Positive Psychology

I dread the day I’m a mother. I think back to when I was a kid and I think about how intolerable I was at times. I’m sure we all were, but I remember some seriously epic tantrums and some impossibly picky eating habits. I really hope I don’t pass down those skill sets or preferences.

However, there is attribute I possess that I dread dealing with, but I hope my child has this thing I have. I hope he or she drives me insane with it. I hope that it changes their life the way this trait has changed mine.

It’s the burning desire to ask, “Why?”

Sure, we all know that thing kids do where they ask “Why?” until their parents’ faces turn blue, but it’s a good thing! It means they are curious about their world and they want to know how everything works. I am an investigative personality type. I need to know how things work. It drives me crazy at times (OK, a lot), but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I hope my future child doesn’t either.

This investigative spirit forced me to seek out help for my problems with depression and my thyroid. It caused me to want to know more about how to be happy and stay happy. Once my life was straightened out from my time in therapy, I wanted to make sure I kept the momentum. So, I started doing research, then I became a counselor, and now I have a job that basically mandates that I be curious all the time. IT IS AWESOME.

So, as I was moving through my program, I started thinking about how to make myself and my future clients get happy and stay happy. I looked into theories like psychodynamic theory, which basically supports looking into the past to see why we are the way we are. I looked into cognitive-behavioral theory, which supports looking at our thoughts and behaviors to see why we feel the way we feel. I looked at a bunch of other theories, but none of them said, “Here is the rule for how to seek out and sustain happiness.”

Then I had my own experiences with the mind-body connection. I saw how something as simple as our diets could seriously affect our moods. I wanted to know more about what the healthy and happy people were doing, so I could follow their example and I could forge my own way.

I had stumbled onto a very new way of looking at the mind and I didn’t even know it until a few days ago. I wish I was a little younger because nothing sucks like finding out you had a great idea and someone had it years before you did.

These people have dubbed their ambitions into the world of happiness as “positive psychology,” and I think that’s a fantastic name. Probably a good thing I didn’t start it. The name would not have been nearly as catchy.

Positive psychology asks about the “why?” of happiness. Why are we happy? What makes us this way? How do we use what we know about being happy.

Fresh ideas like self-compassion and mindfulness have come out of the positive psychology movement. I use both of those approaches every day with myself. They work better than any other approach I’ve used to help me have a more fulfilling and enriching life.

“Why?” you may ask. Well, first I must say I’m glad you’ve decided to start investigating yourself and second, I would be happy to tell you!

Positive psychology provides solutions. It doesn’t just sit around analyzing, it investigates! It looks under every couch cushion until it finds the proverbial remote of happiness. So yeah, CBT is awesome for figuring out where you are at in your head. You have to be aware that you have negative self-talk before you can show yourself a little compassion. So, as a counselor I generally function by using CBT to figure out what the issue is with my client and then I attack it (very gently) with positive psychology approaches. No sense knowing what’s wrong if we can’t find tools to fix it.

There are so many tools that have been discovered to fix ourselves back into happiness or make us more prone to it. Things like cultural influence and personality imbue us with our views on how to be happy and what happy actually is. Other things like self-efficacy, marriage, and social ties are things we have a little more control over as we age. These are things we can do to change our moods and our views on life!

So, if you get curious, start asking “Why?” about yourself. Find out how to make things change if you want them to change. If you’re sitting on the couch, lift up those cushions and start looking! Maybe you’ll find some happiness under there.



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Posted on by Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA Posted in Individual, Mind, Mind-Body Connection, Theory
Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

About Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

Hi, I’m Jen. I’m a mental health counselor newly residing in Seattle, Washington. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection as the cornerstone of my professional ideology, along with the healing possibilities of puppies, a good glass of red wine, the smell of a new book, and the importance of travel.

  • Kristen Eckhardt

    Just curious–do you find postmodern approaches frustrating? I hate not knowing the reasons for client problems. I ask “why” a lot, too. Thinking of this because we’re covering these approaches in marriage and family right now and while they can be powerful, I feel like some really big client issues can be ignored if we leave out the “why”. I realize that’s a slightly different focus than positive psychology.

    Any books you’ve particularly enjoyed on positive psychology? The semester is almost over and I can’t wait to read again :)

    • http://www.thepursuitofsassiness.com/ Jennifer Bingaman

      To answer your question – I do and I don’t. If I’m taking just a straight positive psychology approach, then I’m not going to get anywhere because I haven’t conceptualized what the client’s problem is. Sure, mindfulness is a great thing to teach to a client, but if they can’t identify that they even have anxiety, then mindfulness won’t be an effective intervention. I generally use CBT with most of my clients and a psychodynamic approach if they have some stuff in their past they need to understand that CBT may minimize sometimes. I really like them in general and to be a cliche, I would say I’m an “eclectic” counselor in my theoretical approach. I do what works best for the client.

      No books on the topic really. I’m more of an article reader, since I really like reading fiction when I can sit down and read a book. I wish I wasn’t that way because I’d probably learn so much more, but I got to take care of my wellness and accept where I’m at. If you’re curious, just Google a topic and then read reputable stuff. I learn A LOT at my internship, too. You pick up more stuff when you hit the field because you’re forced to. Longggg answer. Congrats on the end of the semester, woo!

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