women. The study was published online Dec. 6, 2015, by The Lancet.

4 ways to boost your self-compassion

Take a moment to think about how you treat yourself when you make a mistake or fail to reach a goal. If you tend to beat yourself up when things go wrong, you, like most people, can use a little more self-compassion in your life.

Forgiving and nurturing yourself seem to have benefits in their own right. Strong self-compassion can even set the stage for better health, relationships, and general well-being. So far, research has revealed a number of benefits of self-compassion. Lower levels of anxiety and depression have been observed in people with higher self-compassion. Self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, thereby lowering their own levels of related anxiety and depression.

8 non-invasive pain relief techniques that really work

Image: Bigstock

Sometimes pain has a purpose — it can alert us that we've sprained an ankle, for example. But for many people, pain can linger for weeks or even months, causing needless suffering and interfering with quality of life.

If your pain has overstayed its welcome, you should know that you have more treatment options today than ever before. Here, we've listed eight techniques to control and reduce your pain that don't require an invasive procedure — or even taking a pill.

3 ways to harness positive psychology for a more resilient you

Image: iStock

Some intriguing research suggests that positive psychology can help you weather the routine ups and downs of life and also build resilience for times of greater difficulty.

Here are three ways to capture the benefits of positive psychology.

Take a moment to be mindful

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment, such as how the air smells and feels as you walk your dog, or how a bite of bread tastes with dinner. The ultimate goal is to help shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life.

Scientific examination of mindfulness shows that it can improve both physical and psychological symptoms and create positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.

Pay attention to signs of depression

Over time, most people with dementia or mild cognitive impairment (a decline in thinking skills) also experience behavioral changes, such as depression and agitation. Which comes first? A study published online by Neurology on Jan. 14, 2015, suggests that psychological and behavioral changes can begin before people develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Researchers evaluated the daily functioning, memory and thinking skills, and psychological and behavioral symptoms of about 2,400 people, ages 50 and older, who had no evidence of cognitive decline. The study also suggests that a pattern of depressive symptoms may occur in older adults, unrelated to cognitive decline. The takeaway? "Depressive symptoms can occur in older adults for many reasons. If you are experiencing mood or cognitive changes that last for more than a few weeks, it's a good idea to bring this up with your doctor or consult a mental health specialist to help sort out possible causes," says Dr. Nancy Donovan, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

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