What's The Connection Between Positive Psychology and Coaching?

March 30, 2022
by
BOLDLY

Coaching practices are heavily influenced by the tenets of positive psychology, which is based on the premise that we can improve quality of life and thrive, and not simply prevent pathologies. As coaching is focused on the maximization of personal and professional goal fulfillment, wellness and performance, coaches require clear research into the techniques and approaches they deploy to enable coachees towards thriving. Positive psychology was carved out as a subfield of psychology to explore how individuals, communities and societies flourish, which was a distinct move from the largely illness-focused research of the time, which had emerged in response to the psychological damage of two world wars. While coaching often touches on mental health, its primary focus on thriving and reaching personal bests lends itself well to the ongoing research conducted in the field of positive psychology, including:

  • What makes happiness?
  • How does creativity come about?
  • What are the effects of autonomy?
  • How is self-regulation nurtured?
  • Where does purpose and meaning come from?
  • What is wisdom and how is it attained?

These are some of the greatest questions that professionals ask of themselves as they seek to understand their personal best in their family and work settings, and indeed, stoics have asked these questions throughout the ages. Now thanks to the evidence base of positive psychology, we are starting to move towards having some of the answers. By working with a coach, professionals can explore these themes not only philosophically, but through concrete exercises and skill development, and go far beyond the well-intentions of the self-help industry. So what might some of these exercises look like? Here’s some of the more common, but powerful and well researched ones:

Gratitude journaling: this is the practice of recording and reflecting on things you are grateful for, on a regular basis, in order to habituate your brain to the positive aspects of life and build resilience. It matters less how you write (ie bullets versus paragraphs) although there is some evidence that handwriting is more effective than typing - the most important thing is that you write regularly, and for more than a month, which is when the greatest gains start to become evident. By journaling, you’re focusing your attention on the things that you savour and enjoy, and create a ‘bank’ of gratitude for tough days when you need to lean back on it. This activity gives the brain ‘space’ to find solutions to problems, and use optimism to look towards the future, effectively building the ability to overcome the cognitive load of professional challenges.

Strengths: the ability to define and know how personal strengths can be used has been demonstrated to have huge benefit for individuals, effectively building awareness of self-efficacy. Coaches will often use tools, or run bespoke ‘strength finding’ exercises to bring a coachees strengths and attributes to the forefront of their mind, highlighting their utility in challenging situations. When a coachee uses their strengths, they perform better, and when they perform better, they enjoy their work more, and enjoying work more means ongoing performance - there’s a beautiful cycle of satisfaction and work efficiency here, which all begins with knowing our strengths!

These are just two simple examples in a wealth of positive psychology interventions (PPI’s) that coaches now have access to in supporting their coachees. If you’d like to learn more about how a BOLDLY coach can help you or your organisation with these and other evidence based tools, please reach out: connect@boldly.app

References:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00686/full

https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-018-1739-2

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